The Pod renovation – from drab to fab!

I have been meaning to write a post on the renovation of our fabulous Pod for ages, well I finally got it together for an article in Vintage Caravan Magazine, and I am thrilled to have her feature on the cover as well in the current issue (issue 29). It is such a great magazine, if you haven’t seen it before it is well worth checking out – www.vintagecaravanmagazine.com.au

and here is the story (with some extra pics that didn’t make it into the mag) ….

Vintage Caravan Magazine issue 29

Retrolicious – Words and pictures by Helen Luna

 

8 years ago I stumbled upon a picture of a cute little caravan on a shopping centre notice board. I fell in love straight away with the 1964 Sunliner and took it home the next day to start doing the bit of work needed to get on the road.  My then boyfriend and I took it on a road trip a few months later and found that 13 foot of space was all we really needed. The van became ‘The Pod’ along the way and one of my most treasured possessions.

Fast forward a few years to a new partner and a baby. The van was a bit neglected as life had gotten so busy with other things, but I always longed to spend the time I felt she deserved to make her beautiful again. Eventually, feeling the need for a break from my jewellery career and wanting a fresh challenge, and alot of time spent drooling over Vintage Caravan Magazine, I came up with the idea of renovating The Pod and other caravans and hiring them out so RetroPod was born.

To kickstart the business we purchased a gorgeous 1958 bondwood caravan, Lucille, and a massive Lotus Belle glamping tent which we started setting up for people as holiday accommodation in the Byron Bay area straight away while we got going on the massive renovation job on The Pod.

The Sunliner’s fibreglass exterior had been painted over with house paint several times over its 50 year life which posed the first major problem. After a few experiments with pressure washing, paint strippers and heat gun it was decided that most was going to have to be sanded off, so on went the respirator and goggles every day for weeks on end until every bit of old house paint was off.

We then took a break from the exterior while we addressed major problem number 2, a saggy floor. The ply floor was pretty spongy to walk on and need either replacing or reinforcing. We weren’t keen on removing all of the furniture, as well as not wanting to lose any head height inside so we decided to strengthen the floor from underneath. The Pod was removed from her chassis, suspended by 4 endless chains, and a new marine ply floor was glued in from underneath. While the chassis was out my husband (a mechanic) straightened and refurbished it before fixing it back under the caravan. And so with The Pod back on her chassis, with a nice solid floor we turned our attention back to paint job.

Trying to get a nice smooth finish on 50 year old fibreglass proved a bit tricky with everything from major dents to hundreds of pinholes to contend with, but after many round of patching with fibreglass, lightweight body filler and stop putty and several layers of spray putty, and of course all the sanding in between, we were ready to paint. After a 5 minute lesson from Hubby i was let loose with the spray gun. I used the undercoat as my practice run, with mixed results, we then went out and bought a better spray gun to do the top coat. We had chosen a water based paint that was a bit more environmentally and user safe than many of the alternatives, but it did prove somewhat tricky to apply, but we got there eventually with a pretty good result.

Our next task was to get the interior up to scratch. We were very fortunate that the original suspended vinyl roof lining was in good condition as well as most of the internal cupboards being intact. I replaced sections of ply on the seats and one cupboard as a warm up to my first ever major bit of woodworking to rebuild the kitchen from scratch to incorporate a new fridge and microwave and additional storage.

All the cupboard doors were removed for painting and stencilling and the rest of the interior was scrubbed and painted before replacing all the doors.  With the addition of newly upholstered seat cushions and curtains it was really starting to come together. Now racing against the clock as she was already booked out for her first outing, I set about mastering yet another new skill laying cork flooring to finish off the inside while hubby got all the exterior trim on. Looking fabulous with her new red exterior and bright fresh interior, the final flourish was applied in the form of decals I designed to give her a big burst of personality and stand out in the crowd.

We are really proud of The Pod and I have had such a great response to my crazy paisley creation. I have fallen in love with her all over again and am really enjoying getting out and about with her again and it is so lovely to be able to share her with others as well. You can find out more about hiring The Pod or our other caravans for your next holiday or event at www.retropod.com.au.

From Confest to Glamping Hire business – a short history of how RetroPod started

It was the beginning of 2008, My then boyfriend – Postie – and I were starting to make plans for a pilgrimage from our homes in Byron Shire, to Moulamein in south western NSW for Confest – a large hippy conference/festival. Our original plan to take Postie’s newly renovated campervan was starting to look like a non-starter as a neck injury meant the major work needed on it just wasn’t happening, so we were on the lookout for an alternative mobile home for our planned 3 week roadtrip.

Bringing home The Pod

Cruising the community noticeboard at a local shopping centre, a picture of a little bubble of a van caught my eye. I thought this may be the solution to our problem so we went to have a look. I fell in love. I had not known I was in need of a vintage caravan, but I immediately felt I HAD TO HAVE IT! So home came the 1964 Sunliner, my little fibreglass bubble of joy. She was in pretty good condition and a couple of weeks of cleaning up and minor repairs she was registered and good to go. Along the way she became ‘The Pod’.


 

Sunliner are light enough to be towed with a small sports car

Sunliners are light enough to be towed with a small sports car

We towed The Pod with my Celica, a completely odd match for eras but it worked, Sunliners are very light and the aerodynamics meant she towed easily and made it to Melbourne, via Moulamein and Mildura and back home to Mullumbimby with no dramas. It was an awesome holiday, but soon after Postie and I parted ways.


 

The Pod featured on the cover of The Byron Shire Echo - xmas 2008

The Pod featured on the cover of The Byron Shire Echo – xmas 2008

By the end of the year I was with Pete, a former love I could not forget, and for the next few years The Pod was being used as a spare room for guests and the occasional weekend out, and as our wedding night accommodation.

I often thought about giving The Pod a makeover, she was in ok condition, but looking a bit daggy, but it never made it to the top of the list as I concentrated on my business – Helen Luna Jewellery – building a house and having a gorgeous baby boy. The poor Pod was a bit neglected, but never forgotten, as vintage caravan books and a subscription to Vintage caravan magazine kept my caravan reno fantasy tickling away in the back of my mind.


 

Ready to start renovations with my little helper

Ready to start work with my little helper

So it is 2014, I had been making jewellery for 10 years and starting to feel a bit burnt out, I would often look at The Pod and wish to be able to spend some time with her, but life was just too busy to make it a priority, but feeling at a crossroads with my jewellery business and the need for something to change, the inkling of an idea started…. what if fixing The Pod was my job, it would be a priority then… and what if I had more vans… people could hire them and get to experience the joy of these little blasts from the past…. and so with the blessing of my very understanding and supportive husband, RetroPod was born. It is  early days as we try to build our fleet of vans and let the world know about the joys of vintage caravan glamping in Byron Bay and surrounds,  plenty more hard work to go, but I am so happy to be spending my days lovingly restoring The Pod and sharing the vintage caravan love with some adventurous campers. Helen 😀