Andy Jenkinson

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Not everyone who tours in a modern van would swap its comforts for a vintage caravan, but that's what this couple did, restoring it to its former glory

Mick and Yvonne Lovelock are big fans of the great outdoors. The couple have caravanned for several years in the latest all-singing, all-dancing tourers, but they decided to go back to basics.

In the used caravans for sale pages they saw an ad for what turned out to be a 1979 ABI Monza 1200CT touring caravan, owned by a farmer from new.

The Monza had been stored mostly undercover, but over the years it had an oven and fold-down entrance step fitted, plus some electrics.

Yvonne knew she could make the little vintage caravan a more homely one and a deal was struck! It was towed behind a VW T5 van, which made light work of it on the way home.

Tender loving care

Over the ensuing weeks the Lovelocks set to work and added some new lights, plus a rather fancy gas locker.

The Monza was repainted on the outside and named Dorothy, and the rear lounge area was given a makeover, with a wraparound seating arrangement replacing the conventional four-seater dinette.

The central kitchen had an ’80s oven fitted, while the twin-burner hob and grill were original, complete with an ABI logo.

Just one gas light remained, but the Lovelocks prefer the electric units they have fitted. For heating they use an electric radiator.

Yes, the caravan is basic, but Mick and Yvonne love its simplicity in design and build.

The Monza story

Monza was an entry-level range from the original ABI Caravans Ltd in Beverley, near Hull. ABI had grown from a small five-vans-a-week maker in 1963, then called Ace, to become the second largest UK manufacturer by 1979.

Ace caravans were mid-market tourers that were well made and priced, and by 1972 the firm had merged with near neighbour Belmont Caravans – a holiday home manufacturer that had grown in size since its launch in 1964.

Forming ABI (Ace Belmont International), the group expanded and by 1973 it had launched a new entry-level range aimed directly at the market sector dominated by Sprite caravans.

Monza takes off!

Within a few years, Monzas were taking a major slice of Sprite sales at home and abroad, thanks in part to the extra kit it offered over the Sprite.

But by the end of 1994 the Monza name had been replaced by the Sprinter.

ABI made thousands of Monzas over 21 years, many being exported and influencing brands such as Adria. The Monza name was bought as part of a job-lot from ABI UK after the company stopped producing tourers in early 2001.

The Swift Group now owns all of the ABI brands – with some being used on dealer specials today.

The joys of the vintage caravan

Mick and Yvonne hope to keep the Monza, although when we caught up with them and their friends at one of their favourite locations – Kendal Caravan Club Site – they were looking for a new VW motorhome conversion.

In the meantime they are enjoying their caravanning, ’70s style, although they still can’t quite get over just how basic the Monza is compared to today's entry-level tourers.

One thing’s for sure, when Dorothy was built there can’t have been many who thought she’d still be around 38 years later!

ABI Monza factfile

  • ABI Monzas were launched in September 1972
  • The Monza was sold into most of Europe in the 1970s and ’80s
  • The moulded GRP rear panel, introduced in 1973, was an innovative design for an entry-level tourer
  • Monzas were used for specials such as the 1987 ABI Mode
  • Monza owners could join the ABI Owners’ Club
  • Monzas were last built in 1994
       

Thanks to Mick and Yvonne Lovelock, and the wardens at Kendal Caravan Club Site

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