September 1, 2015

Renovating a Classic Caravan - The Story of Blossom - Part One

As many of you will know, I've recently finished a major renovation/rebuild of a classic caravan that we named Blossom.

I always thought that once I had finished, I'd go back and write about my project, and now it's time.'s Part One: Background and The Purchase...let's go!

I've been fascinated with caravans for a long time, and was super excited in late 2007 to become the owner of one that I cosmetically renovated inside. You can read about that project here.

We sold that van when we decided to move to Australia in 2011, and I missed it dreadfully and dreamt about buying another one and doing it again. Early last year I started looking for one to buy, but in my price range (under $3000) there wasn't much about, and what there was, was snapped up very quickly.

One night in April 2014 I found a great van for sale on Gumtree - it was a 1970's Millard, it was priced around $3k and was located in Tamworth, about three hours' drive of where we live. I showed my husband and he thought it looked good too (it would be fair to say that the caravan was my dream, not his, but I'm lucky that he's very supportive and me and all my ideas!) We agreed that it was worth a look, so I called and made arrangements to look at the weekend (a couple of days later).

I went to sleep that night very excited, dreaming of all the possibilities of what I could turn this dark, dingy van into...

Sadly, the following day the seller called and said a local couple had just viewed and bought the caravan. I was worried that might happen, and it did....back to the drawing board I thought...but the seller, knowing where I lived, asked me if I was aware that there was an old guy selling caravans in a town nearer to me. I said I wasn't aware, but the funny thing was, I was actually in that town when I got that phone call. The Tamworth guy told me how to find the this guy, so I went straight round to his house to see if he happened to be there, and what (if anything) he had for sale.

He was there and had a few old vans in various stages of being 'done up'. I use that term loosely because his idea of 'done up' and mine was quite obviously very different. More on that later.

Anyway...I had a look through his vans and quickly discounted one that had had the dinette seating and kitchen cabinets removed. That looked like WAY too much work for me and I didn't have a clue how to build cabinets.

I discounted another one (actually a Millard) because the original layout had been mucked with, and I decided I really didn't like all the small paned windows.

The van I liked the look and feel of the best, due to its nice big windows, cool retro shape and great simple layout, was this one.
She's a 1978 Viscount Supreme, originally sporting a white exterior with a blue stripe. Hard to see in the photos but she still had her original Viscount sticker on the front and rear, along with a five-digit phone number for the dealer on the Central Coast where she must have been sold from at some stage.

I liked her, I really liked her, and I was excited! I think I might have found MY caravan! I made a phone call to my husband who was pretty surprised about developments - firstly I told him the other van had sold but then I went round to some random guy's house and now I wanted to buy a caravan from him. 

Yeah I know, he puts up with a!

Bless him, he said to me that if I thought it was OK, then just buy it. Truth be told, he was probably sick of hearing about it...haha!

I was actually kind of sick of looking and feeling like I was always missing out, and really just wanted to get stuck into a the deal was done...she was going to be mine for $2300 which included a Blue Slip (mechanical safety check required for Registration - like a NZ Warrant of Fitness).

Now I mentioned earlier that this fellow 'did up' his vans - basically he was a high turnover flipper - he bought old vans off people, very quickly 'did them up' which in hindsight is code for 'hide the leaks' then resold them. I want to add that I'm not mad at him, and never have been. I don't regret buying a van from him. Instead, it was really my fault. Buyer beware and all. I was super excited and totally had my rose tinted glasses on. Plus, I didn't really know what to look for. I felt some security in knowing that the van passed a Blue Slip inspection which should mean that the mechanics of it were safe, at least.

As part of his 'doing up' process, he did an exterior paint job on his vans. The one I'd chosen to purchase was next on the lineup to get a new paint job, and since I'd seen it prior to painting, I asked if I could choose the colours, to which he agreed. I had actually first asked if I could buy it without a new paint job, but he wouldn't reduce the price so I figured I may as well let him paint it 
(which turned out to be a big mistake...)

I went to the local automotive paint shop with him, and chose mint green and pastel pink, which he bought there and then. I paid my deposit and made arrangements to come back about ten days later and pick up the van, which would have been painted by then.

Those ten days dragged as I pored over the photos I'd taken, and dreamt of what I would do to it once it was mine. My basic plan was to give it a decent clean, a fresh new interior paint job, make new curtains, upholstery and call it done. 

Oh how wrong I was.... be continued...

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