By Susan and Keith Hall
If you can remember milk bars with a jukebox playing rock and roll music on Saturday nights, then you will want to take a peek inside the Love Shack.
Dave and Pat Whitehead stripped down an old grey 1964 Baravan, fitted it out with a 1960s diner decor and then painted the exterior to match their glittering gold 1956 Ford Victoria tow vehicle.
Dave has always been into hot rods and has owned half a dozen classic cars over the years. He has owned his current Ford, which was imported from the US, for about 12 years, and has completely rebuilt it himself.
It was actually Dave and Pat’s daughter who got them interested in vintage vans. She took them along when she went to look at a van that she wanted to buy to match her 1960 Chevrolet. Dave and Pat ended up buying two – the Baravan for themselves and another old van for their daughter. They thought a vintage caravan would be great for going away on weekends with their classic Ford.
The 1964 Baravan is an aluminium unit built by a Perth-based company that designed and built caravans from the late 1950s until about 1974.
This model of Baravan, which was designed in the early 1960s, has the door near the rear which makes it different from most other vans of that era.
Step into Dave and Pat Whitehead’s caravan and your eye is first drawn to the retro black and white check lino on the floor.
Then you quickly take in the new lemon and mustard yellow colour scheme for the original wooden cupboards.
The early 1960s diner look continues with the white Laminex table, yellow bench seats and carefully colour coordinated seat-cum-double bed at the other end of the van. The white venetian blinds on all the windows give a clean cut, unfussy look that offsets the decor perfectly.
Pat made the gold heart-shaped cushions that go on the lounge and chose the placemats and coasters with the red hearts to tie in with caravan’s new Love Shack name. Other small touches, like a lemon yellow radio, also fit into the colour scheme.
The cute love heart motif carries over to the exterior, appearing on the spare wheel cover and even on Love Shack’s tail-lights.
“We made the heart-shaped tail-lights ourselves in the oven at home. They were made from a diffuser out of a fluorescent office light, softened in the oven and pushed into the heart shape in a cake tin,” Dave and Pat told CW.
This car and caravan combination is not just about good looks though. In their day, Baravans had a good reputation for being a very strong caravan.
They have a steel frame and can travel on rough roads. Dave and Pat have done a fair amount of travelling in this rig, including a trip from Perth across the Nullarbor at Easter 2006 to attend the vintage caravan ‘Meet in the Middle’ event at Morgan, SA.
It featured 18 vintage vans and their owners who came from all around Australia to get to know each other at Morgan Riverside Caravan Park.
“We were treated like royalty at the caravan park there. The park managers were totally enthusiastic about their town and surrounding area, and suggested many local museums for us to visit and organised a houseboat trip on the Murray River for the group,” Pat said.
“The local council even lent the vintage van group a mini bus for a tour of the local wineries.”
Dave and Pat then travelled on to the Big River Street Rod Nationals which were held at Barmera, SA, near Berri, over the Anzac Day weekend, where their car won the trophy for Top Custom Car.
They have another big trip planned for 2008, when they hope to go to Tas. But in the meantime there are plenty of shorter trips around WA with their vintage caravanning friends to look forward to.
To do the big around-Australia trip is their long-term goal, but for that they plan to buy a bigger, older caravan. For a small caravan, the Baravan with its 7ft (2.1m) width is surprisingly spacious. But a bit more space would be nice for a longer trip – appearance will still be important to them, though.
The planned bigger vintage van will be towed by a 1985 Toyota LandCruiser, which will colour match the van.
For more information about vintage vans visit www.vintagevans.com