For many of us, summer means holidaying and holidays mean caravanning.

Small, cute caravans, souped-up mobile homes, a caravan simply parked up in the garden, and another you can employ to optimise your party – we’ve got them all here in the Bay.

The trusty, musty-smelling caravans of summers passed in camping grounds by lakes, beaches and rivers might seem like a hark back to a simpler time, but as I discovered, there are very different ways of caravanning, and anyway, there’s still something pretty cool about the old school.

The gleaming Airstream sits among the dusty, dented cars at Hawke’s Bay Towing, a smashed police car reflected in its side.

“It’s a work of art,” says Rod Naylor, owner of HB Towing and the Airstream, admiring the 1966 model.

Stepping inside is like stepping back in time.

“When I first brought it it showed its age.” Rod says “So I’ve done some modern things but tried to keep it a bit retro. It has the original leather-bound manual and every invoice that the chap has spent on it, that’s amazing.”

A Teasmade Rod found in a vintage shop in Waipawa is a reminder of the 1960s. It sits in an overhead cupboard at one end of the Airstream. “I’m going to get a vintage radio to sit next to it, and they’ll both be functional.”

Another quirk is the teatowel drying rack hidden away in a cupboard above the fridge. “In the original brochure it says the ‘66 model comes with a teatowl drying rack, warm air comes off the fridge and dries the teatowels. And it actually works!”

‘Darcy’ is a bar on wheels

“I always wanted one,” says Rod, grinning at the Airstream, “And this one is perfect for me because it’s got a history.”

While the Airstream has kept its vintage feel without major alterations, when Ross and Karine Gardiner bought their Starliner, they had a bigger job on their hands.

“It was a wreck,” says Karine, “We had to do a complete rebuild.”

Ross counted the days it took to complete the project – 165 from the day they got it to the day they towed it with their own car.

‘Tom Thumb’ offers family entertainment

Keen Rock ‘n Roll dancers and lovers of retro style and culture, Ross and Karine were on the lookout for a vintage caravan to take up to the Whangamata Beach Hop a couple of years ago. When Ross spotted the Starliner at Murray Church’s Hawke’s Bay Caravan Sales yard in Pandora he saw potential.

“It’d been parked under the trees there for so long. He wouldn’t sell it because he didn’t want it turned into a coffee shop – somebody cutting it up. He was saving it for someone who would do it up and appreciate it.”

Vintage Starliner

The Starliner matches perfectly with the Ford Anglia, though there’s another towing car project in the pipeline too.

It’s just a fun thing to do,” says Ross. “You’ve got to keep doing things, taking new directions.”

Linda and Van Howard’s Tom Thumb is a quintessential kiwi holiday caravan, providing a fuss-free home away from home, and giving many kids their first experience of a house on wheels. They’ve had the caravan for about three years and Linda says it’s proven its worth as entertainment for the grandchildren as well as themselves. “The grandchildren play in here all the time, and they LOVE going on holiday. Usually its parked out on the stones, hidden behind the garage where they can’t be seen so they get cups and stones, they love it!”

‘Lucy’ stays at home

Linda is an early childood teacher and she’s taken Tom Thumb to both Lumsden and Te Mata Kindergartens.

“At Lumsden the kids just absolutely adored it. We had the toaster and the kettle out and so they made their morning tea in here, all sat eating their toast and jam and drinking their milos.”

Linda and Van also enjoy the simplicity of their mobile holiday house.

“People come and look at it because they’re so fascinated because now everyone’s got terribly terribly smart RVs. There’s something really lovely about learning to sleep on a narrow mattress and cope without having all the modern conveniences, you know?”

And sports a homey interior

Lucy the caravan shares her warmth and quirks without hitting the road at all. Sitting in a green oasis in Hastings, Lucy welcomes people to her, rather than heading out to meet them.

After spotting and watch-listing Lucy on Trade Me, Catherine Reeves (enabled by husband Rob) couldn’t shake the idea of bringing her up from Nelson and settling her into the garden.

Catherine updated the wallpaper, cushions and curtains and Rob added the necessary stabilisers, and Lucy started to show her true colours.

“It’s almost a rule that no unpleasantness can happen in Lucy. I invite people sometimes for birthdays and Rob and I have dates in here. It’s a special place without going anywhere.”

“So Lucy has become like a friend I suppose because she’s always here. As someone said the other day, she’s like arms around you”.

If you can’t have a beautifully refurbished caravan of your own, you can now invite one to your party, wedding or event to help out. Food and coffee caravans are becoming more common, but Darcy the Caravan takes sophistication to the next level.

Stacey and Mark Bancroft returned to New Zealand a year ago from Melbourne and brought the idea of a stylish mobile bar with them.

“That was the problem,” says Stacey, “We knew what we wanted to do, but how could we do it?

Some of the work on the caravan (formerly a spare bedroom in Carterton) was undertaken by Mark and Stacey but the major alterations happened while Darcy enjoyed a three month stay at Cedarville Joinery and Building.

“Alan did all the timber work,” says Mark,

“He was supposed to just be doing the bar, the seat and the window and then we came in under budget so we just said we’ll keep going.”

The result is a slick and sophisticated bar on wheels. The client provides the drinks and glasses and Darcy comes with straws, ice, coasters, decorations and two bar tenders.

So how are people responding? “They’re all quite intrigued by Darcy,” says Stacey.

“You struggle to get someone at a party or a wedding not enjoying themselves,” laughs Mark, “And they’re at a bar so…”

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