Land Rover Dormobile on the beach

 

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"WHEN YOU BUY A DORMOBILE CARAVAN YOU BUY A NEW WAY OF LIFE"

 

Dormobiles are motor caravans (camper conversions) designed by the Martin Walter Company of Folkestone, Kent, England.  Most were built from 1958 through the early mid 1970's.  I only have experience with Land Rover Dormobiles so these web pages are Land Rover Dormobile focused.

Martin Walter made custom caravan conversions for a variety of mostly British vehicles.  These conversions were usually installed to order on new vehicles that were purchased at the same time.  Customers could choose conversion components from a list of items or pay extra to have custom features fabricated.  Some Dormobile conversions had as little as a pop up top or seats that fold down into a bed.  Most had complete caravan interiors installed.   All installations performed by Martin Walter at their factory were provided with a riveted on ID tag.

Martin Walter also sold conversion kits to other companies who installed them in vehicles.    Land Rover Dormobiles were available directly through North American Land Rover dealers.  Some of these may have been dealer installed by kits shipped from Martin Walter directly to the dealer.   There is at least one company in Southern California that installed Martin Walter pop up roofs onto Dodge window vans and added their own camper interior during the late 1960s and early 1970s.  While Dormobiles can be found anyplace in the world, most Dormobiles were sold in the UK and still reside there.  Only Land Rover and Volkswagen Dormobiles were sold into North America though a few other marque Dormobiles have been privately imported.

More recently a company named Dormobile Ltd, was formed to reproduce Martin Walter Land Rover Dormobile caravan parts. They also perform fresh caravan conversions on the Land Rover Defender 110 platform.  Their reproduction components have breathed new life into tired worn out conversion kits and allowed people to have new Dormobile conversions built into D110's.

Martin Walter was not the only company making Land Rover based caravan conversions, there were also R.J. Searle Ltd. who manufactured Land Rover Carawagon caravans and Hall Park Garage Ltd. who manufactured the Park-Ranger Land Rover caravan.  North American Land Rover dealers offered a 109 pick up with a cab over camper installed.  This caravan configuration was called the Land Rover Explorer.   A company in Colorado, USA offered a Caravan conversion kit designed for owner installation on both 88 and 109 Land Rovers.  This was the X-PANDA-CAB. These caravan conversions should not be confused with Dormobiles.  

A Dormobile has specific Dormobile features that were either manufactured by or sold by Martin Walter for their caravan conversions. 

If you would like to see what Dormobiles look like I have pages with Land Rover Dormobile pictures and a page with a collection of other marque Dormobile pictures.

Records as to the number of conversions Martin Walter built over the years  and of conversion kits shipped to other companies for assembly did not survive the closing of the company.  An unknown number of Series II Land Rover Dormobiles were built.  But I have seen pictures showing one for door (626) and two, two door versions (625) Series II Land Rover Dormobiles.  The best estimate for Land Rover Series IIA Dormobiles is 725 four door (626) versions built plus an unknown number of 2 door versions.  Approximately 104 Series III Land Rover Dormobiles were built, presumably all 626 variants. (data from Phil's record research).  About 830  4 door Land Rover Dormobiles were converted at the Martin Walter factory from Spring of 1961 through 1975. A very rough estimate of total Martin Walter factory Land Rover Dormobile production, for all model II, IIA, and III 2 door (625) and station wagon (626) variants. would be about 1000 Land Rover Dormobiles. At least 85% of them were the 626 station wagon variant.

I have a January 1962 USA Land Rover price list that includes Dormobile campers built on the 109 station wagon platform.  They were listed as being provided with lifting roof, external roof rack, cooking stove, table, sink, curtains, closet and water containers as standard configuration for $5,280.00  At the same time the 109 station wagon was listed for $3,925.00

There is a Dormobile e-mail list that is open to anyone interested in all versions of Dormobiles.

There is a UK based Dormobile club that supports all models of Dormobiles.

I have typed in the content of the Land Rover Dormobile owner's manual from a fuzzy low contrast JPEG. This manual is for a UK spec right hand Land Rover Dormobile. 

The following is from a 1966 Dormobile brochure:

Freedom

WHEN YOU BUY A DORMOBILE CARAVAN YOU BUY A NEW WAY OF LIFE

Consider these 10 DORMOBILE Freedoms:

  • FREEDOM to ignore holiday hotel worries - and bills
  • FREEDOM to live comfortably and easily in the open air
  • FREEDOM to decide and then go - straight away - for a month, a week, a day
  • FREEDOM to drive without tiresome towing or special speed restrictions
  • FREEDOM to tour - Tyneside or Timbuctoo - and take your home with you
  • FREEDOM to take advantage of those spare moments - those crisp, clear winter days - when owners of other cars stay at home
  • FREEDOM to eat what you like, when you like and cooked how you like it
  • FREEDOM to sleep - comfortable and secure - at the end of an exciting day
  • FREEDOM to enjoy outdoor interests - fishing, sailing, climbing, walking, picnicking - or just looking
                                                        ABOVE ALL
  • FREEDOM to relax, in your mobile home, away from the everyday routine and stress of modern life.

MARTIN WALTER LTD.

 

These days  many Dormobile caravans are being purchased by people as focused or even more focused upon detailed restoration back to stock show room factory new and classic car exhibition than on actually traveling and camping in one.  Personally I am conflicted about this trend.  On one hand it is great to preserve a piece of 1960's motorized camping history, but I can not help but feel that the intended uses described in the factory advertisement copied above captures the true spirit of Land Rover Dormobiles and that actually using them might be more in keeping with the Dormobile spirit than keeping one in like new show room condition for field meet display.   But on the other hand I enjoy a nicely restored display as much as the next person.

I feel fortunate in that My 1960 Land Rover Dormobile was built by transferring the Dormobile kit from a wrecked factory assembled 1967 Land Rover Dormobile.  There is no correct Martin Walter factory original specification for this vehicle to restore back to.   This provides me with a guilt free freedom to focus on using my Dormobile as best as I can to follow the 10 Dormobile freedoms. 

A high percentage of the Land Rovers taken around the world are Dormobiles.  On a per model basis I strongly suspect that Dormobiles are the most traveled model of Land Rover.  Every person who purchased a Land Rover Dormobile from Martin Walter had travel in mind, often long distances to exotic locations.  I can't help but feel a little sad that few are still being used today in the spirit for which they were built and originally purchased.   I'm always happy when I see another Land Rover Dormobile out on the trail still exploring the world.

 


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