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Suggested reading on this subject
British Caravans 1919 - 1959
British Caravans from 1960
Motorhomes - The History
RVs & Campers 1900 - 2000
The Gypsy Caravan
History of the Caravan
Century Camping & C'vng Club
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The story of restoring an old caravan

Portafold Caravan Restoration.

Part 4 of the restoration to a classic fibreglass folding 'van.

Fancying a bit of a change I decided to go back to the restoration of the draw bar and hitch assembly. The alloy metal covered wooden step plate was fixed onto the tubular front framework with aluminium brackets using steel wood screws. These were very rusty and there was not enough of a slot in them to take unscrewing. Thankfully only two big screws and a small P clip screw needed to come out to free the step and there was enough room to take a small junior hacksaw to the screw shanks so that I could cut off the heads. The P clip screw came out with some effort and it was away. Once off I could use a pair of mole gripes on each shank and undo them.

The next part was to disassemble the draw hitch and brake lever from the A frame. These were all bolted down and covered in god knows how many layers of paint. The nuts were on the underside and the long threads covered in layers of paint. I though this was going to be fun!

I decided to burn off what paint I could using a blowlamp. This proved a good move and encouraged the nuts to free in the bargain. Plenty of spanner work had the draw hitch off first and then the brake lever once I had the cable pivot removed.

The inside of the hitch was very rusty looking, nasty in fact!

The rear part of the welded top plate then came of using the same method, plenty of heat and brute force!

Removing the brake cable framework proved a challenge as it was fixed very close to the main tube framework front mounting bolts. Removing the bolted end part one end made removal possible.

Once all the bits that could be removed were removed the underside looked like this horror show!

Once I managed to scrape off the wet and loose paint I left it to dry for a few hours before getting serious with my wire brush in an angle grinder!

It was after this wire brushing down that I found the serial number! I didn’t know if it had a number and in talks with some Portafold owners seemed doubtful of it having one at all. After checks I was told that this meant it was manufactured in 1957, some 6 years earlier than originally thought which was a bonus. It seems that Portafold started production in 1956 or 57 so it was an early one.

The draw bar parts were all stripped as much as possible using nitromors and then wire brushed to remove the rust, which on some parts was quite bad. I also cleaned up the fixing bolts and made good generally so that they could be put back into use.

With the draw bar cleaned off I painted it with white Hammerite smooth gloss twice. This stuff has to go on thick and was quite difficult to do well as its dries so quickly. It’s surprising how much you have to cover and took longer than I thought.

Once this was done I painted the other associated parts and a day or so later started reassembly.

Whilst this was going on I cleaned off the bits and pieces in the front end using a wire brush in the grinder method, cleaned, primed and satin black spray painted the hitch and brake assemblies twice.

The brake lever

Plenty of work was done around all of these bits including checking the grease nipples and cleaning all the bolts to re-use where possible.

The brake lever rubber handle was very perished and a search for something the same drew a blank and the comments, “I had some back in the 1980’s”.

I found some fairly thin bike handlebar grips in Halfords, which were soft enough to push on the lever, in fact it worked out rather well and doesn’t look too bad.

If I can find a more original one at an autojumble in the future I can always ‘ upgrade’.

This article is spread over 8 pages: Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8


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