Vintage Caravan Renovation Project

So, do you remember the vintage caravan we bought about a month and a half ago? It seems like years ago! We were so excited to renovate this Thomson Mini Glen (manufactured in Falkirk, Scotland) and use it for primarily our Rust Jewellery wedding/events and vintage shop and also for a little bit of adventuring too ; )

It took us longer than we wanted, firstly, we weren’t allowed to work on it at the barn storage where we were going to keep it. So we had to find another place to use temporarily. Luckily my brother pointed us in the right direction, and we found a man who lent us some space in his cow shed come boat workshop. He was really helpful with advice and tea.

Then, obviously we have a three year old and a two month old baby (now four months old) and a business to run, so it was a little bit tricky juggling everything. It was like a relay race. We barely ever worked on the caravan together.

Anyhows, I like to think it is now finished, although there are always a few ‘bits and bobs’ that still need work. These photos are from different phones and cameras, and I hope they are in order (sort of).

So these were taken by the previous owner (we won it on ebay), and below is when we collected it from Southampton and took it back home to the Isle of Wight.

The caravan is from 1977, our VW camper van is from 1978, (I am also from 1978, but lets not dwell on that).

Back in the day, brown was THE colour. It was actually quite overwhelming at first until your eyes adjusted to the brown.

Literally everything was just disintegrating and anything plastic was brittle and snapped (like all of the door catches). The ‘baby poo’ coloured shag pile carpet and orange brown curtains were turning to dust, as were the seat cushions.

There were a couple of small areas of rot, we suspect due to a slightly ill fitting front door. Unfortunatly the fridge cupboard and ‘mini bar’ had to be ripped out (we never had the fridge, but everything else was still present).

The body is made of aluminium panels attached to a wooden frame with a sort of fiberboard on the inside (with is coated with pale brown vinyl wall paper).

The aluminium window frames and door frame were badly corroded (which is to be expected I should say) and it was hard to sand off.

These are the rotted areas which we had to patch up. Also the lower half of the front door panel.

Back in the day, using gas to power everything in a tiny unventilated box was absolutely fine! We didn’t fancy the idea, so we removed the Carver heater and gas light above the dining table (we’ll use a portable electric heater if we ever camp in the winter with hook up).

We kept all of the other units, including the gas hob/grill and kitchen and bathroom sink (yes there is even a tiny washroom)…

(sink in the washroom)…actually I quite like that curtain fabric!

The taps do work (although, even after sterilising, I still won’t be drinking from them), They operate with a small foot pump under the kitchen sink which also has an electric motor! I think we will stick to the foot method.

So I set about painting the cupboard doors and wc sink, I used a special paint for Laminte surface, called cupboard paint. It is super sticky and very expensive, so for the cupboards I just used it as undercoat and used a good quality ‘Diamond Hard’ Trade paint top coat.

Underneath the carpet and two layers of shiny lino we discovered quite fine wood floorboards! So we decided to paint them, I used the left overs from when we renovated our Rust Yarmouth shop

Nao worked on the exterior, lots of rubbing down, and then a zinc primer for the aluminium…

…and the another rub down and a top coat. Nao used a car paint which he had colour matched. He had all kinds of problems with this paint, and eventually had to ask our friend to spray it on instead as it was going patchy of matte and shiny, annoying!

This is the barn where we worked…

I painted the window frames in white to match the door (the roof part is pale grey) and I painted on the name.

Storm Petrel…one of my favourite birds. I love all the mythology surrounding this small dark seabird.

So many things in common that we thought it was perfect for our caravan.

So this is the final product of all our hardwork (actually only one or two days a week to be honest ; )

We took it first of all to our fave campsite on the Isle of Wight, Compton Farm I love the stunning valley with cows, and view of the white cliff and the sea!

I should point out that strictly speaking, caravans are not allowed in the tent field, but they said it was okay for the purpose of my blog only ; )

I also painted the name and bird on the other side too, but a bit bigger…

I had new foam cut to size and made new covers. The fabric I bought on ebay, I didn’t have enough, so I used some stripy linen that I already had, for the underneath. I find velco much better for this type of cover than zips.

There is so much storage space in this tiny van, and under the seats is where you can store all the bedding and lanterns and such like. I couldn’t wrench up the lino from the floor so I just cleaned it and lined it with some vintage wallpaper…Nao replaced the old cupboard with plywood…

The table is an exact replacement of the original laminate chipboard one, but we went for real pine instead. I used a clear coating to protect it (Rustoleum I think?).

I found some new wooden handles and knobs for the cupboard doors, and we put up some ikea spice rack things to put a few books on…

Nao replaced the front door panels with plywood and I coated them with same stuff as the table and the kitchen tops…

(I found the cushion covers from Etsy and ebay btw)

I love this tiny room the most! We removed the original plastic shelf under the mirror and the electric light which I replaced with a battery operated led motion sensor light, my new favourite invention.

(that is not toothpaste by the way, it’s hand cream!)

Nao put a handy shelf under the sink for nappies and wipes etc…and the potty and wash tubs go underneath.

The wardrobe (who needs a wardrobe when camping?!) we turned into shelves instead.

and where the heater used to be, we fitted this little basket, as it is a handy spot when you are sitting at the table…

The gas hob is not actually working properly so we will get that checked by a qualified gas person at some point. We will use the portable one from our van temporarily.

I love that it came with the original hob lighter…

This is the foot pump for the taps…you get a good thigh workout when you do the washing up.

Where the cupboard was that we ripped out, is the wheel arch, so we had to do something with that. Nao built a box around it which I painted to match the walls. And a basket of toys, that goes without saying.

I had a lot of fun finding things for the caravan, mostly for the cooking area, and also this little rug which is also from ebay, and a new blanket from a local shop in Yarmouth.

Again the curtain fabric was from ebay, it is actually chambray shirt fabric. I replaced the gold plastic curtain track with curtain wire instead.

The skylight retainers had become brittle and one snapped off, sadly when we towed the caravan out of the barn, the top flew off and smashed on the road! We had to find a replacement which cost £45 and it is a fraction too small. But, I love watching the clouds and the stars through the roof!


So the table top slots down in-between the seats and the cushions lie flat to create a double bed! Not bad I say, unless you are 5ft 9 or above. I’m 5ft 1, so people must have been sorter in the 70s.

Oh I forget to mention, the wood trim all the way around the caravan…I sanded this down (a lot of work actually!) and put on a few coats of sealer, I’m quite pleased with how they came up so nice. And we gave the original name plate and hubcaps a bit of a buff up too!

Needless to say, I totally love this little box on wheels, mostly because I can sit in it and know that every single tiny thing was worked on by us (actually sit there tutting to myself that I ‘missed a bit’).

I will do another post next, about our first family camping trip in Storm Petrel, the first of many adventures and enterprises I hope!

Thank you for sticking with this post right to the end! x

Vintage Caravan Renovation Project – Part 1 here>


This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.