‘I built my own caravan … and then did it again!’

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Caravan build
Project finished ... time to relax and enjoy!

Having built his own caravan from scratch just three years ago, Tony Dawson from Strathbogie in Victoria could have been forgiven for simply enjoying the fruits of his labour on the endless open road.

But, having learned a few lessons along the way, Tony was eager to have another crack … and construct something ‘bigger and better’.

His first van didn’t have brakes and was designed to be strong, light and efficient with a tare of only 450kg, and an ATM of 750kg … including a toilet/ shower cubicle.

“My wife Debbie and I towed it around Australia and up to Bundaberg from Victoria with an i30 diesel” Tony said. “It was great but we wanted bigger

Grey nomad builds new caravan

The van as a work in progress.

… enter the 16’x7’ ‘Jessica’ to be towed with a JBA Falcon Tourer powered by a V6 Holden engine.”

As this van would have brakes, Tony could go over 750kg ATM this time but his car was engineered to tow 850kg only. He also wanted the van to loosely match the car’s 1930’s design, so plastic spats, retro tail lights and portholes came into the picture.

The biggest challenge though was always to keep the weight down.

“The first van had a middle wall that was strong enough to place tie-down points from outside in case of high winds as it wouldn’t have taken much to topple over a 750kg caravan,” said Tony. “So the larger van had two inner walls with braced ‘W’ sections that resulted in four tie-down points.”

Tony’s new van has an ensuite in the rear, modern lightweight plastic cupboards, and a full wardrobe which weighs 16kg.

“The floor was a problem so I opted for 9mm lightweight ply,” he said. “It’s three times the cost of 18mm marine ply but half the weight.”

With all manner of extras added on, Tony admits to being pretty nervous when it came time to weigh in.

“I was hoping for 700kg tare, but it tipped the scales at 730kg,” he said. “Not bad … I have to tow with no water in the tanks until I get the towing capacity raised on the old car, but I’m happy with that.”

Importantly, he says the van tows easily and is stable on the road.

“Lightweight caravans are no longer popular but we’ve proved you don’t need a lot of things, just the basics,” said Tony.

“It cost around $16,000 and it looks professionally built so we are really pleased.” So, what’s the next project? “This is my last build as my knees are buggered” Tony said. “Time to relax and enjoy … but I will still love tinkering with it!”

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4 Responses to ‘I built my own caravan … and then did it again!’

  1. Awesome job well done.
    Custom own made is best you.ll be forever satisfied

  2. Good on ya Tony!
    I wish I had the time, patience, and skills to do similar.

  3. Hi tony I have been considering building a van for the family l don’t realy know what materials are avaliable for the outside is their many different materials available.

  4. Great work to b able to have patient mind skills would have been terrific feelg on that last day

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