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B2596 Caravan, full size, home-made, and internal fittings, wood / glass / textile / rubber / metal, made by Francis Gerald Rhead in 1955 as a motorised van, converted to a towed caravan 1962, used by the Rhead family for holidays in New South Wales until 1979. Click to enlarge.

Home-made caravan

This caravan is a tangible reminder of the immense popularity of caravanning beach holidays in Australia in the 1950s and 1960s. Originally constructed in 1955 as a motorised van on a Model A Ford truck chassis, it was converted to a towed caravan in 1962 by Francis Gerald Rhead and used by his family for holidays in NSW until 1979. The van still contains the original fittings, furnishings, cutlery and plates, cleaning equipment, and caravanning necessities from its use up until the late 1970s.


Object No.


Object Statement

Caravan, full size, home-made, and internal fittings, wood / glass / textile / rubber / metal, made by Francis Gerald Rhead in 1955 as a motorised van, converted to a towed caravan 1962, used by the Rhead family for holidays in New South Wales until 1979

Physical Description

The caravan was designed to accommodate four people and has the registration number TJ 7556. It has interior free floor space of 7ft (2.1 m) x 5ft 6in (1.7 m) and is 13ft (4m) in length. (The average length of caravans in the 1950s was 10ft (3 m) to 12ft (3.6 m). The caravan is of Queensland-style construction comprising marine ply-wood which has been painted, covered in canvas and then repeatedly painted; it is finished in cream with blue over the wheel boxes. To protect the caravan from flying stones a curved aluminium sheet, with a blue painted centre panel, extends from the base at the front. A green canvas blind, which can be rolled up or down and secured with wing nuts, protects the two front windows from stones or sunshine. A towel rail is attached along the front of the van and two reflectors are fixed to the aluminium sheet. The tow bar features a jockey wheel, handbrake to apply when the caravan is parked, and a drawbar coupling to fit a 1 7/8 inch tow ball. The braking system is a mechanical drum operated manually from the car. Each corner of the caravan is supported by levelling jacks. The exterior right-hand side of the caravan has two windows, each with flyscreens and handmade channelling of split tubing to divert rainwater, and a water outlet from the sink.

The left-hand exterior side features: a further two windows; a doorway with channelling above; a door with a door catch; a retractable front step which can be pulled out for easy access or pinned in under the floor when travelling; a power plug; and clips for the attachment of an awning or tarpaulin (6 clips at the front side and 7 along the rear side).

The roof has a retractable ventilator (hatch), fitted with a flyscreen and side flaps to prevent rain from being blown in. Also in the roof is a pop-up chimney to exhaust steam from within the van; this was directed from an exhaust fan in the ceiling made from a Philips personal fan. The rear exterior has two windows with channelling; a number plate holder; reflector; and rear lights.

Inside, the caravan still has the original fittings, furnishings and equipment, including a small timber table which can be folded into a single bed with red cushions against the front inside wall. Under each seat, cupboards contain washing and cleaning equipment, buckets, an electric cord to connect the van to a powered site, a home-made portable toilet (sani-lid type), water tank funnel and winding handles for the jacks.

Along the right interior wall of the van are: cupboards containing saucepans, a tea tin, cork placemats, pepper and salt shakers, condiments and plastic containers; an Electrolux refrigerator containing a one-pint bottle; a Vulcan stove (bench-top model with griller/hot plates); a storage compartment providing vertical storage for plates (containing plates); a spirit level for levelling the caravan when on site; a plastic sink and water pump; a cupboard under the sink containing washing-up equipment and a slops bucket to empty from the sink (the caravan has a 10-gallon (8.3 litre) capacity water tank); a towel rail along the length of the sink above it for tea towels, dish cloths and for the storage of fishing rods; drawers containing cups, cutlery, matches utensils, bean peelers and a variety of sink plugs of various sizes for use in caravan park amenity blocks; and a cupboard containing a bread box, the lid of which served as a bread board.

Along the rear interior wall of the caravan is a lounge which converts to a double bed or family dining table. The cushions and supports can be pulled forward to make a bed. There is also a storage area under the lounge and side compartments for bedding and camping equipment including a spade, hose, ropes, shocks, wire, and a 12-volt battery to power five lights.

Against the left interior wall is a fold-away shelf with mirror; a full-length wardrobe with a shelf for hats and compartment shelves. These currently contain dusters, rags, deck chairs, maps, a full-length mirror (to which a receipt was attached from the Ocean Beach Caravan Park); and drawers for clothing.

The interior of the caravan is finished in pastel-coloured paintwork. The cupboards are blue, tables yellow, walls pink and the ceiling is white. The bench surfaces have yellow laminex and the floor has linoleum with a scatter rug. A box contains spars to hold out the front window, a plate cover to place over the stove top, a liquid and food heater (Birko) and an alarm clock. A spare wheel with a tyre is included. The caravan is fitted with two lighting systems, one operated by electric power (running two lights) and the other battery power (running five lights, one of which as two wattages). The windows have pelmets, curtains and roller blinds. The caravan has a low ceiling height and is designed for occupants under 5 ft 9 in (1.75m) in height.

Caravan battery was removed in 2016 due to corrosion



2300 mm


2100 mm


Credit Line

Gift of Mrs L B Dalrymple, 1984

Acquisition Date

30 October 1984

Cite this Object


Home-made caravan 2023, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 25 March 2023, <>


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