Meet our 70’s Franklin caravan “GLADYS“. We named her after our favourite place to have breakfast each week when we lived in Millgrove, Victoria: “The Gladysdale BakeHouse”. You know what they say, food is key to one’s heart.
When Yas and I decided to change our lifestyle and work around Australia we looked at many options in which we would travel around in. Yasmin has a 70’s Kombi van however we were quick to decide that wasn’t an option due to the possible mechanical difficulties and the lack of space especially for a two year stint. Then we thought about taking my 70’s pick-up truck and sliding on a camper. The idea seemed very cool, however the fuel bill would have been astronomical and the dogs would had to have travelled in the back of the camper. Then we started looking at Caravans… From reading this article you would have come to a conclusion that Yas and I both drive 70’s vehicles so we must be into retro vintage items. In this case you are correct! When we were looking at caravans we found the modern ones (although extremely functionable with up to date technology) lacked character! Plus with a budget of only $15,000 we didn’t have a lot to pick from. So we decided to find a retro caravan for around $7000 and sink a bit more into modifications.
After hunting for a while (they’re not as easy to come by as we thought) we finally found her in a little town near Hastings, Victoria. The exterior was a little shabby (although water tight) however we were sold straight away with the interior (it was definitely 100% the concertina blind). There was some work to be done modifying the interior for space and technological appliances, and structurally underneath there needed to be work (more then anticipated as the work went along) but for $7000 I think we did pretty well!
When we were searching for retro caravans we found that most that were listed had been revamped and were all modern looking. We didn’t like the idea of that at all, so with our modifications we tried our best to make it suit the 70’s era as much as possible.
Before, during and after. The caravan originally came with bunk beds. As we have no kids (not planning on anytime soon) it was wasted space. So I ended up transforming the old beds into a spacious wardrobe. Yasmin had some old wall paper that came in handy for the door panels to tie in with the 70’s theme. The top right compartment is used as a pantry, the bottom right compartment is our battery system and the rest are for our clothes.
Before, during, after. The Caravan originally had a 240v fridge and gas oven. I ended up ripping them both out as we had no use for them as we bought our selves a 12v 95 litre Waeco fridge and we plan to do all the cooking outside on a modified BBQ. The middle cupboard is now a storage compartment with a lovely varnished timber bench top. The bottom left cupboard houses our cleaning products, fresh drinking water, 12v pump and hot water unit.
Pintrest became by best friend when it came to searching space saving ideas in motorhomes. I ended up spraying a sheet of metal orange and displaying it in an old picture frame Yasmin found in an op-shop. On the sheet metal there are magnetised spice jars which I purchased from Amazon. I also ended up hanging a bit of timber dowel underneath the overhead cupboards. No we have a place to hang all our dish cloths and tea towels.
Our caravan came with a New Zealand size double bed and mattress. The measurements were much smaller then a double so I ended up remodifying the bed to a standard double (we didn’t have enough room for a queen). In the design I wanted a storage compartment at the foot of the bed to put our linens in. The mattress hangs higher then the box which allows my feet to overhang on a hot night = perfection! I also designed the bed to sit higher off the floor allowing more room underneath for storage.
Yasmin made some killer curtains to tie in the retro theme.
On Pintrest I also found some plans to make a home-made swampy air conditioner that runs off a 12v computer fan. All you need is ice, and it keeps the beers cool! Back to when I said I ripped the old oven out of the caravan this is the the BBQ I modified to take its place. I was originally searching for a Webber Baby Q, however none of them came with a side burner which was critical for us. Plus they’re really expensive. So I found a BBQ at Mitre 10. It had a fixed stand so I ended up cutting it off and replacing it with removable legs. Now I can sit it on top of the caravan tool box with out taking up too much room.
As I mentioned earlier we found Gladys by the seaside. So when we bought her back home and had a look at her over the pit for closer examination, we found a lot more rust than anticipated. Many dusty hours later, some welding and 8 litres of paint we had ourselves a very flash under carriage. We also put new electric breaks on the caravan with a heavy duty axel to help hold the extra weight. The caravan also had a 90 litre water tank underneath, we added another one which allows us to carry 180 litres
The guy we bought Gladys off put a new draw bar on as the original one had rusted off. He however did a very amateur job at welding the draw bar onto the chassis. So the Father in-law had a great time underneath the caravan welding and remodifying the draw bar. Many burns to the chest later and we have our selves one of the best engineered 70’s caravan underframe to date! We also bolted on a heavy duty jockey wheel and bought a tool sight box from Bunnings that sits on the draw bar and houses all our gas bottles and spare fuel.
As our draw bar was full to the brim we ended up finding a spare wheel carrier to mount on the back. The wheels at the back also helps protect the caravan from people reaming up our backsides (or me reversing into a tree).
Its handy having a best friend who is a sparky. Kial did a great job with our 12v battery solar conversion. We didn’t have much demand for power just the essentials, are biggest consumer being our 12v fridge. Everything can be run off one solar panel that charges a 140 AH deep cycle battery. We decided to go with the brand https://enerdrive.com.au/ being a reputable source to help monitor, charge and convert power to our battery.
The battery runs these items through a fuse box and isolators:
A 12v Waeco Fridge, A 12v kick ass water pump, 12v lights throughout the caravan, two USB portals and a battery monitoring system. Off the battery we also have a 1000w inverter that charges our 240v appliances. Being only 1000w we can’t run a huge amount of appliances from it. We do run a 100w 240v water pump that pumps the water from a water source into out tanks but mainly we use it to charge our rechargeable appliances like our Laptops, fans and lights etc.
The one solar panel creates enough energy to power our caravan for daily usage. The fridge is always running, we just have to be smart when charging our other appliances and do it whilst the sun is on the solar panel. The Dc 2 DC Enerdrive monitor is what converts the solar energy to 12v for battery storage. It also converts the power from the car when we have it connected to the Anderson plug, so when we are driving and the cars alternator has charged our car battery to full compacity it then charges our Caravan battery. Pretty nifty! The caravan also had its own 240v wiring throughout, we left this system in place so when we happen to pull up somewhere that has power we can run the power through the caravans original system, giving our battery system a bit of a break.
The Water System
What’s a caravan without a bit of plumbing? Our caravan previously only had one water tank that ran off a hand pump. We now have a shower, two water tanks, a pump and a hot water system. A huge shout out to Owen for helping us install our plumbing needs.
We didn’t want to take up more space inside the caravan so we decided to create a shower system from the outside. I ended up cutting a hole externally on the caravan and made a door. Inside the door panel is attached a hot water lpg unit. When the door is open the unit is outside so when it is running it meets with plumbing regulations and that we don’t run the risk of filling the van with gas fumes.
Our tanks combined give us 120L of water storage. We can either just run our water system off a hose without the need for our 12v pump, or the tanks when we aren’t within a taps reaching distance. My father in-law ended up giving me his bilge pump, so when we happen to be close to a body of water, we can drop the pump in and fill up our tanks when we are low. In our first week we realised how little 120L gets us, so this pump has become very handy!