Andy JenkinsonSee other Blog articles filed in ‘Me and my caravan’ written by Andy Jenkinson
Chris Lowery loves his Royale caravans and has owned eight examples since 1996 when he joined the Royale Owners’ Club, which is still very much alive and kicking.
Having restored 10 Royales over the years, Chris and wife Christine had always hankered after the single-axle Tourcruiser, launched in 1976 for the grand sum of more than £6000!
Maggie joins the family
The van was named Maggie after its previous owner, Maggie McDonald, and when the Royale arrived back at the Lowery’s home, the work began.
A total rebuild was carried out, because standing out in all weathers for 40 years had taken its toll on the tourer.
New framing was required along with a respray, plus the original Alde heating and the soft furnishings were in a poor state. It was going to be a labour of love!
The Royale story
The company began manufacturing its luxury tourers in 1969 and was set up in Gloucester by several personnel from Safari Caravans (another luxury maker).
By the end of that year they had built their first van, a two-berth Royale at 3.83m long and priced for the 1970 season at £750, a fair sum back then.
Using a GRP roof and end panels, the Royale was distinctive and soon these hand-built luxury caravans had found their niche in the prestige market. The spec was high, with flued gas heaters, slatted bed bases and side gas lockers.
On the up
Royales were soon winning prestigious awards and other models were added over the years. Which is where Chris Lowery’s Royale comes in.
At the 1975 Earls Court show the latest Tourcruiser was launched, a super-luxury, double-dinette family model. Few would be built, which makes Chris’s van even more special.
Royale, though, also expanded into other markets, and in 1975 the firm launched its lower-cost Windsor range, which was built in Beverley, near Hull.
Royale also launched the Coronet, another GRP-constructed and more contemporary-looking clubman touring range that cost £45,000 (in 1977) to develop. In addition, there was the entry-level range named Fiesta.
Keeping the brand alive!
By the early ’80s the economic downturn had caused the firm to fall by the wayside, and by June 1983 the Royale company was no more.
However, the owners’ club that had formed in 1971 remained in operation – and it is still going strong in 2017.
Not many Royales were made, but they do still turn up and are now seen as true classics, sought-after vintage caravans.
Chris has been a mainstay in keeping these tourers on the road, which has meant that some have had to be used as donors to keep better examples running.
Royales turn up abroad, too, having been exported far and wide.
For the love of a vintage caravan
Back to Chris and his Royale Tourcruiser rebuild, which necessitated months of hard work.
The electrics were replaced, the gas system was checked over and the heating was sorted with the help of Alde.
New framing was made and the upholstery was re-covered by Christine with a tartan flavour, a nod to the van’s previous owner being Scottish.
The Lowerys wanted it to be ready for the 45th Royale Owners’ Club meet, which meant plenty of hard graft, and sourcing some parts proved time-consuming.
A full restoration job
Rebuilding the framework and stripping back the paint all took time. Then, of course, once it was in bits, the whole thing had to be put back together.
With determination the project moved on, and there were regular progress reports on the Royale Caravans Facebook page. Where possible, Chris tried to keep all of the van’s fittings original.
Eventually, with all the final work completed, we visited Chris and Christine at their favourite site, Moss House Farm in Wrightington, Lancashire.
In fact, a number of Royales are stored at this site because the owners are also fans of the brand, with several models under their belts.
The Royale is a class act with its distinctive looks and charm – this was an era when the UK still had several luxury hand-built makes, most of which would be gone by the early ’80s.
The Lowerys’ Royale takes you back to a time when you had to ask a stern- looking salesman if you wanted to take a peek inside the van at a show, and you’d only be allowed in if you were genuinely interested in making a purchase!
This now-vintage caravan is a perfect example of a craftsman-built tourer, and other caravanners’ heads would certainly turn as you pitched up on site.
A wonderful, worthwhile project, it looks set to live on as a piece of caravanning history.