There are plenty of covers (both full for storage, and towing) on the market these days, many that are cheap and perhaps not so cheerful imports, but there are lots that are home-grown. One such manufacturer is Pro-tec Covers, based in Bradford.
Not only are its full covers (caravan and motorhome) popular, its specialised Towing Jacket was also a hit from day one.
I recently visited Pro-tec, a brand that found itself shortlisted for the best caravan cover category at the Practical Caravan Awards 2022, to find out more about the firm’s history and how it manufactures the products.
Why have a towing cover?
There’s no doubt about it, over the past few years towing covers (and full covers, for that matter) have become extremely popular with caravanners.
I admit, I used to subscribe to the “Why bother? The van will wash,” brigade, but after one particularly grimy trip, I began to change my mind.
My opinion was completely altered when I found out how much a replacement window would cost should a flying stone hit it. Given the state of the country’s roads at the moment, that’s a distinct possibility.
Even the most expensive towing cover looks positively cheap when you compare it to a replacement window.
Stitch in time
After arriving at Pro-Tec, I was greeted by MD Keith Proctor, who gave me a guided tour of the production facility and told me all about the firm’s development and activities.
Keith told me that he used to be a sewing machine engineer, repairing and selling sewing machines, while his wife Anne, who is also involved in Pro-tec (she is the real boss, according to Keith) sold clothing for catalogue firms.
Back in the 1990s a customer approached Keith and said they wanted to sell caravan covers, so Keith and Anne began to make them on their behalf.
In 1999, Pro-tec became a registered company. Sadly, the relationship with the other firm soured, so Pro-tec decided that it was time to go it alone.
They attended their first caravan show in February 2000, where they arrived with models of caravans and motorhomes made from cardboard boxes, rolls of grey fabric from which they made model covers, and a stack of photocopied leaflets.
In 2001, an advert was placed in Practical Caravan magazine which immediately generated a lot of interest. At that time, storage covers were all that was being produced. Towing covers generally didn’t arrive on the scene until several years later.
Initially, imported fabric was used for the covers, but this suffered from UV degradation. Keith had contacts at a Scottish fabric manufacturer, so decided to source a breathable fabric from that firm instead.
He pointed out that Pro-tec covers aren’t as waterproof as some competitor products, but being so breathable, they (and what’s underneath) should dry out more quickly, so moisture isn’t retained for long enough to cause damage to the van.
Over the years, Pro-tec has also had some special commissions for covers. These include covers for Swift’s Elegance models, when the caravans were being transported to the NEC show prior to their launch.
Pro-tec has also provided covers for Bailey’s ‘Caravan for the Future’ competition, for the vans used in Caravan and Motorhome Club towing experiences at shows, and for the unique Lego caravan (remember that at the NEC?).
The original idea for a towing cover came as the result of one customer asking about a cover for the front of their caravan, which protruded slightly from its carport protection, to keep the dirt off of the front – the rest of the van was protected while it was in storage.
Ever helpful, Keith obliged, although at that stage it wasn’t evolving into the towing cover that we know today.
Shortly after Bailey launched its first Alu-Tech caravan (the Pegasus) in 2009, a number of customers complained that the lower fronts were being damaged by stones thrown up on the road. At that time, there was no protective plastic cladding on the fronts, just painted aluminium.
Bailey asked Pro-tec to help. At the time, the offside of the caravans didn’t have an awning channel, so Pro-tec developed the Towing Skirt, which only protected the bottom half of the front of the caravan, but at least stopped the damage.
In 2010, Practical Caravan gave Pro-tec its Best Accessory award for the Towing Skirt.
Over the following years, and with the addition of the offside awning channel to most vans, the full-frontal towing cover evolved, both in universal fit (generic) and bespoke guises.
In early 2018, one of the firm’s employees came up with the idea of making a towing cover that was lightweight, and easy to handle and fit, and thus the Towing Jacket was born.
Shortly after that launch, I bought a Towing Jacket for our van, and I can vouch for the idea. It really was easy to handle and fit – essentially, two halves of a full towing cover that zip together in the middle, hence the Jacket tag.
Pro-tec’s covers, meanwhile, come with the Easy-Fit system. This is where the rear panel rolls up while the rest of the cover is slid over the vehicle, and then, when in place, it’s unrolled and zipped together down the sides. The covers also come with clear panes for any caravan solar panels. These are made from the same plastic as high-quality awning windows, so they are resistant to UV damage.
Pro-tec moved to its current premises in Bradford back in 2018. Over the years, the company has been based at a number of different locations, but the current building lends itself to further expansion.
There are 20 employees at the firm, and during the 2020 lockdowns, they worked on producing PPE and 800 bags for military stretchers, with Keith operating one of the sewing machines (he does admit to being told off by the other machinists for not snipping off the odd loose end here and there!).
Pro-tec’s staff are often seen at shows measuring caravans and motorhomes for bespoke covers and towing covers, and while I was at the factory, I was lucky enough to watch a classic Carlight caravan being fitted with a custom towing cover.
With thanks to Pro-tec MD Keith Proctor for giving his time to tell me all about the company
Pro-tec Covers, Unit 3A, Marrtree Business Park, Bowling Back Lane, Bradford, West Yorkshire BD4 8TP, 01274 780 088
- Want to get your caravan back to its sparkling best? Then be sure to take a look at our guide on how to clean a caravan.
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