Andy Jenkinson

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From garden find to regular touring companion, this rare 1956 Fairholme Bambi has been transformed by owner John Novell – Andy Jenkinson tells the story

John Novell is no stranger to caravan restoration. One tourer he’d restored was an early Bailey Maestro, which is now in the Bristol Museum. Several have passed through John’s workshop, including his latest find: a rare two-berth 1956 Fairholme Bambi, with an end kitchen, a corner washroom and a front dinette. 

It’s an appealing tourer and very practical for John and his wife, Eileen, who take it on classic rallies – including a recent one in Belgium. Bambis were made from 1956 until 1957, when Fairholme was known mainly for family models. Only between 100 and 150 Bambis are believed to have been built, making John’s survivor all the more special. 

John spotted the old tourer in a back garden. It had not been used in more than 30 years and its wheels had been removed. Still, the owner could not bear to part with it, so he had painted the bodyshell many times since putting it to pasture. 

However, the caravan was in desperate need of attention and John was there at the right time. He knew just from looking at it that major work was in the offing. But pleasant surprises lurked behind the sidewalls: the frame was as solid as the day it had been made and the joins still held. Perhaps it was because the owner had lavished so much paint on it.

Some timbers were rotten, but they were not structural. As he replaced these and interior board, John had another lucky find: the furniture had weathered the years well, too.  

The soft furnishings were another story, so John sourced replacements from a Swift that had been disassembled. He also wanted to add to the Bambi’s existing storage, so he had an overhead locker made to match the others. He swapped the cracked roof vents with new ones he’d ordered to measure. 

The original kit was largely intact: gas lights, a two-burner hob, a grill, and a moulded kitchen unit comprising sink, drainer and soap dish. A handpump brought water to the tap, but this was not specified as standard equipment in the Fairholme brochure. Nor was a fridge, but John fitted a 1970s Electrolux that he could run on gas alone.

For a mid-1950s tourer, the Bambi wasn’t badly fitted out, except in one tiny place: the washroom, located in the corner alongside the entrance door. It was an empty shell, and there was hardly enough space for a toilet. However, John fitted a Thetford and a clever folding door that opens outwards to meet the wardrobe, thereby creating a more spacious cubicle. There was no light, either, so John included an LED unit, enabling night-time visits. 

With the kitchen at the end, the Bambi has a low noseweight. To increase it, John stores heavy items in the bed boxes. Other storage options are that full-length wardrobe and a cocktail cabinet at the front. 

John has other projects on the go now, but the Bambi is the caravan that he and Eileen tour in; they attend so many rallies with it that he has little time for restoration. 

The Fairholme Bambi is a rare model from a once prolific manufacturer. We wonder whether its designers and production line staff could have realised that this one would still be around – and in regular use on caravan holidays – nearly 60 years after being built.

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