Forerunners of Dormobile Ltd were the well established company know as Martin-Walter, founded in 1773 as harness manufacturers, they progressed to the building of carriages and coaches. At the dawn of the motoring age, the tradition continued, with the manufacture of bespoke coachwork on marques such as Daimler, Rolls Royce and Mercedes-Benz. The company also designed and manufactured the famous Wingham Cabriolet, often featured on Vauxhall chassis.
The name was changed to Dormobile to reflect the sales success of that model but a series of take-overs in the 60's, with the imposition of VAT and new package holidays led to difficult times and the final company - Dormobile (Folkestone) Ltd. concentrated on building Mini & Midi buses. The work force numbered about 200 compared with over 800 in the heyday of the Dormobile motor caravan.
It would appear that in the seventies, the freehold of the premises was sold. Following difficult trading times, major cashflow problems occurred in 1994 and the landlords were forced to close the company. The famous Tile Kiln Works is close to the Channel Tunnel so one can understand the commercial decisions involved.
The Dormobile was not invented as such - it grew from a need. It had been noticed that traders were putting cushions into their vans to take the family out. This led to a Utility vehicle - built on the Ford chassis. The vehicle could work all week and on a Sunday the seats could be folded down for the family.
Having survived the Second World War Martin Walter were examining a new vehicle from Vauxhall Motors, the Bedford CA van with its brand new design of bodywork and independent front suspension. With the all new Bedford CA came the Utilicon & Utlibrake. A model was offered that allowed the seats to form a bench seat for sleeping. Soon followed the fitting of a cooker. The real breakthrough came with the idea of cutting a hole in the roof and fitting an elevating cover. Thus was born the REAL Dormobile. The roof grew larger with bunk beds and the vehicle put motorcaravanning into the price range of everyone. The price was the same as a car as no Purchase Tax was paid. Unfortunately, many members of the public associate a Dormobile with the original Bedford CA and incorrectly refer to Bedford Dormoblies.
The Dormobile was built on almost every commercial chassis - VW, BMC, Land-Rover, Ford, Leyland, Commer, Toyota etc., even the diminutive Fiat 850T.
The name 'Dormobile' will forever be associated with the history of motorcaravans. It is doubtful if the design team that so cautiously formulated their plans for the conversion of a light commercial vehicle into a motorised holiday home could have foreseen the dramatic changes their efforts would have on the motoring and, in particular, the British recreation scene.
(source: Dormobile Owners Club)
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