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Towing Through Time

TV aerials, full blown air heating, lights, cassette loo and microwave are now becoming the norm. But at the end of WW1 it was a different tale of towing - we take a look at caravanning from 1919 to the present day.

Back in the days of the early were considerably different caravans were horse drawn rich man's leisure interest. the first cars were appearing the First World War the more reliable and affordable. It was and son team Bill Riley senior and being the future and identified the accessory for car owners to luggage. The idea was then taken a trailer with living quarters.

By 1920, the first car pulled caravan was built and the two Riley’s bought Eccles Motor Transport and named their new car pulled trailers Eccles Caravans. Primitive (the coupling was a leather strap!), these caravans could only be towed at low speeds. By the late 20’s the caravans were being developed and now used a pin type coupling. Cars didn’t have tow brackets then, instead your local smithy would have provided that service.

Eccles Special Caravan

The early 30’s saw other caravan manufacturers enter the market on the strength of caravanning's growing popularity and also the ball coupling was designed. Caravans now had overrun braking and were better streamlined and towed better than before. The 1939-45 War slowed down the growth but after the war new manufacturers introduced new models and developed the caravan further. By the early 50’s the first Witter Towbar was launched and the idea of having to take your car to have a Towbar made by the local blacksmith was over. Colin Witter was based in Chester and was soon designing towbars to fit most popular cars. This also meant that the caravan buyer didn’t have to worry from where to get a safely fitted Towbar.

By the mid 50’s caravanning had become both popular and cheaper too as caravans such as the famous Sprite proved. With better equipment and towing qualities the caravan holiday was proving a boom business. Smaller cars and cheaper production methods saw families with cars such as the BMC Mini take to the roads on a caravanning holiday. To prove caravans could tow well, the British Caravan Road Rally was to become an annual event in which dealers, manufacturers and club members raced around tracks and rallied the countryside, to show the public that caravans were safe and performed well with the right vehicle.

By the 1970’s caravanning was reaching its peak in sales with over 60,000 units sold each year. After a slump in sales in 1974/75, things soon picked up again, with caravans now becoming better equipped with ovens, fridges, and some having mains as well as battery powered lighting. Caravans were becoming lighter too with the help of bonded sides and lighter chassis. Not only this, but the rise in popularity of 4x4 vehicles in the mid to late 80’s saw caravans become larger. To cope with the extra length of the caravans, the manufacturers started to introduce twin axles and the caravan market saw a new growth in sales.

Towing In Time

1952 Sam Alper, the owner of Sprite caravans, on tour proving his caravans were robust but cheap to buy.

Towing In Time

1952 Sam Alper, the owner of Sprite caravans, on tour proving his caravans were robust but cheap to buy.

Towing In Time

1965 Caravans were raced at one stage proving the towing qualities.

Towing In Time

1980 By the 1980’s caravanning was far more comfortable. 1980’s Interior of this Elddis – looks very dated now but then was the latest in interior design.

Towing In Time

2000 The fixed bed is the next big thing in caravanning needs.

By the early 90’s, nearly all new caravans had mains electricity, double glazed windows, heating, fridge, flyscreens and blinds plus hot water and showers. New layout designs saw the introduction of the end washroom in both two and four berth caravans, and this became one of the most popular innovations as every caravanner wanted a large end washroomed tourer. Sites were also better equipped, gone were the days of the old stand pipe in a field. Shower blocks and full service pitches were rapidly becoming the norm.

How caravanning had changed in the years since 1920 - the caravan is now a leisure vehicle, and caravanning an industry which is highly professional and provides valuable income to the UK’s tourist areas. TV aerials, full blown air heating, lights, cassette loo and microwave are now becoming the norm, and the latest popular layout is the fixed bunk and fixed double bed. More use of streamlined panels and better equipment has raised the profile of the touring caravan which looks set to continue to be one of the UK’s top choices of holiday.

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