This latest inductee is one of a very rare breed, in that it became so popular, part of its name became a generic term for elevating-roof campervans – Dormobile. In the early 1950s, Spencer Apps of Folkestone coachbuilders Martin Walter noticed many people sleeping in their cars (or trying to) while waiting to board cross-Channel ferries.
This led him to develop his Utilecon (minibus), adding tubular-framed, forward-facing passenger seats that folded flat to make beds. The seat design was patented as Dormatic and the new ‘sleeper vehicles’ were called Dormobile, and later transferred to the all-new Bedford CA (dormir is French for sleep and ‘mobile’… well, I’m sure you know!).
In late 1957, the first Bedford CA Dormobile Caravan was unveiled, featuring those Dormatic seats, high-level stretcher bunks, clothes storage, a hob and a sink. Also included was a side-hinged elevating-roof with an instantly recognisable red and white candy-striped canvas.
The Bedford CA was the most popular, and it is the most fondly remembered and easiest to recognise out of the 1960s Dormobiles. Austin/Morris J2/J4/152, Commer PB and Ford Thames/Transit-based models were also available.
- Looking for a more modern ‘van to go touring in? Then take a look at our best campervan guide
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