Reno Rescue: 1961 Harris

By James Harris


After camping in tents for years we decided it was time to upgrade.  My wife Bel had wanted a vintage caravan for a while but we didn’t really want to lay out a lot of money in one hit and buy a restored one, so we thought we’d look for one to work on ourselves, bit by bit.

We hadn’t been looking too long when Bel noticed one for sale online on the central coast. I made a call and decided to go and have a look. During the conversation I asked the owner how much he wanted and he said he had to leave town in a couple of days so he just wanted it gone.  He said $50 and it’s yours. This gave me the impression the van might not be in very good condition.

DSCN0445I organised a trailer just in case we decided we were going to bring it home.  Upon arrival I saw the van in the driveway, shook my head and thought no way, I’m not rebuilding that!

But the words “I love it” came from the passenger seat and from that moment on I knew the wreck was coming home. Deep down, I also knew that as long as the chassis was fine, we could rebuild the rest.

Then the research began. I joined a number of forums and asked a lot of questions. A lot of people said the van was too far gone and I should turn it into a motor bike trailer and sell it. This made us even more determined to get it rebuilt.

We found out the van used to sit on top of a shipping container on the corner of the Great Western Highway and Pennant Hills Road in Wentworthville in Sydney advertising Fulcher’s Caravans. It was last registered in 1983.

We started rebuilding the framework out of timber. There were not many straight lines on this curvy van so this work was one of the main challenges. It wasn’t until we’d finished the framework before we knew if the original cladding was going to join back up as it should.  Luckily it did.

All 240v electrical work was rewired by an electrician to comply with current standards and we fully insulated it as well.

Bel made the decisions on all of the colours and fabrics and I think that’s what makes it so unique.


The rebuild took 14 months, doing odds and ends after work and plodding along at it over the weekends. It was an enjoyable process. Some days it was frustrating and I cursed it a few times but we carried on.  A number of people on the forums we joined admitted that when we first posted pictures they thought we’d never complete it, but since have expressed their sense of appreciation for what we’ve done.

We use the van pretty often. Our daughters Gypsy and Cherry love camping and getting out. We do weekend trips away along the coast usually between Nelson Bay and Woy Woy. But we have taken the van to Katoomba and Jenolan Caves in winter, Dubbo, Stuarts Point, Hawks Nest and places in between.

Will we do another one? Maybe. But I don’t think it will have the same history as this old girl.


For the full reno rescue story, See Issue 22 ROAM