Few vehicles are as charming as a classic camper, and this 1963 Bedford CA Dormobile was ready to be transformed by the Wheeler Dealers.
We’ve already seen some terrific classics on the latest season of Wheeler Dealers, including last week’s feisty Italian coupe, but this time Mike Brewer and Marc ‘Elvis’ Priestley chose something a little slower. Oh yes, and it was a vehicle you could take a holiday in…
Quickly renamed ‘Colin the Camper’, Mike had fallen in love with this charming 1963Bedford Dormobile. Packed with character and lovely period features, it reminded him of his childhood, and at just £4500 it was a bit of a bargain. One – very slow – test drive later and the deal was done for the full asking price.
So what had that money bought them? Well, apart from the odd rust spot and some scruffy paintwork it was all remarkably sound, but it was clear there was still plenty of work to do before anyone would be heading off for their summer hols in it. And that work would start with improving the performance.
Much as Elvis loved the charming Bedford, that underpowered engine and unsuitable 3-speed gearbox had to go. A Ford Pinto motor seemed the best replacement, along with a more relaxing automatic transmission, so with the interior stripped out it was off to see a friend, Derek Drinkwater, who would be lending a hand.
The first problem was discovering there wasn’t much room in the engine bay, so with Mike having sourced the new motor and gearbox plenty more hours were spent trying to wrestle it into position. It was a very tight fit, but with a few parts temporarily removed it finally slotted into place. Mind you, it still took some clever work by Elvis to fabricate new engine mounts, as well as adapting the column gear shift and linkage to work with the new gearbox. We’ve never seen the master mechanic look so tired…
Meanwhile, Mike had got busy brushing up on his carpentry skills. The interior of the camper needed new cabinets, and after plenty of time spent measuring, cutting, and screwing things together he’d done a great job. He even treated himself with a trip down to Hampshire to see the Dormobile company and discover more about these brilliant vehicles. Bagging a replacement canopy for the roof and choosing a new colour scheme, it looked like the latest project was on the home straight.
Well, almost. Elvis still had to finish the mechanicals which included a replacement back axle and propeller shaft, along with work on the rear suspension, and then it was time for the paint shop. The transformation was almost complete, and all that was left was to fit Mike’s superb cabinets, fit the re-trimmed seats, and hang the new curtains. Around £5600 had been spent on all the work, but now with a camper to be proud of it had been worth every penny.
They certainly enjoyed the test drive, and the new engine and gearbox had made a huge difference to the driving experience. And after all the hard work, you couldn’t blame them for taking a break to cook up some sausages…
All that was left was to meet potential buyer, Martin, who loved what Mike and Elvis had done and was more than happy to pay the full asking price of £11,500. That was a tidy profit, but more importantly this wonderful vehicle was once again ready to give years of holiday fun
Mike Brewer says: “I’ve always been a massive fan of the Bedford CA having owned one for a decade, but the Dorma camper version is the one I’ve always wanted. When this pooped up I kept at the chance, to say I was happy with the purchase is an understatement!
“We all fell in love with Colin our camper. The problem was the amount of work that needed doing, a full floor to ceiling renovation and I decided on an engine and gearbox change too. Elvis worked through several nights with Derek getting Colin ready for sale to catch the end of summer. The results where incredible. Colin can cruise now with a new coat of paint happily at 70mph thanks to the 2.0 Pinto and auto box I found.
“Our most ambitious restoration to date and one I’m very proud of. Martin the buyer is local to me and has offered the car for the Lancaster Insurance Classic Motor Show at the NEC where Colin will be on display.”
Marc ‘Elvis’ Priestley says: “What a challenge this was! I don’t think the show fully conveyed just how much work and how many hours Derek and I put into this… but I loved it. There was a lot of ‘making it up as we went along’ and sometime those creative solutions to problems really do get me going.
“The finished product, with Mike’s brilliant interior, was stunning and quite frankly, I’m a little bit jealous of Martin, the new owner.”
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