Unlike vintage cars and trucks, pimping your caravan hasn`t yet got its own reality television show on cable TV. However in Europe, North America and especially the UK vintage caravan restoration is a trend turned business with retro themed caravans being pimped out as an extra room for boutique hotels, and also as rentals for retro themed events.
However, for many the vintage vans enthusiast it`s all about living the retro lifestyle, and transporting yourself back to a time when camping and caravanning was simpler and more stylish. For many enthusiasts the restoration to authentic condition is a labour of love. Vintage van restorers look out for preloved van such as the shiny toaster-like Airstream caravan but more and more the white paneled 70s and 80s caravans that having been sitting in garages for decades are also becoming coveted.
Brits & the Vintage Van Business
Lucy Jayne of Lucy Jayne Vintage Caravans, in Bognor Regis, was one of the first entreprenuers to get the vintage van bug in the UK and it`s been paying off. A former interior designer, she bought an old van to do-up and showcase her talents and found a demand to rent it out. Since then she has bought more than a half a dozen other old vans and has been restoring and revamping them into their original kitsch retro themes for hire at themed events, hens` parties and vintage cream teas.
While renting out vans pays the bill the heart of the business remains the restoration of vans for other people. “People often don’t know where to start or where to buy, and finding the old vintage caravans are few and far between,” says Lucy Jayne who has turned into an expert at sourcing, discerning and buying preloved caravans. “You can have the same model made from the 60s to the late 70s and it can be very hard to tell from sales listings. We’ve covered a lot of miles finding and sourcing caravans so you have to know the right questions to ask.”
Jayne says she likes to keep things as original as possible. “Everything comes out and then it is restored and it is put back in.”
Living the Retro Dream the USA
In the US Vintage Airstreaming has a niche following and its own Vintage Airstream Club to help member restore their fifties beauty to their rockabilly best. Here it’s about freedom and nostalgia hitting the iconic desert highways in style. Club members say it’s the essence of the vintage lifestyle that calls them. “You quiver when you see a dull coat of aluminum and wonder about the adventures that previous owners had. You grin at the thought of that road-ready beauty hitched up to your bumper or sit a little straighter while seated in your captain's chair, as you cruise in style down the highway.”
The Vintage Airstream Club websites proclaims, “We bust our knuckles on refurbishment, sweat as we polish the aluminum to a mirror shine, quest for the history of our rigs and their "Big Red Numbers" and swell with pride as we show-off and live-in the glory of what is perhaps the best recreational vehicle ever made.”
Australian kitsch caravans
While numerous personal blogs abound with vintage caravan restorers sharing their passion, in Australia and New Zealand the world`s first dedicated magazine has been launched. Vintage Caravan Magazine is dedicated to` vintage, classic, retro-styled and custom caravans` and say there are numerous reason why people are restoring old caravans, including nostalgia for childhood memories and matching them up to vintage cars.
Meanwhile, the Caravan and Camping Industries Association of SA executive director Stuart Livingstone explains the increase in popularity of vintage caravans, "The restoration of a vintage caravan brings back memories for a lot of restorers.”