South Australian couple John and Chris Hunter take on the restoration of a 1950s Rowvan known as “Mrs Bean”. We caught up with them to see what the vintage caravan was like when they first got it and what needed doing to make it shine.
How did you come to buy it?
Four years ago we ago we fully restored a 1956 Wayfarer 12ft timber caravan. The restoration was very rewarding and the end result was a cute van which has received plenty of attention. We thought one van was enough, but this changed when we heard the history of the Rowvans told by Mrs Roweat a Vintage Caravan gathering at Tanunda SA, as well as a display of a 12ft Rowvan.
Being South Aussies and interested in locally produced caravans, we decided to find a Rowvan. We scoured the countryside for about six months looking for a project caravan, eventually coming across one on a shack block at Morgan. Traditionally they were gutted and used for sleeping accommodation and ours was no exception. This caravan was named “Mrs Bean” and at first sight, looked like a little gem. It had been re-clad in aluminium and although the inside had been stripped, it seemed a bargain at $500
What was your aim with the restoration?
We intended to bring the van back to its original condition. We removed the cladding and found rotting ply and timber frames underneath. This left us with a dilemma. Do we proceed or just dump it? With compassion we proceeded with the restoration which included new back and front frames, ply cladding, ceiling and canvas roof, kitchen, timber windows, fly-screens, doors and a new hatch as well
We were able to duplicate the Rowvan logo and the original two-tone style paint pattern from traces we found on the original ply. The only major deviations we made from the original caravan specs was including wheel arches and 12 volt lighting. The restoration started in August 2013 with the intention of having it completed for the Vintage Caravan Nationals at Broken Hill. After many long days and nights we just made it.
At the subsequent Vintage and Classic Caravan gathering at Tanunda we had a surprise visit from Helen Rowe, whose parents designed and manufactured Rowvans between 1948 and 1960. She was impressed with our achievement, and said Mrs Bean looked like one that had just come out of the factory 60 years ago.
The exact year of our van is unknown, however the three panelled framed hinged timber windows font and back indicate that it’s a very early model.
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