Rare British campervan reappears

Bedford Dormobile CA campervan from Sotheby's auction

This is a 1961 Bedford CA Dormobile Caravan by Martin Walter, which will come up for auction at a Sotheby’s.  The auction is entitled the Elkhart Collection, it will be held from 23 – 24 October 2020 and if you are interested here is a link : https://rmsothebys.com/en/auctions/el20/the-elkhart-collection/lots/r015...

The Sotheby’s site tells us that this vehicle is

a rare British equivalent to the Volkswagen Camper
Light-duty, Vauxhall-based chassis with Dormobile caravan conversion
Updated high-quality restoration; recently fitted with newer radial tyres
Modern fittings and fixtures throughout
Quite comfortable!



The first Bedford CA based Dormobile campervan appeared in 1957.  It had a gas stove, a sink and cupboards. The seats converted into beds.  One could stand up when roof was erected.  This roof had a red and white striped canopy which was hinged on the left side.

If you see any old British films with street scenes, you will almost certainly see a Bedford CA. It was manufactured from 1952-1969.  It was 178cm wide and 190cm high. The campervan was manufactured using the long wheel base version which had a length of 421cm.  The vehicle was powered by a 1508cc or 1,594cc, inline four cylinder petrol engine.  This gave up to 54 hp which could get you from nought to 50mph in under two weeks.  The vehicle initially had a three-speed manual transmission, later models offered the option of a four speed gear box. The gear change was mounted on the steering column. There was a speedometer, a fuel gauge and a water temperature gauge.

The conversion is by Martin Walter which could have been the oldest campervan conversion company.  It was founded in 1773 to make harnesses, started making coaches, then vehicles. It went out of business in the 1990s.

I have some advertising material here for you to look at which I think is from the early 1960s.  The price of the vehicle is GBP658 which was then around USD1,900.  Note that the advertisement says there is no PT.  PT is purchase tax which is like value added tax, although VAT is borne by the end customer whereas PT is applied at the point of production.  A little story on this one.  The UK income tax authorities ruled that van conversions were subject to tax unless they had suitable facilities for living such as a cooker and running water. 

The Dormobile was built on a variety of base vehicles, there is a owners group in the UK with a website and a Facebook page and it seems they have meet ups from time to time.