Timeline Travel (with your caravan/motorhome!)


Timeline Travel (with your caravan/motorhome!)

Published: 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.

Technical 1950s

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:

Technical 1950s 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.

Technical 1960s

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 50mph.

Technical 1970s brochure

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.

Technical 1980s

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 caravan.

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 under 14.



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 Hexham.

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 Identification Numbers).'

Technical 1990s

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.

Technical 2000s