Reader DIY: Caravan Conversion

Words and image by Derek Mitchell

My wife and I have been avid outdoor folk for many years. I always find the DIY articles in this magazine most interesting as one is able to get an insight into other people’s requirements and aspirations, which in turn gets other readers also inspired to think out of the box. In 1971, we bought our first caravan, a second-hand ‘64 Kudu 12 ft, and have since owned eight others as well as a motorhome.

Our current caravan is a modified ‘89 Sprite Swift. I started repairing caravans in 1977. The first van I repaired was a written-off 1972 sprite Musketeer. This was in our back yard, and gave me a very good understanding of how caravans were built.

In the late 80s, I went into repairing caravans on a permanent basis and stopped in the mid 90s; since then, I have been doing my own thing − doing the odd job here and there. I had, for many years, talked to my wife and kids about the holidays I’d spent with my parents in Mozambique when I was growing up, and, in 2006, we went to the Inhambane area in Mozambique for a 12-day holiday, roughing it in tents and living out of a six-foot trailer. It was then that my love for Mozambique was rekindled.

In 2008, my wife and I went again, on our own, with a tent and my 4×4 Colt Double Cab. This time, we toured for two weeks up to Vilanculos, staying in different campsites each night so as get to know which the better resorts were. It was during this trip that the continuous climbing in and out of the back of the vehicle every time one of us wanted something, just got to me.

I hardly had any knees left by the time I got back home. I decided to look for a small van that I could convert to a gravel van and so kick this tenting thing. I’d wanted a little Sprite Sprint but couldn’t find one at a reasonable price; and, knowing what I had in mind for a conversion, I eventually settled for a Sprite Swift which was in quite bad shape. I decided that this could be a long-term project and made the owner an offer of R6 000, which he accepted.

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