Reno Rescue: 1970s Franklin

Article by · May 27, 2017 ·

Kaja Andersen and James Sundermann had an ambitious plan to convert a caravan into a mobile bar.

But there was one problem… they didn’t actually own a caravan. So began their quest for the perfect vehicle. By chance they came across an eBay ad for a vintage Franklin in desperate need of a makeover, and their plan could at last get under way.

Here’s how they converted the little Franklin into a suave and sophisticated bar.

Where did you find your van and how did you come to own it?

I’ve had a passion for weddings and combining that with James’ passion for cocktails we came up with the idea of a caravan bar. We’d never owned a caravan before and didn’t know a thing about them, so we were off to a good start when we started looking to buy one.

We toyed with the idea of buying something that wasn’t even towable and almost start from scratch, but one morning we didn’t have much to do and by chance went to view a caravan that we’d found on eBay. The owner was so sick of people calling and texting her about it and said if we made her an offer we could have it right there and then. We then had to figure out how to tow it across Melbourne behind Ian, our 1990 Ford Laser. A memorable trip across the West Gate Bridge!

What condition was it in?

Well he wasn’t in horrible condition but he definitely wasn’t the sophisticated caravan bar we were aiming for. All his interior walls were covered in tie-dye styled spray paint art, but the exterior and structure of the caravan was in pretty good condition, for a 40 plus year old van. And luckily he was watertight!

What do you know of its history?

We purchased the van from a lovely lady who used it as accommodation at music festivals around Victoria. She was retiring from the music festival scene and wanted it out of her inner city Melbourne front yard. The rego says he’s a 1980 but we suspect he’s lying about his age, as he seems to be more like a 1970’s model.

What were the biggest challenges in the restoration?

There were so many. We spent about three weeks getting the structure sorted and another three making finishing touches – everyday presented a new challenge. Figuring out how to keep it structurally sound while also cutting out a window almost the length of the caravan was the biggest. James welded a steel frame to sit around the area and fixed it to the van before we cut it open, we were both pretty nervous, but it worked. From there we completely gutted the interior of the van, pulled out all existing cabinets, flooring and as much of the walls as we could.

At this point my Dad, who’s a furniture maker/carpenter/cabinet maker, drove to Gippsland from Queensland to help with the renovations. Not sure he really knew what he was getting into. I think his biggest challenge was figuring out how to frame the windows neatly, what to screw it all into, considering the van is pretty much aluminium and foam. The back bar was a bit of a headache as well, trying to figure how to neatly build in the bar considering the windows are much lower than the side windows. He did an amazing job and we’re always complimented on his work. Our aim was to keep the style as sleek and sophisticated as possible, we wanted Tom to fit seamlessly into any setting, not stick out like a sore thumb! I think we achieved it.

Any tips for others considering a caravan conversion?

Spend a lot of time thinking practically about how you want it all laid out, we kind of did it all on the spot so after working in it for a year there are a few things we would have changed.

Link: Read the full story in Issue 16 of Time to Roam.

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Australia's premier magazine focused on the people and culture of caravanning and camping.

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