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Win at #vanlife with this Ford Model T Motor Caravan

by Antony Ingram
5 September 2022 2 min read
Win at #vanlife with this Ford Model T Motor Caravan
Photos: Bonhams

Your Mercedes Sprinter might seem pretty cool, dolled up to the nines with knobbly tyres, matte-grey paintwork, spotlights that can see through walls, and more steps and ladders than an M.C. Escher painting.

But when this 1914 Ford Model T Motor Caravan pulls alongside in that carefully-framed Instagram shot, we guarantee it’s the Ford’s owners, not you, who are living their best #vanlife.

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Offered through Bonhams in the Beaulieu Sale on September 10, this Model T is claimed to be the oldest known motor caravan in the world – effectively the progenitor of every Winnebago, Devon, Hymer and Swift to have hit the roads since.

The unique-looking, timber-bodied construction was built by Dunton of Reading for the Bentalls, the family behind the British department store chain. Finished shortly before the outbreak of the First World War, the Motor Caravan sits on an extended and strengthened Model T chassis.

The Bentalls are thought to have sold the T in the 1920s, after which it was abandoned, only rediscovered and restored in the 1970s. Much of the original timber was reused, and by 1976 it was ready for the HCVC London-Brighton Run – at which it won seven awards, including the concours.

It’s been used on the run several times since, and has been displayed at several other shows and events, even making TV appearances. A review in Which Motorcaravan magazine in December 1987 – now 35 years ago, or a third of the van’s life – called the quality and workmanship “superb in every way”, with a “volume of storage space” unmatched by modern designs.

One look at the photos and it’s not hard to see what the reviewer was talking about – it doesn’t just look beautifully constructed, but also a whole lot more tasteful inside than most caravans and motorhomes we’ve ever seen. Numerous ornaments, brass lamps, pots, pans and other paraphernalia are included in the sale.

And being Model T-based, there should be a wealth of expertise out there to keep the mechanical bits functioning as they should too. Model Ts are famously hardy, so excursions further afield – as long as you don’t mind a slow cruising speed – should be more than feasible.

Bonhams has put an estimate of £20,000–£30,000 on the Motor Caravan, which seems more than reasonable given its uniqueness; our colleagues on the US Hagerty Price Guide put the value of a standard Model T in condition 3, “good” condition at $22,800, or just under £20,000 at current exchange rates.

So not only will the Model T draw a lot more attention at the campsite than any gussied-up Sprinter, it’ll probably have cost a whole lot less too.

Read more

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