Bryony SymesSee other Blog articles filed in ‘Me and my caravan’ written by Bryony Symes
Although this 1976 Ci Europa was far from being wasted as a garden shed, Faye and Simon decided to take it on and restore this vintage caravan to its original use, so they could travel the country with their son, Finn.
But this was no ordinary garden shed. It was clearly the previous owner’s pride and joy, a bolthole where they could relax in comfort.
It had state-of-the-art gadgetry and all the spider’s web of cables that goes with it. It even had a house alarm – with that much technology housed on board, it needed some protection.
“We call the wall by the wardrobe the ‘flight deck’ because there are so many wires and buttons,” says Simon.
“We don’t even know what some of them do – we’re still working our way through! They gave us a lot of surprises as we started to do up the caravan.”
Full of surprises
Faye and Simon had spent a lot of time looking around for a suitable vintage caravan. They live in Looe in Cornwall, where they run a café, and want to travel around in their spare time, but on a budget.
With that in mind, they scoured eBay until they came across this retro gem not far away. After paying just £789, they began work.
“As well as figuring out the tangle of wiring, the décor of the Europa was tired and needed a lot of work to make it our own,” Faye says.
“We started by putting in new flooring and papering the ceiling. Mum made us some curtains from authentic 1970s material, and although the upholstery isn’t original, we kept it as it was.”
Making their mark
“We had the most fun collecting bits and pieces for decoration,” she adds. “The crochet cushions are from my sister, and there is another cushion from my mother.
“We decided to brighten it all up by decorating the inside of the door with pages from a 1979 Judy annual, to continue the retro theme. The Orla Kiely-style wallpaper and flooring were both bought on eBay.”
Even the fridge door didn’t escape without a splash of colour, and has a pretty transfer on it in shades that fit in with the rest of the van’s colour scheme.
One of the best features of the Ci, presumably left over from its life as a shed, is the well-organised drinks cupboard that lurks beneath the ‘flight deck’.
“One of our favourite things about the van is the booze cabinet,” says Simon, “it’s an essential for caravan life.”
Still uncovering its mysteries
Surprisingly, considering that the previous owner had kitted out the van with every sort of gadgetry you could think of, the Europa still has the original gas light, along with additional electric lighting.
Other equipment includes a gas boiler, a microwave, an extractor fan and a gas hob that, when not in use, can be neatly hidden away beneath the counter top, along with the sink.
“One thing that we still need to figure out is the water pump and pair of tanks under the caravan,” says Simon. “We have also just had a smart new sun canopy made by a company called Puck Buddies – it looks amazing with the caravan.”
This model of caravan was the guinea pig behind some of the early design experiments by Caravans International (Ci). In fact, it was the first of its ranges to have fully bonded sidewalls, which was soon to be adopted as an industry standard.
Other innovations on this particular, now-vintage caravan include a plastic front window, to avoid the glass being smashed by stones kicked up from the wheels of the tow car in front. This was a problem for a lot of caravans at the time.
Faye and Simon have kept the original paintwork on this iconically boxy caravan, but pretty much all of the other design decisions reflect their fun, retro style. The pink flamingo they stand by the door and the colourful accessories certainly make their outfit stand out.
The previous owner had a full-size table adorned with the Cornish flag. However, it lost its rigidity after holes were drilled into it and split right down the middle, so a new table was added.
When Practical Caravan looked around the van back in the summer, the couple hadn’t yet got around to sprucing up the washroom, but their plans for it weren’t lavish: “We will probably just wallpaper the room and leave the rest as it is,” says Simon.
Winnie on tour!
Faye and Simon’s café business is named Daisy’s after one of their grandmothers, so they thought it only appropriate to name the caravan Winifred after the other.
They have even stuck Scrabble letters to one of the tourer’s windows, which spell out ‘Winnie’. There’s also a ‘Winifred’ decal on the front of the van.
With last summer’s trips including visits to Portscatho, St Ives and Polzeath, to name just a few, Winnie is sure to be spotted touring even more in 2017. Give them a wave if you see them!