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!).

The new Bedford Dormobile Caravan
An early split-windscreen model, 3.91m long

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.

A family in a later one-piece windscreen model
A later one-piece windscreen model, 4.21m. Drive train: 1.5-litre petrol engine driving rear wheels via three-speed gearbox with steering-column mounted gear lever (‘three-on-the-tree’)

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

You can also catch up on the other recent inductees into the Practical Motorhome Hall of Fame, the Swift Kon-Tiki (1985-present) and the Adria Van Win/Twin (2003-Present).

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