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Bedford fuelled camper cult; CLASSIC WHEELS.

Byline: IAN JOHNSON Motors Correspondent

I WONDER if the van design team at Bedford had any idea of what they were starting when they put pen to paper to create their workhorse of the early 1950s.

The CA van was a modern looking loadlugger with pug nose and sliding side driver and passenger doors. It became the Ford Transit of its day and that, in theory, should have been its main claim to fame.

But a number of eyes were on it because the CA, made in long and short wheelbase form, was also available as a chassis to which specialist bodywork could be added. And this sparked of the cult of the great British motorhome.

The model trundled on for many years and became the basis for the much loved Dormobile, which is an iconic word among motor caravan fans to whom it is as dear as the VW Microbus camper is to its aficionados.

The Dormobile helped fuel a dramatic change in the UK leisure scene and it was converted by Martin-Walter, which had a great reputation as automotive body builders. The name was changed to Dormobile Ltd to reflect the sales success from the firm's factory in Folkestone, Kent.

The first Bedford Dormobile motorhome, complete with a gas stove, a sink and cupboards and seats which converted into beds, appeared in 1957.

The firm had devised an elevating roof, hinged to one side and featuring a striped canopy, making it possible to stand up in the vehicle.

Earlier in the 1950s, the manufacturer specialised in converting the van into a minibus. The tax man said the converted vehicle was effectively a form of estate car and would have the full lash of purchase tax, from which vans were exempt.

But the revenue gurus had another think and Martin-Walter negotiated an agreement whereby Dormobile converted vans could be sold without purchase tax, provided they incorporated 'built-in life support equipment' such as a cooking device, and facilities for the washing and storage of clothes.

The price was around the same as a car and the Brits loved it, fuelling the massive rise in the market with motor caravans.


HAPPY CAMPER: A Bedford Dormobile
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Apr 19, 2013
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