Memory Lane has become a popular feature of Classic Events Motorhome Shows in recent years. It’s the home of nostalgia, enthusiasts and even a smattering of experts, who are all united in their desire to keep alive the memories of caravanning, Kiwi style.

It’s the place people go to get their happy on, to plot and to plan and to dream of the days when they did – or the days when they will – own a vintage caravan. The caravan owners are from all walks of life and each brings their own personality to the styling of their beloved caravan. 

Don and Marilyn Jessen have kept their interior close to original, without sacrificing comfort

This love of retro and vintage theming is one of the reasons the walk down Memory Lane is so special. It evokes the sights and sounds of yesteryear, a time when life seemed simpler and just like the days of old, today’s happy snappers are bent on creating fresh memories of vintage caravans. They are lining up in droves to be photographed. Once again, it’s summer time.

The 1950s marked the heyday of Kiwi caravanning. At that time there were numerous caravan manufacturers dotted around the country. Each had their own attributes and some – like Levin’s Gipsy Caravans (established in 1951 under the name of Crotan Caravans) and Pukekohe-based TraiLite (established 1954) – are still manufacturing.

Author Don Jessen’s father, Tek, started Liteweight caravans

Other names came and went along with the fluctuating fortunes of New Zealand manufacturers. Many succumbed to the 1979 death knell sounded by the introduction of the 20 per cent sales tax imposed by then Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Robert Muldoon.

Don Jessen knows only too well how this luxury tax affected the industry. Don’s father, Tek Jessen, started Liteweight caravans in 1946. The post-war period ushered in a new era of freedom as Kiwi caravanners embraced the great outdoors. A building boom began.


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