This is a 1961 Bedford Dormobile Camper, it’s one of relatively few surviving originals based on a British Bedford CA van with a camper conversion done by coachbuilder Martin Walter of Folkestone in Kent, England.

The campers based on the VW Type 2 Bus are by far the most famous from this era, but in England the Bedford Dormobile was an incredibly common sight at campgrounds in the 1950s and 1960s. Celebrated author Anthony Burgess (Clockwork Orange) owned a Dormobile and along with his wife drove it across Western Europe in the 1960s.

Fast Facts – The Bedford Dormobile Camper

  • The Bedford CA was launched in 1952, featuring a forward-control design that prioritized cargo space in the rear. This design was a response to the need for compact, versatile commercial vehicles in post-war Britain, catering to a rapidly growing post-war economy.
  • The CA was offered in multiple body styles, including panel vans, minibuses, pickup trucks, and chassis cabs. This adaptability made it popular for a wide range of commercial applications, from delivery services to small-scale passenger transport.
  • The Bedford CA’s spacious interior made them an ideal candidate for conversion into camper vans. Companies like Dormobile were famous for converting CAs into campers, equipped with features like pop-up roofs, foldable beds, and compact kitchenettes, and dinette sets.
  • In the 1950s and 1960s, the Bedford CA camper became a wildly popular part of the burgeoning caravanning and leisure travel culture in the United Kingdom. It was both affordable and practical, opening up new avenues for families to explore the country, and for the brave to explore the Continent beyond.
  • The vehicle you see in this article is a restored Bedford Dormobile Camper from 1961. It offers accommodation for four people. It has a kitchenette including a fridge and a sink with running water, plenty of cabinet space, and a pop-top roof. It’s now being offered for sale out of Waalwijk in the Netherlands.

The Bedford Dormobile Camper

The first Bedford Dormobile Camper is said to have debuted in 1957. It was built by coachbuilder Martin Walter who had been converting examples of the Bedford CA van into a passenger carrying minivan. This was an idea well ahead of its time in the mid-1950s – so ahead of its time in fact that it attracted the attention of the UK tax authorities who wanted to charge a higher rate of tax on the vehicle type.

Bedford Dormobile Camper 24

Image DescriptionThe roof folds up to provide standing headroom inside the van, there are also two hammock-style beds up there for extra accommodation.

When it comes to getting around the tax man and finding clever loopholes, the British are among the best in the world. Colin Chapman, founder of Lotus Cars, used to famously sell the Lotus Seven kit car with a book of disassembly instructions. This was because the kit car couldn’t come with assembly instructions without entering a higher tax bracket. The person who bought the kit would simply assemble it by following the disassembly instructions in reverse.

In much the same vein as this, Martin Walter of Dormobile realized that adding “built-in life support equipment,” like a sink, gas cooker, and cupboards, would bypass the higher estate car tax bracket, and he could carry on building his minivans.

What he didn’t expect is that these new minivans with camping equipment would become wildly popular in England and cross Britain. Household disposable income was rising significantly from the early post-war levels, and many Britons took to this new camper van life with gusto, touring the country and even crossing the channel and touring Europe.

Camper van (and the closely related caravan) culture in the UK remains strong even to the modern day, and it was the humble Bedford Dormobile that helped kickstart the phenomenon back in the late 1950s.

Bedford Dormobile Camper Vintage Ad

Image DescriptionThe 1960s were a time when camper vans and caravans experienced a remarkable boom in popularity across Britain (and in many other parts of the world), and Dormobile was right there producing some of the most popular campers in the country.

The 1961 Bedford Dormobile Camper Shown Here

The vehicle you see here is an original Bedford Dormobile camper from 1961, it’s based on the Bedford CA van with its distinctive pug-nosed front end – a van that was incredibly common in the 1950s and 1960s as one of the most popular commercial vans in the United Kingdom.

The Dormobile conversion consisted of adding a flip-up roof, this allows standing headroom in the rear when it’s open, and it has two elevated fold out hammock-style beds. The total number of sleeping spaces is four, which made the design ideal for families with a couple of kids.

The van is powered by a 1.6 liter inline four-cylinder engine which sends power to the rear wheels via a 3-speed manual transmission. This simple overhead valve engine was known for its reliability and ease of maintenance, both essential attributes in the world of commercial vans.

The accommodations also include two bench tops, a sink with running water, a more modern refrigerator (hidden in a cupboard, plenty of additional cupboard space, curtains, and a gas stove. The van was reportedly restored a few years ago and it still presents very well today, finished in Burgundy with Black accents, and a Cream, Burgundy, and Gray interior.

Bedford Dormobile Camper 6

Image DescriptionHere you can see the built-in cupboard and counter units on either side in the rear. These include a sink with running water, a fridge, a gas cooker, and plenty of room for storage.

Vintage camper vans like this are becoming more and more popular in recent years, particularly in the post-Covid period where many are keep to take to the road for some adventure. A lot of vintage camper enthusiasts buy classic picnic baskets as well as mid-century-style folding wooden chairs and tables to complete the look, and enjoy holidays on the road like they did back in the 1960s.

The good news is that this classic Bedford Dormobile camper is now being offered for sale out of Waalwijk in the Netherlands on Car & Classic. It has a reported 7,861 miles on the odometer, a valid safety inspection, and it’s ready for its new owner. If you’d like to read more about it or register to bid you can visit the listing here.

Bedford Dormobile Camper 26 Bedford Dormobile Camper 25 Bedford Dormobile Camper 23 Bedford Dormobile Camper 22 Bedford Dormobile Camper 21 Bedford Dormobile Camper 20 Bedford Dormobile Camper 18 Bedford Dormobile Camper 17 Bedford Dormobile Camper 16 Bedford Dormobile Camper 15 Bedford Dormobile Camper 14 Bedford Dormobile Camper 13 Bedford Dormobile Camper 12 Bedford Dormobile Camper 11 Bedford Dormobile Camper 10 Bedford Dormobile Camper 9 Bedford Dormobile Camper 8 Bedford Dormobile Camper 7 Bedford Dormobile Camper 5 Bedford Dormobile Camper 4 Bedford Dormobile Camper 3 Bedford Dormobile Camper 2 Bedford Dormobile Camper 1 Bedford Dormobile Camper 2

Images courtesy of Car & Classic

Published by Ben Branch -