This is the third feature of unusual designs past and present, and this time the spotlight is on caravans. As you can see, it shows which models or prototypes have been successful, and which haven’t.
Words Andrea Cattaneo
You might think that caravans are the most traditional recreational vehicles and there has never been anything innovative or even strange or curious proposed, but nothing could be more false. In the last 20 years, many unusual caravans have been presented; many have been only prototypes, others have come into regular production. Several themes have been developed in the past which now relate to current production models. For example, the lounge area has been presented with an L-shaped dinette, which gives a pleasant feeling of space, and there was also the solution of the garage under the high front bed. Numerous attempts to create innovative layouts by introducing bed movement systems have been seen over the years, ranging including drop-down, folding and sliding beds … And then there is obviously the theme of the multifunctional vehicle, designed to transport various types of sports equipment, so equipped with a modular interior, as well as a large rear loading opening. Here are a few examples.
Presented at the Caravan Salon – Düsseldorf in 2005, the small Paul & Paula caravan stood out for an unusual exterior shape designed by Oliver Schweizer. The body used moulds in colored plastic. Light, only 452 cm long (including rudder), the interior was dominated by the large dinette above which, if desired, a useful folding bed could be added. In 2006, a motorhome was also presented, using the same body as the caravans.
In terms of style and content, it is perhaps the most advanced caravan on the market today. The concept of a multifunctional caravan has been presented several times by Knaus. The old version of the Knaus Deseo has now been updated with a modern design and a new construction technique. The living unit presents the panels (roof, walls and floor) fixed on a three-dimensional self-supporting frame, made of fiber-reinforced resin elements. Designed to accommodate one or two motorcycles or other sports equipment, the Deseo has a very large loading area at the rear as the kitchen and bathroom are concentrated in the front part; longitudinal sofas fold against the walls and there is a drop-down fixed bed above them. The loading area is accessed via a huge, opening tailgate.
Presented at the Caravan Salon – Düsseldorf in 2017, it showed how the caravan of the next few years ahead will have to be: lightweight, but also welcoming. To save weight (the Coco has an unladen weight of only 638 kg), the structure has been optimized, with an interaction between chassis, floor and walls. Three panoramic rooflights make the interior very bright, and the awning continues, uninterrupted, on to the rear wall.
It’s not a camper, it’s not a caravan: the Car-Camp has two wheels but it hooks up to the car in a stable way, without articulation between the two vehicles. Once at a campsite, the user can unhook it from the car, just like a caravan. The living area is in the back, while the bed is in the front area above the roof of the car. First seen in 1988 in conjunction with Opel Kadett, it was then adapted for the Opel Astra.
Proposed for the first time in 2005, and still in production (with appropriate modifications), the Adria Action is a caravan destined to go down in history, thanks to its unique external shape, small dimensions and an unusual interior.
First seen in the 1990’s, the Knaus Sport & Fun returned to fascinate the audiences of European fairs in 2015. It is a caravan designed to offer good living comfort and at the same time be able to carry various types of sports equipment: a large rear door (in addition to the side door) allows a motorcycle to be loaded on board, but there is also a front garage under the bed (which can be raised).
This 2006 model brings together several themes already developed in the past: small size, rear access door, rounded windows, wide connecting profiles to underline the aerodynamic shape of the vehicle. In the toilet compartment there is a revolving cabinet that can be taken out of the cockpit, while air suspension allows the user to lower the vehicle.
The extensive Dethleffs product range has had room for everything: in 2010 there was a caravan of XXL size, the Caraliner 765 DBM, but in 2006 there was also the small Campy (restyled in 2010) with a high bed above the garage, a slanted dinette and a large front opening for access to the load compartment.
With the Caravisio concept of 2013, Knaus gave an interpretation of a future caravan, without obviously addressing the issue currently topical – of reducing weight. It had an aerodynamic front, plus wheels partially covered, while the rear area featured a nautical-style terrace that became a veranda, once its large doors were open. In the kitchen, the was a ceramic hob and taps with touch controls, while in the lounge there was the screen of the projector integrated into the terrace door. Some solutions proposed by Caravisio were later seen on the Knaus Eurostar.
Single bed above, small living area below: an uncommon solution, but one that may have its admirers, especially for the flexible living space it offers. In 2016, Caravelair introduced the Antares Style 496, which managed to create a bunk bed on three levels, with the floor bed that turns into a kind of living room for children.
Proposed at the Caravan Salon in 2016, this small caravan (425 kg empty) had simple lines and only the essential interior items. It certainly did not want to be an alternative to much more structured and refined products. The idea was that of an ecological caravan, built with non-toxic and totally recyclable materials.
In 2017, the world’s leading slide-out manufacturer, Lippert Components, presented to the public a prototype of a caravans with extendible walls designed for the European market. The Smart Caravan was equipped with four slide-outs to expand the various areas of the passenger compartment. The interior was stylistically impeccable, thanks to a collaboration with Tecnoform.
Produced for a few years, starting in 2005, the Dethleffs Vari was a double axle caravan which was characterized by two unusual elements: a large tailgate and a lift-up bed at the rear so you could load a large motorcycle.
In 2010, Bürstner transferred the drop-down bed, which had already proved successful on its campers, to caravans. Proposed in three versions, the Averso Plus had a higher height than normal to allow space for the bed in the ceiling. A Premio Plus was also created. The drop-down bed had previously been used on the 2005 Dethleffs Vari-1, and today it is now available by Hobby on two De Luxe models.
Over the last decade, Dethleffs has presented several low-line and aerodynamic caravans, which were unusual for their time and still unique today: in particular, we must mention the Aerostyle, the Family and the Tourist.
Over the years, Knaus has worked extensively on the theme of multi-purpose caravans dedicated to those who practice sports, such as motorcycling. Several models were equipped with a rear loading door and a multifunction compartment with longitudinal sofas to free the central space. One example is the YAT, launched in 2004.
The ‘luxury lounge’ theme has appeared several times in the recent history of the caravan. Obviously, generous dimensions are needed to set up a large and comfortable living area.
The concept of inexpensive, low-priced caravan was developed by Knaus with the Deseo series, which debuted in 2005 with the Eifelland brand. Square shapes, minimal furniture and essential equipment, but the interior could be enriched both by DIY interventions, or by choosing between the various optional kits (including the kitchen). Cabinets and wall units had no wooden doors, but a canvas closure system instead. In 2009, Dethleffs proposed the Globico series (a caravan and two campers). In the basic version there were no hanging cupboards, but shelves and plastic containers, and the kitchen was equipped with a portable refrigerator, removable cooker and jerry can with falling water from above. It had a tailgate with double bed above the dinette. In 2010 the Globico was completely revised.
This caravan proposed by Bimobil in 2010 is truly unique: the four wheels are not central, but placed at the ends of the vehicle, and can steer thanks to the front rotating trolley.