Publish date: April 2022
After finishing a home renovation and vowing to never attempt a makeover again, Victorian couple Kayla and Mitch soon found themselves drawn to another project.
With three kids in tow – which has since expanded to four – they embarked on a massive caravan overhaul at the beginning of 2020.
Here’s what they achieved…
Freddie is a 16ft, 1967 Viscount Ambassador Alumvan. Caravanning had really exploded among our family and friends at the end of 2019, and we had been discussing whether it was for us.
We decided that we would love to renovate a vintage van, so the search began a few days after Christmas.
By this stage, the market for vintage vans was growing and we soon found that they were being snapped up quickly.
While browsing on Gumtree one afternoon, Mitch found what would soon be our caravan. There was a bit of a bidding war, but by 3 January we were using Mitch’s dad’s car to tow it home, because we didn’t even have a tow bar on our car!
We fell in love with the arrows on the van’s side, and after speaking to others who had renovated, the aluminium frame was a must-have.
Freddie was fully gutted when we bought it. This was a massive bonus, as we could rebuild to our needs.
We had finished renovating our house in 2018 and declared that we would never, ever renovate again.
Over time, though, we have found it hard to sit still. And with this project, we thought it would be a way to keep busy but also to be able to have something of use when the van was finished.
While Mitch had picked up a few skills throughout our house renovations, we had absolutely no idea how to rebuild a caravan.
We relied on researching and connecting with others on social media, as well as neighbours, colleagues, and caravan users.
Freddie was a shell at the beginning. Everything inside has been thoroughly researched and installed by us.
Our first step was installing a floor, then we reinforced the roof to install our rooftop air conditioner/heater, added insulation, and began the painstaking task of polishing the windows. After hours and hours, we decided to use a nylon cup brush and then repaint them.
We installed the 12v wiring and battery system, hot and cold water plumbing, hot water service, outdoor shower, and solar panels. An electrician helped us to wire the 240v.
We used caravan lining for walls, the ceiling, and storage doors. We also built the kitchen, bed base, and couch and used Fantastic Furniture trundle beds to make the bunks.
On the outside, we had the arrows repainted, sourced replacement Viscount stickers, and polished the aluminium.
We also had a vintage annex cut to the correct size, which doubles the space we can use.
It took about nine months to create a useable caravan. We went on our maiden voyage with a few jobs left to do.
When we first bought Freddie, we thought it would be a good project to tackle on weekends.
Soon after, we were thrown into what would be the first of many (COVID-19-related) Victorian lockdowns, so we actually finished renovating quicker than we’d ever imagined.
We were so grateful to have had this sanity saving lockdown project!
Dealing with the fear of messing up! Quite often we were held up because we had to figure out how to proceed.
It didn’t come without its challenges! There was often someone needing something just as we started work.
In saying that, this really was a family project. Our kids were with us every step of the way, and it is absolutely their achievement as well!
They helped with cleaning up, painting, polishing, measuring… and if they weren’t helping, they loved watching us.
Although, their favourite part was being able to watch movies while we worked once the bed and TV were installed.
When we had finally finished enough of the van to be able to go away for the first time. We still had quite a few jobs to do, but to sit back and realise that we had a usable caravan was really exciting.
It surprised us just how much we enjoyed working on the van. It never felt like a chore.
While some parts were frustratingly slow, we always enjoyed being out in the sun and ticking jobs off the list.
We are proud of the scale of build we were able to achieve in a relatively short time. We love that we were able to give a vintage van another lease of life.
Freddie is a real conversation starter, and we often have people coming to have a look and tell us about their own experiences renovating a van or travelling in a Viscount.
It’s really heart-warming to share these experiences with others.
That we are all more capable than we think, and to give it a go!
Now that the family has grown, we would definitely go bigger!
The kids absolutely love Freddie! When we first bought the van, they named it after (the late Queen lead singer) Freddie Mercury. And it had to be a ‘boy’ to even out the girl-to-boy ratio in the house.
They love getting away more often and the freedom that caravan and holiday parks bring.
We plan to use Freddie as an opportunity to get away more often on the weekends and in school holidays. The goal is to hit the road at least once a month!