The vintage caravan rebuild part 2: The exterior

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In the second of our series on rebuilding your vintage van, we’re going to cover what needs to be done on the exterior. Depending on its condition and the materials used, this could be a simple renovation job or a major overhaul.

Have a work plan

Your retro caravan restoration could be an extensive job, so it’s best if you tackle it a task at a time. Some of these steps might not be applicable, but they act as a guide. And remember, you’re not alone – it’s perfectly okay to hand over some of these jobs to professionals. Sure, it’s your caravan restoration, but think of yourself as the project manager and farm out difficult jobs to the people who are trained to do them quickly and well.

  1. Remove the exterior panels. As part of your preparation you will have determined which parts need to be replaced, so now it’s time to remove them. Do it a piece at a time, taking care to keep them as intact as possible in case you want to use them as templates for the replacement panels. Take photos and label them so that you can put it back together easily.
  1. Replace rotten or weak framework. Once the panels are off, you can see where the frames are damaged and you can fix or replace them.
  1. Make sure the roof is intact and reseal all the joins with a product such as Sikaflex.
  1. Remove rust from the chassis and coat it thoroughly with rust-inhibiting paint. Consider tarring the underside to protect the wooden floor.
  1. Check out the condition of the axle, install brakes as necessary and upgrade the wheel hubs, bearings and tyres so that they are roadworthy.
  1. Fit insulation.
  1. Before putting the walls back on, have an electrician check out the wiring and a gas-fitter inspect any gas appliances and fittings.
  1. Re-attach the panels, windows and seals using appropriate sealant and galvanised or stainless steel screws.
  1. Redo the paintwork. If you want to use your caravan’s original colours and it’s no longer obvious what they were, look on the internet for pictures of that model. Before you begin painting, cover the windows, wheels and steps in plastic to avoid too much cleaning up later.
  1. To show off your vintage caravan’s origins, consider having stickers or decals made to match the manufacturer’s brand. As with the paint, research the internet for pictures to reproduce.

Once you have the exterior of the van repaired and roadworthy, it’s time to go inside and work on the interior. Take a look at our next article  in this series, which covers the tasks that might be required.

The trucks on our roads today are much bigger than they were when your little vintage caravan was built. Make sure you don’t get blown away by a passing lorry.


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