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Retro Caravan Renovations

Retros Caravans Renovations are what they say they are on the tin. They’re a company producing fine retro caravan renovations from their workshop in Burleigh. The dynamic duo Jessica and Matt produce a wide range of vintage caravans for their growing clientelle.

Natasha: 1950s Gypsie Bondwood by Retro Carvan Renovations

How Retro Caravan Renovations Began

Jessica had a varied background in design and renovation before starting with caravans. She was flipping houses with her mother among other things. Then she renovated a caravan. It was a success so pretty soon found herself doing another.

Then another. She was renovating these caravans in her driveway at this stage. You quickly outgrow your driveway when you’re renovating caravans so she set up a workshop in Burleigh on the Gold Coast.

That’s about when Matt got involved. He had a background as a carpenter and A-grade welder. With those skills he was ready to bring Retro Caravans Renovations to a level where there was little to nothing they couldn’t do.

Word got around about what they were doing and orders started coming in. Their talents were often recognized in other ways too. It can be pretty tedious getting work done on caravans at times and here was a small crew who could do almost anything. So it wasn’t just retros that were coming in the door. Sometimes people just valued expeditious and quality service.

Soon their workshop was busy with all types work and Retro Caravan Renovations was an established and growing business.

The Process Of Buying A Caravan From Retro Caravans

No two caravans from Retro Caravans are alike. That’s partly because they’re all custom built to the buyer’s specifications. It’s also inherent in the process, which starts with sourcing a vintage caravan.

Retros Caravan Renovations start with an old caravan and bring it back to life. The first step therefore is sourcing the caravan. It might be sitting in the yard of a farmer, been inherited from nanna, or even used as a goat shed. The backgrounds and the conditions of these caravans is as diverse as way we use, store and (sometimes) neglect our caravans. One donor caravan they have at the moment came from a property in Parkes. The other was used as a goat shed. It needed quite some cleaning out before it was ready to use. (I can tell you that it now looks amazing and I wish it was mine.)

Below are some of the “before” pictures of caravans prior to being renovated. 

The client consultation takes into account what they want from their caravan and what they need. This wants/needs list is then the basis for sourcing the donor caravan and then designing the caravan the client will receive. It’s a complex task because each of us has different desires for our caravan, different sized vehicles we own, size of family, and different ways we’re going to use the caravan. What we want and need in a caravan is therefore very diverse. Also, we might want all the bells and whistles (because of course we do) but that doesn’t mean our 12 foot van can contain them. Or your family car can pull it. Or your budget can afford it.

All these elements go into the mixing bowl and somehow the team at Retro Caravans makes it work. It’s amazing what they can do in a small space with some clever design. Or if you have a bigger space, you may wish to convert the old double bed into a queen. You may want to have a space for your espresso equipment. Or bicycles. Or somewhere for the dog to sleep. You name it, it’s been requested.

Once the design has been approved then construction begins.

The Construction Process At Retro Caravans

The construction/renovation of your caravan can take as little as a couple of months. This is a testament to the hard work of the Retro Caravan team. There is a lot of work required to convert a dilapidated caravan into something that looks brand new.

Starting underneath the caravan, you will want something with the latest ride handling. Vintage caravans may look good but you don’t want to own a caravan that tows like an old caravan. Retro Caravan Restorations will replace axles and install modern units where required to make your caravan tow like a new one.

Looking topside, the caravan is stripped back to bare basics. This is different for each caravan because each caravan was constructed differently. Some will have a timber frame, some just aluminum, and others may have a foam core.

There will be elements inside the caravan that you may want to keep. Those suburb retro features that made the caravan so desirable will need to be kept and restored. Glass is removed and sandblasted back to like-new condition. Light figures are given the same treatment. Cupboards and beading is restored. To all of that is added a careful blend of new parts and fixtures in-keeping with the original intent of the caravan.

Sourcing parts is the expertise of Jessica and it can be an incredibly time-consuming process. Finding the right parts to suit a 40-year-old caravan is no mean feat. Having seen the results though, I can tell that somehow they make it happen.

Non-Retro Retro Caravans

Of course, not everyone wants to stay true to the original caravan. Some people want to reimagine the space altogether. That’s one of the beauties of what Retro Caravans do. They give you a clean slate to draw your dreams onto. You can do whatever you want within that space and the team will support you. They have one caravan in the workshop for which the owner is sourcing most of the interior. They work with the client to realise their dream and are content to see the process through at the owner’s pace. The result will be a truly original and singular space that suits the owner down to a T.

It’s so different, this process, from what you will get with the bigger manufacturers. We all know that you can spend a lot of time in consultation with your dealer customizing your caravan. But you’re not given a clean slate. You’re choosing from an array of choices that allow you to try and achieve the goal of making the caravan fit your lifestyle. You’re not given total carte blanche to move beds, cupboards, fridges, showers, add skylights, etcetera and etcetera. At Retro Caravan Renovations you are. Not everything can be achieved, of course. As discussed earlier, there are limitations on size, weight, budget, etc. But the team have demonstrated an amazing ability to take these many competing elements of design and make them work together.

Or maybe you project isn’t even a vintage caravan. Perhaps it’s a juice bar or horse trailer conversion…

Modern Convenience

Let’s face it, not everything about these vintage vans was good. We already mentioned that the handling is modernized as part of the renovation process. You get a chassis that tows like a modern caravan. There are other hidden touches too. Gone are the old timber-on-timber drawers that always stuck halfway and had to be manhandled just to get a teaspoon. Behind the original drawers in your retro caravan will be drawer runners with soft-close. Gone are the heavy timber panels that needed to be lifted to store cases underneath your mattress. They’re supported by gas struts that make lifting a breeze.

The caravan is completely rewired. You wouldn’t know to look at it. You won’t find any of that pale-blue strip lighting that seems to be the rage these days. You’ll see the original light fixtures restored or replacements that have been sourced to suit the caravan’s style.

You might want a skylight. Why not? It’ll bring in so much light and make the space feel larger. You may want a space for your television. Air conditioning. Oh yes, you want that. And why not have it? It’s your caravan. Retro Caravan Renovations will bring these modern touches to your caravan and blend them into your vintage van.

Standing The Test Of Time

It’s a testament to the original construction of these caravans that they have stood the test of time. Some are fifty years old. Many of the caravans at Retros Caravan Renovations would have perished if not given another life. What I see with the team is a commitment to making sure that the van’s second life is a good one. They’re conscious of using materials and fixtures that will stand up to the rigors of its next phase of life. There are no cheap laminates or veneers used. You see elements like real tiles for splash-backs, flooring ready for heavy traffic, and cabinetry handmade by the team in their factory. Their ability to design, fabricate and construct in-house means they’re well in control of quality. And it shows.

quality fittings in Sandy
Quality fixtures in this caravan.

Hire A Vintage Van

If you’re not in the market for a restored caravan but would like a holiday in one then you should have a look at Franky-Rose. She’s a 1966 Franklin Freeway that sleeps 4 people. The large pull-out awning gives you additional outdoor space for summer cocktails.

When you book Franky-Rose the guys at Retro Caravan Restorations will deliver the van to site, prepare it for you, and leave it ready for you to move in and begin your holiday.

Once your stay has finished you just hand back the keys and carry on your merry way. Retro Caravans will collect it and do all cleaning for you.

All you need to do is book the campsite (and book Franky-Rose of course) and they’ll do everything else for you. Frankie- Rose comes with everything you need, fridge/freezer, induction cooktop, sink, plates, cutlery, cups, kettle, Nespresso coffee machine, linen, pillows, doonah, picnic blankets and two white Adirondack chairs, table & annex. You can book this caravan for spaces anywhere from Gold Coast to Byron Bay.

you can hire Franky-Rose
Franky-Rose is available for hire

Who Is Going Retro?

There are many reasons why you might want to go retro. Maybe you just love the look. Maybe the ultra-modern interiors of most caravans remind you of a future dystopian movie. Maybe you want to recapture that feeling you had of long summer holidays in the family’s Franklin.

Or perhaps you’re looking for something that will stand out on AirBnB. You’ll might get more reliable bookings with a vintage van and then, when you want to have your own holiday, you can hitch it up and start your own journey.

The other factor is being able to customize your caravan. We’ve discussed this already and it’s a point not to be overlooked. You really can make the caravan suit your lifestyle, your aesthetic as well as your wallet.

Jennay is a 1970’s 15ft Viscount Royal
This is Jennay: doesn't she make you want to go retro?

Going Vintage

Going vintage isn’t for everyone but for those that do the investment in time and money can pay off handsomely. You end up with a caravan that is uniquely yours. You also inherit all the character and history of the previous caravan. You can be fully involved in the process, like the owner who is sourcing parts for their interior, or you can let Retros Caravan Renovations take care of the details for you. Each caravan will be hand renovated by the small crew who will pay as much attention to the details of your caravan as they do to every other.
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