Melbourne Trip February 2014 001

By Chris Ashton


Upcycling is one of today’s buzzwords.  You simply take an item and turn it into a newer, more valuable product.   This early Australian motorhome is proof the concept is nothing new.

In 1929 the brand new Chevy was bought by a builder by the name of Philip Bearns.  As building work dried up during the Great Depression in the 1930s, the truck became Bearns’ meal ticket as he scored work as a “dunny man”.

Melbourne Trip February 2014 003The Chevy became his “dunny cart’”– the slang term for a sanitary truck.  Bearns plied the streets of towns in the Great Lakes Shire on the NSW mid north coast, emptying pan toilets each day.

After the depression, he returned to his former trade in the building industry, leaving the truck unused for many years.

In the 1940s Bearns decided it was time for it to be reborn and the skilled builder transformed the body into a motorhome.

Victorian caravan dealer Alan Bell was able to buy the vehicle six years ago and had it shipped to his dealership at Springvale where he’s kept safely since.

He says despite the water damage, the truck itself and its chassis remain almost entirely rust free.  Headlights, wooden spoke front wheels, and the original six-cylinder engine remain in remarkably good condition.

Alan is waiting on photographs from the Bearns family before starting the restoration – a project he says will take months to complete.