Caravan World - - Restoring Vintage Vans -

Born in Eng­land, Rob moved to Syd­ney 20 years ago and has spent most of his ca­reer in the me­dia — ini­tially as a mag­a­zine jour­nal­ist and then in a busi­ness role within tele­vi­sion.

His in­tro­duc­tion to ren­o­vat­ing car­a­vans came in quite a cir­cuitous route.

“I was al­ways a fan of op shops — I used to col­lect sec­ond­hand and an­ti­quated books, and old vinyl records,” he said. “That then ex­tended into retro or­na­ments and art; I just liked the feel of old things. Even­tu­ally I bought a cheap mid-cen­tury chest of draw­ers and re­paired them, and I was hooked on restora­tion.”

One Christ­mas, Rob de­cided he was go­ing to try and avoid the mall for a year and only make things or buy sec­ond­hand items as gifts — partly to break his shop­ping ad­dic­tion, and partly as a re­ac­tion to con­sumer cul­ture.

“I just re­alised that shop­ping had be­come a leisure pur­suit and I wanted to start do­ing some­thing my­self,” he ex­plained. “Mak­ing and re­pair­ing more stuff, and gen­er­ally be­ing more aware of the en­vi­ron­ment.

“My Dad was al­ways some­body who mended and re­paired things, rather than bought new — like a lot of his gen­er­a­tion. I also started fol­low­ing Pin­ter­est and be­gan to up­cy­cle things and make my own fur­ni­ture. I’d buy re­claimed wood from the lo­cal tip and turn it into some­thing orig­i­nal.”

Hav­ing cof­fee with a friend one Satur­day morn­ing they hit upon an idea to buy a car­a­van and ren­o­vate it.

“We were talk­ing about tiny liv­ing and how it was tak­ing off, and my friend said he’d been think­ing about get­ting a car­a­van,” Rob said.

“A week later he phoned me on the way home from work and said he’d found one for $2000 that needed do­ing up. He asked if I wanted to put $1000 in and do it to­gether.”

That was the start of the love af­fair with vans, and since then Rob has done two more with his mate.

“We re­stored an old Vis­count to start with, then a sec­ond one, and then more re­cently we worked on a Mil­lard”

“We re­stored an old Vis­count to start with, then a sec­ond one, and then more re­cently we worked on a Mil­lard. Nei­ther of us was keen on the style of the Mil­lards ini­tially, but they’ve re­ally grown on us – and they have loads of room in­side.”

Rob tries to work in a sus­tain­able way when­ever pos­si­ble and uses re­pur­posed wood and ma­te­ri­als.

“Ob­vi­ously there are things like paint and ad­he­sives that have to be bought, but we look to keep as much of the orig­i­nal vans as pos­si­ble,” he said. “We sand and fill dam­aged walls and doors, and bring them back to life. Pol­ish up old clocks and han­dles and fit­tings.

“We also buy some of the wood and fur­ni­ture from op shops and the tip. There is some mod­erni­sa­tion to be done, but you can cre­ate a great vin­tage feel from us­ing old things in keep­ing with the van’s style.”

The vans tend to take around three months to re­store, just work­ing on Satur­days. And as Rob ex­plains, it’s a wel­come re­lief from sit­ting at a desk all week.

“It’s al­most like a form of med­i­ta­tion,” he said. “We’re both of­fice work­ers and at the week­ends we un­leash our ‘in­ner tradie’. We get the ra­dio on, put on scruffy clothes and have fun do­ing cre­ative, phys­i­cal work.”

Next up, Rob has his sights set on even big­ger projects.

“We’d love to turn a car­a­van into an old English pub!” he laughed. “Bar, chairs, ta­bles and dart­board. Park it in the back­yard and have our own home away from home.”

CLOCK­WISE FROM LEFT Start­ing from scratch; rip­ping up the old lino; adding new floor­ing in; for less than 200 bucks you can bring the van to life

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