Peter and Jan Bernard are no strangers to camping and touring – it’s part of their DNA. They’ve ridden motorbikes across Australia, owned two camper trailers in the past, and last year took the plunge and bought an Avan Frances caravan. Peter is a handyman – one of those guys who can turn his hand to anything – and it certainly shows in their ‘home away from home’. The modifications on this van (some by Avan, some by Peter himself) show how personal customisation can be and how it can create the ultimate touring vehicle suited to the needs of the people using it.
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Peter and Jan were delighted with the purchase of their van, and can’t sing Avan’s praises enough: they opted for an ‘Adventure Pack’ which included a larger 150mm galvanised chassis, 15in wheels, 12in electric brakes and a 300mm aluminium plate down each side of van. They had swing-arm independent suspension fitted and, as a result, had the fixed step removed. Avan also installed an external shower, 120W solar panel on the roof, a TV with mounting bracket, and they moved the hot water system from the cupboard to the front storage compartment at Peter’s request – at no extra cost.
“People often say, ‘What? You’ve paid how much for your caravan? Look at how many hotel rooms you can get for that money!’” Peter goes on to say, “I find myself explaining what I get for that money. For starters, you get most of your money back when you sell your caravan – if it’s in good nick – and you can’t find a hotel room where you can park a caravan. Anyway,” he says, “People don’t talk to you in hotels. They lock themselves in their rooms. Caravanning is a social thing; everyone talks to each other. Caravan parks are always in the best spots, by a river, lake, or beach.”
Peter spent a number of weeks making changes to the van before they took it out on a big trip to do the Dinosaur Trail last year. At the moment they are planning a six-week getaway to Darwin, and although they’ve taken the trip before many times, this time they will call in on new towns along the way. Jan beams at the prospect, “I love country towns,” she says, “I love the people, the old buildings and everything about them.” So, while Jan is at home scouring Wikicamps, Pete’s often found in the Avan making handy additions and changes. From hooking up a long-handled spade, to a curtain cover for the toilet roll shelves (that’s a woman’s touch, right there), to the addition of a reversing camera, the laying of carpet tiles, to the adjustment of the table so it sat higher, the modifications are numerous and the photos here will hopefully do them justice.