Like the Auto-Sleeper prequel on Morris J2 (1961), the JP White Caravette began life as a DIY exercise. In 1955, Sidmouth-based builder Jack White and his carpenter/cabinetmaker Pat Mitchell converted a VW Kombi for Jack and his family to undertake a trip to Germany.
To save on purchase tax, the conversion had to be examined by the local main agent – Lisburn Garage in Torquay – and HM Customs and Excise. Lisburn Garage was so impressed, they ordered some for stock, thus the JP White Caravette was born in 1956.
The base vehicle was the Type 2 split-windscreen Kombi (window) van. Oak cabinetwork was beautifully crafted, and all of the work surfaces were Formica laminate. Standard specification included a water tank, Osokool food cooler, and electric and gas lighting, plus a Calor Gas two-burner hob mounted in a dedicated cupboard on the inside of one of the twin barn side doors. The retail price was just under £900.
UK-bound VW ‘Splitties’ were fitted with a more powerful engine; nevertheless progress would have been leisurely with just 30bhp. Although cruising speed was modest, acceleration was spirited thanks to the inclusion of reduction gears in the hubs. In 1967, production transferred to the T2 ‘Bay Window’ Transporter.
Pictured: JP White Caravette on VW Type 2 (‘Splitty’) Volkswagen Transporter Kombi. Converted in Devon. Drivetrain: 1192cc (30bhp) air-cooled flat-four ‘Boxer’ engine located at the rear and driving the rear wheels via a four-speed gearbox. 6V vehicle electrics. Overall length: 4.15m (13’ 7.5”).
After a more modern ‘van? Then take a look at our best van conversion guide.
If you’d like to see other entries into the Practical Motorhome Hall of Fame, take a look at these:
- Gentleman Jack fills us in on the Westfalia Camping Box on VW Transporter Type 2, a ‘van that debuted at the Hamburg Show in 1951.
- The Auto-Trail Seminole on Talbot Express Al-Ko deserves to be in our Hall of Fame for two reasons, as Gentleman Jack explains.
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