The Caravan Camping Holiday Show held at Earls Court in London during November 1981 could be seen as the year when caravan design stated to ‘breakthrough the box’ as one manufacturer stated.
Whilst most caravans retained the traditional shape that had evolved through the late 1960s and 1970s new manufacturing techniques and materials allowed for fresh thinking in design.
Aerodynamic styling and bonded construction, whilst not new become more common. Four such innovative caravans to the launched at the show were the GRP bodied Mustang International with a lift up rear panel and ‘sun deck’ on the roof, the silver bullet ABI Tycoon, which won the Caravan Industry Tourer of the Year, the Sprite Compact from Caravans International (CI) with a lift up roof to allow storage in a garage and more economical towing, and the wedge shaped Admiral from the Mexborough based Bessacarr Caravans, then part of the Arnold Lever group of companies.
Designed by Roger Simpson, the Admiral could be either a luxury holiday accommodation or a mobile office, and depending on the layout configuration the caravan could sleep between 2-4 people.
Built on a galvanised German Al-Ko chassis, which was unusual for the time as the British made B&B was a more common sight. The body was made of sandwich construction, again not that common for the early 1980s, and featured an insulation core of 30mm styrofoam to all panels. This is also the reason for the angular shape.
The front locker allowed for storage of two 13kg bottles and also housed the Primus wet central heating system. The standard 50 amp-hour battery lived in a separate side locker. The caravan also came with mains electrics as standard, again a rare item as only a few sites had mains electrics points available. A mains hook up lead came as standard. Water was housed in two 34 litre onboard water tanks. Bold yellow and blue graphics complemented the silver body.
At the rear of the caravan was what Bessacarr called the service module. In the rear corner is the kitchen which featured a hob, sink and drainer exclusive to the Admiral, as were the design of the taps. The service module was designed to feel different to the main saloon and in the doorway featured a heated cupboard and the wardrobe.
A 60 litre Electrolux fridge which now would be classed as small, in 1982 this was a luxury item. The worktops and cupboard doors were finished in white melamine with natural ash features. A roof window and two side windows allowed for plenty of ventilation.
A similar style of taps were used in the washroom, as was a roof window.
The washroom featured a Theford “Aqua-Magic” flush toilet where the contents went into a holding tank before being transferred into a portable outside container for disposal. This was before of the invention of the Thetford Cassette toilet.
In the main saloon the furniture was in ash veneer, upholstery was in 100% wool from an exclusive Scottish mill. For ease of cleaning the covers were zipped. The curtains were in a rich neutral colour, the carpet was specially woven self-stripe Wilton and complemented by an exclusive ‘Silkweave’ wall fabric.
Under the seats, removable pull out baskets made storage easier to manage and small lockers, including a cocktail cabinet, were positioned around the caravan.
The unusual from seating arrangement allowed for an informal seating which also made into a double bed.
In the middle of the caravan there were different opinions available for the Admiral owner. To the offside you could choose between a diner, a settee or display unit.
For the nearside the choice was double bunks, a desk and chair or another settee.
The option of having a desk or display unit may appear unusual, however the Admiral was an unusual caravan. It was designed so that it could also be used as a mobile office, whether this actually attracted new customers is unknown, however one caravan dealer, South Yorkshire Caravans (now part of the Marquis group) had a Bessacarr Admiral as a hospitality unit for many years.
Bessacarr certainly tried to promote the Admiral was a mobile office and it would be interesting to see if this style of caravan coutbe tried again. A lot of bloggers and vloggers may find a desk useful.
Standard equipment was high, a folding step was standard as was a waste container and spare wheel. A stereo radio/cassette player was fitted as were television sockets and an aerial. An optional extra was Roof mounted solar panel.
One unusual feature Bessacarr offered was what they called the ‘Design Index’. In the Design Index you could find a complete furnishings kit for the Admiral, including crockery, cutlery, glasses, table linen, duvets and covers and kitchen hardware.
The tagline on the brochure cover proclaimed that “This caravan belongs in the year 2000…” and inside it said ” fortunately we’re ahead of our time!”. Quite a bold statement. Yes the Admiral was an expensive (nearly double the price of a Buccaneer Schooner) and it had a very limited market, however a lot of the items we now see as normal equipment were all fiited as standard in the Admiral.
Caravanning Life rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5/5
RRP £12,434 (in 1982)
Body length: 6.20m / 20’4″ (note, not internal length, approx 19′)
Overall length: 7.19m / 23’7″
Overall width: 2.28m / 7’6″
Unladen weight: 1222kg
Maximum gross weight: 1440kg
Details as supplied by Bessacarr Caravans Ltd, Rowms Lane, Swinton, Mexborough, South Yorkshire. (company no longer trading, taken over by Swift Group in 1996)