1960s - history of the touring caravan
The 1960s was to become an exciting time, oil was cheap and living standards better than post or pre-war Britain. Families had more holidays and greater private car ownership. Booming Britain saw touring caravans sell in huge numbers, Sam Alper bought Eccles (as the company had lost ground). He brought the company down to Newmarket and set about re-designing the brand, with more modern profiles and interiors.
1967 and the Sprite Alpine was the best selling tourer in the UK.
A young man named Reg Dean was a designer who would feature strongly in the caravan industry. Reg designed the Eccles interiors and then went onto design the new range of Lynton tourers in Manchester with great success.
Sam Alper’s Sprites also came close to running out of cash. Expanding at a tremendous rate, the company needed capital to grow but creditors were keen to get their cash. Sam managed to persuade them into allowing more time and as a result Sprite increased its sales further. Talks were held in the summer of 1963 with another manufacturer – Bluebird. Knott, the owner, was similar to Alper and merging was seen a wise move, with the buying power of the two enabled costs to be kept low. The new CI (Caravans International) as it was to be known, bought other companies such as Fairholme, Wilk (German) and Gypsy in South Africa. New factories were built and CI dominated the world market. Knott though left and by 1967 had formed another company BK Caravans but he never replicated the success of Bluebird.
Over in Hull, new maker Swift had begun making a few tourers a week in 1965. Elddis Caravans were also formed in that year too. Mardon, another Hull maker, began in 1962 along with Ace Caravans (eventually A.B.I. by 1972) . Ironically, Ace would eventually lead to CI’s demise but more of that in the caravan history series.
Bluebird European designed to be moved as a semi static tourer by large vehicles.
With the introduction of cars such as the Mini and Ford Cortina, caravans were designed to be towed by such vehicles. The semi-static tourer would evolve in this period too. Not towable by “normal” large cars, towing service companies were set up to tow these particular caravans onto caravan sites, where they would remain for a few years before moving onto another site. Bluebird’s European twin axle caravan unit “the European” was launched for this expanding market, being joined by Silverline, Astral and Ace.
In 1964 Creighton Caravans were building the Creighton Gull an amphibious caravan.
Caravan manufacturers back then could experiment with new ideas. One such maker was Creighton Caravans near Nelson Lancashire. Founder and designer Stanley Creighton built motorhomes, mobile homes, tourers and boats. He created the amphibious Creighton Gull caravan which could be used as a caravan or boat. It created a major response with orders coming in. However, costs and slow production saw the Gull finish after just a couple of years.
GRP had been used on luxury tourers for some years but in 1969 Ace Caravans used GRP panels on front and rear of its new Aces. Making them the first “non luxury” maker to take this step.
1968 Swift Baronette cost £435 new - the Swift name had only been around since 1965.
With the development of new caravan parks with added amenities, such as showers and toilet blocks, most caravanners chose to use these new up-graded sites. However, caravanners could still stop in lay bys and caravan in areas where today it simply wouldn’t be legal. But back in the 1960’s you could stop on common land, safe in the knowledge the caravan was still going to be there when you returned! Caravan thefts back then were uncommon, as to were security devices. What they had by today’s standards, a child could pick the lock.
The 1960s had been a time of plenty and most thought it wouldn’t end, however the next decade would see turbulent times...
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