Friday 21 February 2014

Work Resumes On "Jennifer"!

Yes, you read that correctly! Having not really touched my 1963 Sprite Alpine ("Jennifer") since last September when a steady stream of other Sprites came my way and took priority, work is now resuming to finish her.

A friend contacted me to give me a place on a special caravan rally in March and I was faced with a problem: I didn't have a complete classic caravan to take! I'd just parted with the 1969 Sprite 400 and the replacement 1964 Sprite 400 has no road lights (which I've been finding it impossible to get replacements) and the 1962 Sprite Musketeer is even further away from being completed. As I looked at the empty shell of Jennifer on my driveway, a quick venture inside revealed that I had just about everything that I could possibly need to finish her. On the basis that the Musketeer hadn't even been started on, and I am waiting to source genuine original Sprite road lights for my 100% original 1964 Sprite 400, I decided, what the heck, lets finish the Alpine. BUT, and this is a big but, I had just five weeks to finish her!

If you missed part one of the restoration (collecting the caravan), CLICK HERE
If you missed part two of the restoration (removing the interior), CLICK HERE
If you missed part three of the restoration, CLICK HERE
If you missed part four of the restoration, CLICK HERE


Given an impossible schedule of just five weeks, I immediately started on the exterior. I stripped down the front end (using a hand held sander, with around 120 grit sand paper, gradually swapping the pad for finer grades) and dismantling it for painting by removing the windows and any fittings such as lights and grab handles. I applied the paint with a roller and got a perfect finish. As with anything that seems too easy, that's because it shouldn't be. That night the heavens opened and washed most of the paint off, so the mad search began to find a barn to paint her in.

The decision to move her meant packing her up and getting her ready to move for the first time in six months, minus her road lights! I fitted the immaculately restored hitch (courtesy of my AMAZING Grandad), re-attached the brakes, put back on the wheels and spent two days chasing the black wires underneath to fix up the road lights. I intended to remove them and fit original 1960's roadlights, so stupidly just cut the wires. This proved to be very annoying as Sprite didn't use colour coded wiring on 1963 models! 

Holding my breath, I set off for the 20 mile journey to a friend's barn! Luckily she towed like a dream and made it to the barn in one piece.

Once in place, work started intensively to get her stripped down ready to paint.

One of the other jobs that I managed to do was source and fit a replacement roof light/skylight. The original was cracked/split in three places and new ones aren't available. I sourced this charming retro orange one (see on the roof, left) from Coventry Caravan Breakers who, unlike most caravan breakers yards, keep an excellent stock of parts for classic (pre-1982) caravans. Be sure to give them a call if you need anything! The new roof light was an exact replacement, and during the day gives the interior an nice orange glow!

The original bits of trim that were removed were all resealed and riveted back on.

And when I removed the windows to sand and paint, I polished the frames up. My tip is to use Brasso and lots of elbow grease! Has them looking like new in around 10 minutes.

Now for one of those clever before and after shots:

Amazing what a lick of paint can do, isn't it?! She looks really smart (even if I do say so myself!) and is painted the original two-tone Sprite colours. The paint used is Duluxe Exterior Non-Drip Gloss and I applied it *sparingly* in many coats with a foam roller.

But the painting didn't stop there! I've completely painted the interior too:

And that's it for now. I've used two out of my five week allowance. Work will continue in ernest next week and I'll post another update at the end of next week. The exterior needs some finishing off and the interior needs a total fit out. I've some amazing fittings and furniture for the interior though, so keep posted!

In the mean time, I'd like to thank: my Grandad Stephen for all his help, Rob & Liz for letting me use their barn, Christopher Beresford, Coventry Caravan Breakers and the nice paint lady at Homebase who wanted to hear all about Jennifer!

Saturday 18 January 2014

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all the followers and readers of my blog. It's been an amazing 2013 and fingers crossed that 2014 will be even better. I started 2013 with only one caravan end ended the year with four! Anyway, thought it was time I gave you all an update...

Firstly, meet my Christmas Present; a 1962 Sprite Musketeer. She'd been laid up in a garden for 21 years - thankfully properly laid up jacked up off the ground with the A-frame and running gear protected. The owner said it was her husband's pride and joy; he laid it up 21 years ago when he became ill and died a year later. So it sat for 20 years completely untouched. Understandably, the lady was attached to it, but agreed to sell on the basis that it would be getting looked after and would live on.


This particular example was pretty much all original, aside from the paint job. She will be getting a thorough restoration and work has already begun to repair the damp inside. 

She was well and truly bedded down in the garden - it took an hour to get her out with the following:

1x can of WD40
2x hydraulic jacks
4x lengths of wood
2x paving slabs to cover soft ground
1x ruined lawn

The neighbours soon gathered to witness the day they never thought they'd see: this monstrosity leaving their sights. Their loss is my gain!

As soon as I got her back to storage the cleaning job began. What a difference a bucket of water and a sponge makes! 

The upholstery is not original, but the original seat cushion material and original lino were lurking underneath! The lino will be cleaned up and salvaged, but I will be putting in new curtains and reupholstering the seats.

The kitchen comes with a retrofitted 1960's Calor cooker complete with the original enamel grill pan. There's also a footpump for the water tap and plenty of storage! A workable kitchen but it needs a bit of TLC to bring it up to scratch.

And here's the main feature of this caravan: a fold down double bed! It hinges down from the wall at night and by day pushes back to reveal a dinette:

Obviously I'll need to get a new mattress!

But all in all, I'm absolutely delighted with my 1962 Sprite Musketeer. She's a very welcome addition to my fleet. Can't wait to get her finished and get out and about using her.

In other news, some sad news. My 1969 Sprite 400 ("Dylan") has moved on to new owners.

But it's not all sad; he's got loving new owners who can't wait to get out and start using him AND they swapped me for their all original 1964 Sprite 400! 

I've saved my 1969 400, so it's time to pass it on to be enjoyed and for me to save this one. Except this one really is a keeper now. She's untouched: was laid up in 1972 and rescued from the same spot last year. The couple I got it from attended to the chassis but never got around to anything else. 

Can you believe it: this Sprite 400 was still on it's ORIGINAL 1964 crossply tyres?! Sadly the roadlights had rusted beyond repair, hence the trailerboard, and also the jockeywheel had rusted solid so needed cutting off with an angle grinder. Luckily I had another 1960's genuine Sprite jockeywheel in my pile of caravan spares. 

Inside she's pretty much as she was in 1964. I made these new curtains as she had none when I got her. The curtains actually came from a 1967 Sprite Major that I saved the interior from, so these are genuine. The gas lamp is also not original, but is a genuine Sprite one so that's okay. The seat cushions and lino are all original and in amazing condition!

The kitchen is all original - it even has the original Dudley hob. The kitchen will get the woodwork revarnished and I will also fit a genuine Sprite footpump and tap for the sink, which was an optional extra when this caravan was new.

I also bought this charming gas heater for my 1963 Sprite Alpine ("Jennifer") but look how well it goes in my new 400! This will get plumbed in so I have heating. This caravan will be a museum quality timewarp when it's done - she'll remain unmodified!

So that brings me up to date. As you can see, it was a crazy few weeks over Christmas for me. Lots more exciting things planned this year, I'm currently booking a few holidays away, so I need to get on and get my caravans finished!

Friday 6 December 2013

Finally, An Update!

Sorry to have kept you all waiting on the progress of my caravans!

My 1963 Sprite Alpine ("Jennifer") is still here and I am still working on her, albeit slowly. I've got the hitch back from being dismantled and sand-blasted ready to be painted and put back on. I've also sourced quite a few new parts for it from another Alpine which was to be scrapped - so good things all round!

But my 1969 Sprite 400 has seen the biggest transformation - I've now spent three weekends away in it! The interior has had a re-paint, re-upholster, new curtains, wallpaper, a thorough clean and new window capping. Here's the full story of my progress:


The first few jobs started at my storage compound - mainly getting everything working to see where I was at. First job was the water system. The 400 uses a simple foot pump in the floor system that's self priming. I fitted a new length of pipe and connected it up to an Aquaroll. Water was quickly surging though the tap and pushed out 15 years worth of dust! I then ran water purification powder through the system three times to ensure that the water is fully drinkable. I then bought a new gas regulator and length of gas pipe to test the gas - the hob, oven and grill fired up perfectly! The gas light needed a new mantle, but luckily I had one from my Alpine that didn't fit, so I fitted it in the 400 and the gas light fired up too! Work then began on repairing the damp door:

Firstly, the door was removed and stripped back to the outer aluminium. I had the great fortune of finding an undamaged lower ha;f of the door from my friend Andrew Craven who kindly gave me it to fit to my caravan, so it was more or less a straight swap.

The old rotten wood in the door - bluegh!

All finished! Looking much better. The job took about half an hour to complete, but it was a very cold day so I kept sneaking inside to sit around my heater!

I then took the caravan home and made some new curtains, ready for a weekend away with my friend Christopher Beresford. We went to a local campsite about ten miles from me for a few nights and he recovered the seat cushions for me and I helped a bit, but credit goes to him really! 

And, by the way, we towed it with his AMAZING 1970 Rover P6 - look how fabulous this looks:

The following weekend I headed up to North Yorkshire to spend a weekend away with my Grandparents with their caravan and I was dying to show them my Sprite 400 as they owned one themselves from 1972 - 1988!

Lovely views of North Yorkshire! Can't beat caravanning!

I also found these two great sets in a local charity shop - £6 for both sets! They look great in the 400.

Following that weekend away, serious work started on the interior stripping the 1980's pink wallpaper out. I chose "Old English White" Eggshell paint to paint the walls with.

Looking fresher for a coat of paint! As with any painting, preparation is the key! Stripping wallpaper off was annoying as the glue left a residue on the walls which had to be sanded and cleaned. I applied the paint with a two inch brush but you can paint with a roller if you like. I only recommend Eggshell paint for use on caravan interiors as the wooden walls need to breathe! Any kind of paint that has acrylic in it such as emulsion will trap moisture and cause damp eventually so be careful what paint you use.

I also replaced all of the window capping throughout the caravan to replace the old damaged original. This is available by the metre from just about any caravan dealership, but they will have to order it in for you. You need to note the thickness of the caravan wall to give the correct measurements for the capping. Measure the bottom and two sides of each window frame to get a total length - I used 12 metres of 40mm capping, a total of £25. 

The interior colour scheme: the fabric (also used on the seat cushions) is genuine 1960's barkcloth type material, which came from four curtain drapes that I purchased on eBay for £15, and the seller dry cleaned them for me for free! The wallpaper was another thrifty find; a genuine vintage unopened roll for just £1.50!

I also painted the A-frame which included stripping it all down. I re-greased it all and adjusted the brakes too. I was incredibly lucky to have a stabiliser bracket (on the left of the A-frame) in my parts box ready to fit! The gas bottle holder has been temporarily robbed from my Alpine as I won't be using that caravan any time soon!

And finally......

The finished interior! I'm so happy with the end result! Still a few bits to finish, including finding a new carpet and finishing a bit of painting to the ceiling, but all in all, she's good to go!

So go I did, I've just returned from five days away in the 400, which was a lovely cosy and warm home for five days - even at this time of the year!

The exterior is the main focus now, but this will have to wait until the new year. It's not that bad, just needs a repaint. I already polished up the window frames. Progress will slow nearer Christmas as my work schedule increases, but I'll be hitting the ground running in the New Year!

Thanks again to Andrew Craven, Christopher Beresford, Andy and Valerie Morgan and Carole Averill, Susan Loasby, Sally Prosser and Sarah Cassidy for all their help and support!

Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas!

Saturday 2 November 2013

My 1969 Sprite 400 is Home!

Yes, you heard it here first! My free 1969 Sprite 400 is now home - well, in a storage compound about two miles away from my house. My friend Susan kindly let me store it at her house for a few weeks until I found storage nearer home.

I drove down to Coventry to pick up the 400, meeting my friend Chris on the way to help me.


After a couple of hours spent at Susan's to get the caravan and fit a proper number plate, we got back to Chris' storage compound. Here we managed to find a few scrap caravans to pull some parts from! What a hoard we managed to get!

Sprite badges, vents, table catches, a door lock, gas lamp, metal door bin, 12v electric extension, gas light mantles....

a teapot, 12v vacuum cleaner, tea/coffee/sugar canisters, tupperware bowls, 12v light....

Junk - err, I mean treasure - aside, it took me longer than expected to get home as there was a lot of traffic. The storage compound had closed for the night so I had no choice but to squeeze the 400 on my drive:

I also shamefully took this opportunity to sleep in it! A very comfy bed surprisingly! I loved it, although it was a bit cold in the morning. I got up nice and early to clear out the interior and give it a good vacuum, wipe down, dust and general clean. Once done, the caravan looked ready to go away on holiday in...

And finally, mad rush to get the Sprite 400 to the storage compound before work! But here is it's new home for now. Now to start work on it...

Thanks again to Susan Loasby for all their help! And apologies for everyone I promised photos to, but here here they are! Enjoy and thanks everyone for the well wishes and interest.