Most of the vintage caravans that we see and photograph during our travels have been lovingly restored to original — or better than original — condition. They tend to be used for family holidays and are sometimes exhibited at shows. However, not all old caravans are so fortunate, with many left to rot in a field, or maybe ending up as a storage shed or children’s playhouse.
Nonetheless, some ageing caravans still catch our attention because they’ve gone down an entirely different path. Following a lifetime of holidaying, they take up a serious job in their retirement. We sometimes see them at car and caravan shows, where they’ve been turned into retro shops, mobile sound systems, or drink and snack stands.
Indeed, there seems to be no end to the uses for an ageing caravan. We recently saw a twin-axle 1970s van in Fremantle, WA that had been turned into a donut kitchen. The owner had bought the van as a wrecked shell and given it a new lease of life by installing donut cooking equipment.
Of course, they don’t all become food outlets. On another trip we saw a very cute retro van selling op shop clothing for local charities. It had been turned into a pop-up shop and was surrounded by vintage suitcases, a decorative mock campfire and plenty of customers in retro gear. Still other old caravans become performance stages or dressing rooms at arts festivals.
Perhaps the most fitting “retirement” for a recycled van is for it to be turned into a camp kitchen. We saw an example at a caravan park in Gulgong, NSW. Inside, the old caravan had been largely stripped and then equipped with cooking gear. Outside the van were tables and chairs under a permanent awning, so you could eat under shelter.
Some vintage van fans shudder when they see these recycled caravans, no doubt because they can fully envisage what the caravan would have looked like if only it had been restored. But we figure these vans look pretty good enjoying their new-found purpose — a fate that’s certainly better than spending life as a rotting wreck in a field.
YOUR SAY: Tell us about the creative and surprising uses you’ve seen for old caravans during your travels.
Susan and Keith Hall are regular contributors to Caravan World magazine. Check out their latest blog entries at somewhere42.