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New Zealand Classic Car - - FEATURE - Pho­tos:

t’s sum­mer, and all across the coun­try, there are queues of traf­fic crawl­ing out of our cities and towns as hol­i­day­mak­ers head off to their favourite camp­ing des­ti­na­tions, ve­hi­cles and car­a­vans packed to the gun­wales. Along with mis­matched plas­tic plates and cups and the up­turned tinny on the roof, this all used to be as much a part of our hol­i­day ex­pe­ri­ence as a drip­ping Jelly Tip, black iron­sand, and a smoky BBQ. Let’s face it — whether we care to ac­knowl­edge it or not, the hum­ble car­a­van is just as deeply en­trenched into the Kiwi hol­i­day psy­che as the hum­ble bach, de­spite the fact that, for many, this way of life has been in rapid de­cline over the past few decades thanks to the grow­ing trend to­wards mo­torhomes. In­deed, in re­cent times, the car­a­van ver­sus mo­torhome dis­cus­sion has be­come a hotly de­bated is­sue, partly fu­elled by the re­cent re­vival and grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of retro-style car­a­vans — a trend that has seen a resur­gence of beau­ti­fully re­stored car­a­vans from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’ 70s ap­pear all over the coun­try.

One such is Paula and Craig Jamieson’s fea­tured 1970 Ox­ford car­a­van ‘Mem­phis Belle’, which they tow be­hind their equally im­pres­sive 1955 Packard Four Hun­dred.

Love at first sight

Paula and Craig Jamieson never set out to own a retro car­a­van; what they re­ally wanted was a hot rod, but they couldn’t find one that suited them, as each liked a dif­fer­ent style of car. Then a few friends started get­ting into car­a­van­ning, so they be­gan look­ing at them as well. The Jamiesons thought it would of­fer a way of be­ing in­volved at events like Beach Hop while they fig­ured out their artis­tic dif­fer­ences car-wise. Be­ing sen­si­ble peo­ple, they started a list of the must-haves — toi­let (def­i­nitely), shower (would be nice), space for the fam­ily (ab­so­lutely) — and so it went on, un­til they knew ex­actly what they were af­ter.

Unim­pressed with the styling of the more mod­ern units avail­able, they set their sights on some­thing a bit older, which is when they saw one of Mike Wells’ cre­ations on Trade Me. Craig had spot­ted it; wasted no time show­ing Paula; and, boom, it was love at first sight. Orig­i­nally built for some­one else to add to their col­lec­tion of car­a­vans, it was sub­se­quently put up for sale and nat­u­rally at­tracted a lot of in­ter­est. Fall­ing in love, Paula bought it sight un­seen based on the pho­tos on­line. They drove to pick her up the next day and were not dis­ap­pointed. It had noth­ing that they had on their must-have list, and yet some­how ticked all the boxes any­way!

Now that they had the per­fect car­a­van, it was time to make it their own. Mike had built it with his usual classy style, but, for Paula and Craig, it needed to be a prac­ti­cal work­ing car­a­van, too. Car­a­van­ning is such a per­sonal thing, and while the retro diner look was pretty cool, it needed a few changes to en­sure it was some­thing that could be lived with longer term. Be­ing prac­ti­cal folk, they used it for a bit — OK, pretty much ev­ery week­end for the first year — while they de­cided what worked for them and what didn’t, and made lit­tle changes along the way.

In the end, there was noth­ing ma­jor that needed do­ing other than just a few cos­metic tweaks to suit their tastes. Some seat­ing was re­moved, and a new dou­ble bed was fit­ted be­fore the floor­ing came up, and the black-and-white checked lino went down. The wardrobe was con­verted into a pantry, and a bet­ter-sized fridge was in­stalled, so that they could have ex­tended hol­i­days in their new home away from home. Mike had fin­ished the ex­te­rior to his usual high stan­dard, with all his trade­mark touches: flaw­less panel and paint; just the right amount of chrome and stain­less; and, of course, 1959 Cadil­lac tail lights.

(Con­tin­ued page 14.)

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