A Laurieton couple has the rare honour of owning and restoring two Propert folding caravans.
It started out as a hobby for the Gills when they retired and moved from Canberra back to their hometown of Laurieton NSW. The couple had grown up there, met and married decades ago.
They came to acquire the first Propert, now christened Ruby, from a relative of the same name in nearby Wauchope.
“Stored in a farm shed, it was infested with rats and Ruby asked us to take it to the tip, but as we pulled it out we could see it was something special,” Chris recalls.
A 1970 model, it took nine months to rebuild and make roadworthy again.
While the van itself was in poor shape, miraculously, all the original papers that came with it were in perfect order, including the folding instructions.
With that retirement project complete, Graeme soon began looking for something else to do and eventually tracked down another Propert needing to be rescued.
“I first heard about it years ago and it was owned by a man in Tamworth called Bob Wall. He was an old bloke in his nineties who lived alone and couldn’t get out much. He loved the van and said he kept it on his front lawn because people would stop and come over and talk to him.”
After a wait of some years and a few visits to Bob, Graham was finally able to buy the second Propert, a Deluxe Fastback from 1954. Now called Tammy in honour of Tamworth, the fact it was built pre-1970, 16 years before Ruby, meant the Gills now had a van they could take to vintage caravan rallies.
“She was in really bad shape when we brought her home. I took out 23 kilos of metal bars and bolts which Bob had put in over the years just to hold it together.”
When the restoration was completed, Chris and Graham sent photos to Bob, the proud former owner in Tamworth.
“He really loved the van and his family said he kept the photos right by his bedside. They were next to him when he passed away earlier this year,” Chris said.
It’s obvious Chris and Graeme share Bob’s affection for the Propert.
“I just love the shape of them. The design and the way they open up is amazing. The bloke who designed them was a wizard,” Graeme says.
What makes the Gill’s collection even more special is the fact they tow the two Aussie-made vans with two small Australian made cars, both with interesting stories of their own.
A rare Australian (Sydney) built 1964 Morris Major was actually Chris’s very first car. She saved up the money working in a Laurieton bank and bought it around the same time she started going out with Graham.
The Adelaide-made Chrysler Galant from 1976 was actually the last car bought by Chris’s late grandmother.
Graeme and Christine get a lot of pleasure touring Australia with a combination of all four classic vehicles. Both cars are colour co-ordinated with their matching partner Propert. They also have a good collection of caravan memorabilia from the era including Propert kitchenware.
“If you’ve got it, use it I say. We’ve gone as far as outback Queensland with the Galant and all we’ve ever had to replace is the fuel pump.”
“They always draw a crowd when we’re travelling,” Graeme says, “Lucky the wife and I aren’t as robust as we used to be, otherwise we’d never get any privacy.”
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