In the world of classic cars, a ‘barn find’ is a source of great excitement. Finding an old car hidden away in a barn or garage that is in fairly good condition is a rare treat. The best barn finds are those which have relatively low mileage and are easy to preserve or restore. Well, ‘barn finds’ can also apply to caravans, and the team at Concept Caravans made a barn find with a difference – a well-preserved circa-1970s Franklin caravan with a very characteristic and easily recognisable shape.
It didn’t take much for Concept, which builds Franklin caravans, to whip the old van into good shape – it didn’t require much more than a clean and some paint. But, along the way, it inspired the team and well-known Queensland dealer Gary Kratzmann, who sells Franklins, to build a contemporary version called the Franklin Iconic. Both vans appeared at the Queensland caravan show earlier this year and it was interesting to compare the two – built decades apart, with some differences but very similar layouts.
LAYOUT & DESIGN
Inside, the Iconic has a pretty simple layout. Upfront is a cafe-style dinette, with a small kitchen along the mid-offside and an oddly-shaped double bed across the rear. That leaves enough room on the nearside for a full-height wardrobe. I’m told a single bed version is planned for the near future.
One word that might be used to describe the interior is ‘simplicity’ – it certainly harks back to earlier times, while also including many modern conveniences, such as the light fittings. Caravans of the older Franklin vintage usually came with round bowl ceiling fittings, which contained both a 240V incandescent globe and a 12V globe. With very few 12V batteries around in those days, the 12V ran off a hot wire from the tow vehicle. Those light fittings are in direct contrast with the Iconic’s very small, contemporary, low-profile LED fittings which run off the 12V house battery.
The greatest change to the interior is in the Iconic’s kitchen; not so much in the layout but with the appliances and fittings. These have been slimmed and trimmed down, still performing the same or, probably, better services, while allowing for a microwave – something unheard of in the earlier Franklin era.
The old Franklin has a simple two-burner cooktop and stainless steel sink/drainer that forms the entire benchtop area, as well as a Hallstrom fridge. I can’t remember that particular manufacturer but the fridge is about the same physical size as a current Dometic 90L three-way fridge but, because of the very thick walls, its internal capacity is considerably less. It also protrudes quite noticeably out from the kitchen bench. The kitchen sink in the older van has just a hand pump for the cold water supply (no hot water here) and there is just one drawer – for cutlery – under the bench.
On the other hand, the Iconic kitchen comes with a three-burner cooktop, stainless sink with plastic detachable drainer and a 90L Dometic fridge. It also has an under-bench microwave and a couple of drawers and cupboards. In keeping with the older van, there are also overhead lockers.
BEDROOM & STORAGE
Something else that has been increased in size is the bed. The older van has a bed/seat arrangement that looks like it might be a tight squeeze for two, but the Iconic’s is much larger and, also, much wider at one end. It is a fixed bed but the base can be lifted to get to the storage area underneath. Part of that space is taken up by the Truma Saphir air-conditioner which, like the microwave, is certainly not found in the older van.
Between the entry door and the bed is a good-sized wardrobe that, in the newer van, has been trimmed down a bit to accommodate the large bed but still offers a generous amount of hanging and drawer space.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Towing the Iconic is a snack, even with a small tow vehicle. Its ATM of 1327kg makes it a very light van indeed, yet it still comes with a 300kg packing capacity. I suspect, though, that you might struggle to load 300kg into this van, especially with just a single water tank. But, at the end of the day, that is the whole idea of the Iconic – a lightweight caravan that offers all the essential comforts (except for bathroom facilities).
It’s an interesting take on the old Franklin caravan design and quite fascinating to see how can you take an old layout and install modern fittings and appliances. It’s an effective way to see just how much the caravan manufacturing industry has developed since the original Franklin was built.
- Great to see what happens when an older caravan is re-imagined
- Lightweight van for towing
- Good ‘weekender’ caravan
- Easy to set up
- 12V lighting
- External bins on new model
- Generous windows
- No splash panels at ends of kitchen bench
- Small external bins
- Conventional awning won’t fit
The full test appears in Caravan World #542 October 2015.