Spotlight on: Model replicas of motorhomes

17 October 2008
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The world of motor homes is a fascinating hobby, but the dream of having your own home on wheels and the freedom to drive anywhere has captured the imagination of many of us over the years. Mike Bishop traces the history of motor homes in miniature. ...
Spotlight on: Model replicas of motorhomes Images

Motor homes, as they are commonly called in the UK, have had various names over the years; ‘Dormobile’ may spring to mind, as well as ‘camper van’ and ‘mobile home’. To the Americans they are known as ‘RVs’ or ‘recreation vehicles’ and on the continent they are called ‘camping cars’, which is probably the best description.

There is a vast selection of motor homes in the real world, from van conversions to low profiles, coachbuilt and A Class, using many well-known manufacturers for the host vehicle – Ford; Ducato; Mercedes Benz; VW (remember the split screen?) and many more.

In the 1990s, Italian imports brought flair and design to the motor home world, along with a low price to the English public. A brand new motor home could be bought for £19,000 and the English manufacturers were not far behind, producing some of the best in the world.

Motor homes have been with us for a long time, and the model-makers soon brought out models to match the real ones. Lesney produced the Matchbox 1-75 Series, one of the first being No 70, a van with windows known as the Thames Estate Car. Also in the same series was No 54, a larger RV from America with an opening habitation door and fitted plastic interior, No 23, a VW with tilt roof and true-to-life fitted interior in blue with orange roof, and No 38, a delightful model of the American demountable, which has a camper body fixed on to a pick up truck.

Not to be outdone, Husky brought out a model in blue and silver, with a rear sliding door and, in the 1/36 range, Corgi released a similar model mounted on a Mazda B1600 pick up – this was actually detachable from the pick up so became two separate toys. The Ford Transits weren’t forgotten – Corgi made a replica of the real thing in the Juniors range. Known as the Ford Transit Caravan, the model was available in both blue and silver.

The early model makers had ideas for concept motor homes, one such model from the Corgi Junior series called the ‘Wigwam Camper Van’ – very futuristic, but sadly, as like most concept ideas, it was never put into production.

Matchbox Kingsize, not wanting to be outdone, brought out an American flip top in yellow and orange called the ‘Camping Cruiser’. In the smaller scale models, Siku brought out a van conversion on the Iveco chassis cab, with realistic fitted interior for a model just under 3” long and Maisto produced a good, if not small model of the VW split screen with a raised roof in its mini series, sold through Tesco stores.

There is plenty of scope for collecting motor homes in 1/43 scale. For example, a twin-axled camper on a Ford Chassis with Westpoint Decals is quite true to form, although a twin wheel on such a short chassis is disputable. This is still classed as a plastic toy. One of the most accurate plastic models on a Mercedes D series is almost a true copy of the real thing and can be seen on our roads today. The model has opening cab doors, rear roof ladder and fitted interior – a bargain for £2.

As motor homes became more popular, the manufacturers started to produce diecast models to a higher specification. Siku’s tag-axled Flair by Niesmann and Bischoff, is a true copy of the real thing with a rear garage door and early Ducato chassis cab. Norev produced a fine example in 1/43 scale of a Challenger Eden 602 on a Citroën jumper chassis cab, no opening doors, but a true example of a good interior. Also by Norev, and perhaps one of the best models produced is the Delfin 625 on the new Renault chassis cab by Burstner; authentic in every detail and available in model form for £34, a little more acceptable than the ‘on the road’ cost of a new one at £49,000!

Twin-axled WestpointThe period from the mid-1950s until 1973 could be classed as the boom years for motor caravans, with 15,000 units being sold by many vehicle manufacturers, including Bedford CA, Austin 152,/Morris J2 and Volkswagen. Oxford Diecast has produced three excellent models of the period. The first is the 1/43 Paralanian Austin J2 Van, named after Parry Lane, Bradford, where the coachbuilder’s central garage was based. This was the first modern compact coachbuilt motor home and came in two-tone finishes, blue and cream or brown and cream. The famous ‘Moggy’ or Morris Minor was also made into a coachbuilt motor home, faithfully modelled by Oxford Diecast in two colours, green and blue. This was followed by the Bedford HA camper van in 1/43 scale. With a tilt top and rear end for extra length when sleeping, the HA was a car derived van from 1963, based on a Vauxhall Viva, which was replaced in 1983 by the Astravan/Bedford Astramax.

I have touched on some of the models available with many more realistic motor homes in the pipeline for enthusiasts to collect. Most of these models can be purchased for under £10 to £30 plus. Happy hunting for your collection!

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