Timeline Travel (with your caravan/motorhome!)
08 September 2010
1958 The first stretch of motorway, the eight mile Preston
bypass, was opened 5 December 1958 heralding the beginning of
motorway driving. The speed limit for those towing a caravan was a
very meagre 30 mph; however no limitations were applied to solo
vehicles using the motorway. Club advice was for the laden weight
of the caravan to be no more than 75% (mountains, Europe) or 80%
(UK) of the fully laden weight of the car.
Also this year the 'Basics of Proper Restraint Systems for Car
Occupants' (three-point safety belt) was patented by Nils Bohlin, a
Volvo design engineer.
........and for the sake of nostalgia here is an example of a
1950s caravan sales brochure:
1963 The International Caravan Show was held at Earl's
Court; one particular caravan stood out, as reported in En Route
magazine, '…the Sutherland Tenulite Shannon, a very ordinary van in
all other respects except that it was constructed of Plasticell,
which is sandwich of expanded P V C material between
aluminium sheet and hardboard.' (unfortunately Sutherland went into
voluntary liquidation early 1968). Meanwhile speed limits when
towing had been raised to 40 mph.
1965 With overseas travel becoming more popular and ever growing
numbers of people opting for ferry travel, a new route, Hull to
Rotterdam, opened up 17 December 1965 under the name of North Sea
Ferries. Advice provided for caravanners the following year was to
ensure that the unladen caravan be no more than 75% of the unladen
weight of the car.
1967 It became a requirement by law that new cars in the UK must
be fitted with front seat belts. Also this year saw the first
colour television broadcasts, yippee no more watching snooker in
black and white!
1968 The world's first car-carrying hovercraft made its debut.
Both Hoverlloyd and Seaspeed operated regular car and passenger
carrying services across the English Channel.
1972 From 1 July of this year, travelling in a caravan was
banned by law; unfortunately no such luck for pets!
1973 The Oil Crisis led to speed limits for solo cars being
reduced on dual carriageways to 60mph. The ensuing fuel shortage
caused lengthy queuing at petrol stations; fuel was limited to 2
gallons per vehicle. Meanwhile, following a review of speed limits
for caravanners when towing, this was raised to a more generous
1975 The Club's offices move from Mayfair to East Grinstead.
1975/6 First mention of noseweight as reported in En Route
....`investigations have been carried out to identify and measure
the factors which lead to a control of towing stability in
outfits`....'with particular reference to snaking motion,
static vertical load on the coupling and the
position of the centre of gravity of the caravan.'
The outcome of these tests demonstrated the importance of
correct tyre pressure, sufficient weight of car to caravan, and of
course 'static vertical load' (noseweight) measurement. Meanwhile,
advice given at this time for towing was to follow the caravan
manufacturers' guidance, although it was noted that higher figures
could give a more comfortable tow.
1976 The summer of this year was recorded as the 'Hottest
Summer since records began' and reported in En Route
August/September issue '.... This year's exceptionally hot summer
brought with it the attendant problems of car overheating (as well
as people overheating!). Modern cars have highly sophisticated
cooling systems which are designed to permit an engine to maintain
the correct temperature over a wide range of ambient conditions -
but overheating still occurs sometimes.'
1979 12v lighting in caravans - no more gas mantles!
1981/2 The greater the noseweight the more stable the tow,
so that a higher figure than that recommended (by the manufacturer)
may be worth trying. This seems somewhat surprising advice to be
offered by The Club!
1983 It was reported in En Route magazine that .....'The
Caravan Club is taking over from this year the sponsorship and
organisation of the annual 'Towcar of the Year '
Competition from CI Caravans.' This event started back in 1977 and
was run by CI Caravans Limited. Meanwhile the advice concerning
towing remained unchanged - no more than 75% of the unladen weight
of the car.
1983 From 31 January, it became compulsory for drivers and
passengers, both adult and children, to wear seat belts for a trial
three-year period. Incredibly, over 90% of drivers complied at that
time and still do. In the meantime the towing advice remained as
before, ie the unladen caravan to be no more than 75% of the
unladen weight of the car.
1984/85 Advice for caravan towing changed, the laden caravan to
be no more than 85% of the unladen weight of the car and noseweight
should be approximately 7% of the actual laden weight of the
1987:Speed limit when towing was raised to 60mph on motorways,
welcome news for caravanners everywhere. This year also saw the
introduction of the NCC identification scheme.
1989 Wearing rear seat belts became compulsory for children
1990 In January, the 'Impact', an 'electric vehicle' concept car
was introduced at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Also this year the
Blaydon Bridge opened carrying the A1 trunk road over the Tyne
providing a through route from the A1M linking to the A1 north of
Newcastle. It is one of only two which has a national speed limit
of 70 mph in operation, the other being the A69 Bridge at
1991 Caravan Club research programme initiated at the University
of Bath. Also this year,following a working party set up by the
National Caravan Council the CRIS scheme was set up. This was
reported in the October issue of En Route.....'in a bid to help
combat the increase of thefts, The National Caravan Council
has established a Caravan Registration and Identification Scheme
(CRIS) to security mark and register touring caravans manufactured
from the 1992 model year. Every touring caravan built or imported
by manufacturer members of the NCC will, from now on, be marked
with a 17 character international standard known as VIN (Vehicle
1994 Channel Tunnel opened 6 May linking Folkestone with
Coquelles, Pas-de-Calais which stretches across a distance of just
over thirty one miles. It carries Eurostar passenger trains,
Eurotunnel Shuttle vehicle transport (which is the largest in the
World) and international freight trains. And back to caravanning, a
study was carried out under the subject title of Lateral Stability
of Passenger Car/Caravan Combinations at University of Bath.
1999 Two further studies carried out at University of Bath under
the headings of Towed Vehicle Aerodynamics and Vibration
Isolation Characteristics of Caravan Trailer Suspension Systems and
Factors Leading to Moisture Ingress.
2000 The Millenium Bug caused great panic as it was thought,
among other concerns, that car engines would malfunction and
traffic lights would stop working causing chaos and mayhem, as
computer chips would not recognise '00' as '2000'. Also this year,
as part of a European strategy to reduce pollution from road
traffic and improve air quality, leaded petrol was banned from
general sale from 1 January.
2003 The first mass produced hybrid gasoline-electric vehicle,
the Toyota Prius was introduced worldwide.
2010 Caravans and Motorhomes are
fitted with many items as standard now which would have been
considered sheer luxury in times gone by. Cars have also undergone
major reinvention since those early days of the first mass produced
Ford Model T, now equipped with safety features, satnavs, air-con
etc as standard.