Top 10 Touring Caravans of all time

Written by Stuart Craig on 14th May 2020

We’re sure everybody has a favourite caravan. But can you name your top 10? Shield Total Insurance asked top caravan historian Andrew Jenkinson to name his selection and give us an idea why they mean so much to him.

10.       Starting at number ten is the Ci Sprite Finesse – this was launched for late 1984 as a super lightweight tourer that could sleep up to four. The then re-vamped Ci Group set about producing a four-berth tourer at less than £2k. The Finesse was the answer and was designed to give families a tourer that was cheap to buy and where spec could be added as when funds allowed. The Finesse would sell in good numbers but its only drawback for some was the lack of a loo compartment. However seeing it after launch I thought it provided good ‘back to basics’ caravanning.

9.         Swift has produced some great tourers, and the Conqueror from 2010 was no exception. Its style and luxury spec meant the line-up offered plenty to those demanding a superb-looking tourer. The sunroof was a real head-turner along with silver sides. To me Swift really did turn the heat up on caravan design showing that caravans could look sexy in a way! They also saw that family cars looked more attractive, so the Conqueror really did nicely match the new cars of the modern era.

8.         First in my top ten of luxury hand-built tourers is the Viking Fiberline – a tourer that originated from South Africa but was built in the UK from 1964. This 1974 Companion model boasted luxury for two. I love the styling of these tourers and remember them well at dealerships in the 70’s. Due to their robust construction many survive and are held in high esteem by classic caravan folk. The flowing GRP moulds offer a certain charm and added to the Viking’s excellent towing stability.

7 .        When I began caravanning with my parents, Thomson caravans in Scotland were one of the biggest makers in the UK. Their caravans were well built and in 1970 their new look came in. I liked most of the Thomson models, but the Mini-Glen pictured was a real gem. The 8ft tiny tourer slept two and could be towed by a Mini car – hence the name. All Thomson models were named after Glens in Scotland. The Mini Glen was made from 1967 to the company’s demise in early 1982, those surviving examples are now collectable and rightly so!

6.         Luxury caravans were hand-built back in the day, such as the Welton Express four-berth shown here from 1972. My parents had a Welton and we had great holidays with it. The cabinet work was the best and features included a lockable integral front gas locker plus a rear side locker to pop your water container in! But the Welton also was distinctive and was the originator of the three-piece roof copied by many luxury makers of the time such as Buccaneer. So I have this as a definite favourite in my top ten.

5.         Back in the 60’s and certainly the 70’s any new caravanner would have chosen a Ci Sprite tourer. More likely the 12ft Alpine model. In 1970 it was the UK’s best-selling tourer available in several layouts. Basic spec but lightweight and sleeping up to five, the Alpine sold in their thousands abroad as well as here in the UK. Great value, this 1970 version was the first of a new-look Sprite – and to add to its appeal I remember seeing these new at my then local Sprite dealership!

4.         The Swift Base Camp was a welcome sight when it was launched a few years ago. A mainstream UK tourer manufacturer aiming at a new market sector, for those who want a leisure vehicle and not a “caravan” – though to me its still is! The Base Camp is a funky cool-looking leisure vehicle that offers so much in its size. Good spec and also an additional awning. Whilst I also wanted to see a four-berth version, Swift then launched one at the February 2020 NEC Show thus bringing greater appeal to the Base Camp.

3.         Launched for the small car owner, the Lunar Ariva in my list comes in at respectable number 3. The Ariva has been around since 1995 and in 2019 it still gives a couple a well equipped yet lightweight tourer with the traditional end kitchen layout. It’s a cosy tourer with quality soft furnishings and an offside washroom that’s more spacious than you would think. Excellent night lighting – a Lunar trait – is carried on in the Ariva plus if you want more space an awning would prove an ideal addition. The Ariva is a neat package and also has great towing stability too!

2.         The Venus range by Lunar launched in 2012 and was designed as a lightweight, affordable range of tourers. They were okay, but by 2014 they were vastly improved inside and out and with an enhanced spec they were outstanding value. By 2019 Marquis Group had their own Venus dealer special named the Deluxe. This short-lived range included the 460/2 – a superb two-berth van that came with a very well equipped end washroom and a spacious design too. With extra spec over the standard line up that included glazed door, BBQ point and exterior mains socket, the Deluxe was brilliant.

1.         The 2020 Sprite Alpine 2 by Swift Group is a worthy top choice with its well executed end washroom traditional layout. The Alpine offers a caravanning couple great storage and a spacious interior with contemporary styling, blended with excellent spec. The Alpine, like all Sprites, has a stylish profile and GRP sidewalls and moulded front and rear panels. With its large front gas locker plus sunroof, the Alpine is well put together and offers great value all round that’s in keeping with the Sprite brand’s origins some 70 years on.

If you have a favourite tourer, check us out on social media and drop us a photo telling us why you like it so much.

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