Martin P WilsonSee other Blog articles filed in ‘Motorhomes’ written by Martin P Wilson
As my father was a long-time Rover owner and enthusiast, perhaps it is of no surprise that when I spotted this classic motorhome, I couldn't resist. I had to take a closer look!
Tucked into a corner of the NEC Birmingham at the recent Classic Car and Restoration Show, it might have been easy to miss this Rover P5 Coupé-based ’van.
It was christened 'Apollo' by current owners the Brooks family, because the car came off the production line at the same time as NASA's Apollo 11 mission.
What is it?
It is the last surviving motorhome based on a Rover P5 Coupé, a model that was the favourite official car of the Queen Mother and Margaret Thatcher, amongst others.
This particular example was built in 1969 and the coachbuilt conversion was commissioned by the original owner in 1971. His family used it to tour widely around the UK and on the Continent, until it was apparently abandoned sometime in the 1980s, possibly due to a failed gearbox.
In the 1990s it was rediscovered in a sand quarry near Bromsgrove by Rover enthusiasts Anthony Moran and Barry Griffiths, in a very poor state. They undertook a full restoration and for many years it won awards at classic car shows.
However, age was catching up with Barry and he could not manage the constant maintenance needed to keep a classic in good condition. So he sold it to its present owners in an auction at the 2015 Classic Car and Restoration Show.
Spiralling out of control
Current custodians Anthony and Alison Brooks, and Tony's brother Garry, say they were attracted by its quirkiness.
At the time of purchase it had a new MoT, but there were problems that needed immediate attention. And, as is the way with many restorations, the list of jobs grew rapidly.
What started as a small project turned into a major restoration! And despite it being their first restoration project, in the end the Brooks family undertook a comprehensive mechanical restoration.
They even redesigned the suspension and steering to improve the driving experience. It's now much less wallowy at motorway speeds.
However, it's never going to be economical – Tony manages 14-16mpg, from the near-50-year-old, 3.5-litre, petrol-fuelled V8.
Classic on the outside, modern on the inside
The interior was also tired and chintzy, "old lady's style," as Tony described it, so it needed a complete makeover.
Looking at it today, it now has all the facilities one would expect to find in a modern motorhome with a three-way fridge, a full hob and oven, heating and a solar panel, with modern fabrics used throughout. Layout-wise it features an overcab double bed, and an up-to-date lounge and kitchen.
As the family team stripped the interior it was clear the motorcaravan framework needed treatment as it didn't smell very good. All the cladding was stripped and the framework restored and fully insulated.
This gave them an opportunity to improve some of the detail design of the ’van, and the water and fuel tanks were repositioned lower down to improve stability. After nine months of intensive work, Apollo was ready for the 2016 Classic Car and Restoration Show.
Onwards and upwards!
It is now a good-looking and useable motorhome. At the NEC there were very few motorhomes and most that were on display were VW camper vans, so this ’van seriously stood out.
Since its rebuild, Apollo has been used frequently by members of the Brooks family, taken to classic car events as both an exhibit and to provide accommodation.
But it seems it has given them the restoration bug! They're now looking to sell it to fund their next project.
Tony and Garry's enthusiasm for Apollo was infectious. I hope the motorhome's next owner is just as passionate and enjoys many years of touring with it – and I'm excited to find out what the next project for the Brooks family will be!