British Caravan Road Rally 1967

First published November 2014.

BRITISH CARAVAN ROAD RALLY 1967

by Nigel Raeburn.

Among my Archives (that’s not what Margaret calls them!) I recently found an envelope full of paperwork from the British Caravan Road Rally in April 1967 in which I navigated a works Lynton caravan outfit.  This was a major national event in the calendar in those days and was treated very seriously by caravan manufacturers who saw it as an opportunity to show off the roadworthiness of their products.  This year the event was based at Mallory Park race circuit.  A browse through my paperwork recalls that this was a proper competitive night road rally in the Peak District mixed with special caravan-oriented tests which were held on the race circuit the following morning.

My driver was Dave Palmby from near Cambridge, who later became quite a successful stage rally driver.  Our car was a Rover 2000 and the new caravan was provided by Lynton Caravans as part of their team.  The entry was split into Trade and Amateur categories, with Trade entries coming from well-known caravan manufacturers such as Eccles, Bessacar, Fairholme, Sprite etc..  Crews included drivers and navigators from normal rallying such as works Ford driver Anne Hall, Ted Masheder and Norman Salt.  In other years Pat Moss, Roger Clark and Tony Pond took part.  The entry list ran to 129 crews.

The organising club was The Caravan Club – as exists today running caravan sites and services for caravanners.  They produced their own rules and regulations for rallies and I have a little booklet which was their equivalent of the MSA Blue Book which even includes instructions for marshals.  All caravans had to be weighed at a weighbridge before the start – this must have influenced the penalty system somehow but I have no record of how that worked.  I think maybe there was a formula with weight, length and car engine capacity which determined which Class you were in.

The results tell me that Dave and I retired from the road section but I cannot remember this – my memory is that we completed the route which was a normal night road rally through the lanes of Derbyshire – quite exciting towing a caravan!  I can remember we followed Anne Hall at one stage and her caravan was taking off over the bumps which was pretty spectacular!  On the hill in Macclesfield Forest leading up to the chapel there was a major holdup after one outfit got stuck climbing the hill.  It was especially important with a caravan on the back not to overshoot any turnings as if you did it could well take ten minutes to get turned round even if you could find somewhere to do it!

I think there was a rule your caravan had to be useable, so you had to be able to sleep in it and make breakfast – which we did back at Mallory Park before the special tests later in the morning.  I seem to remember quite a few caravans bore evidence of brushes with the scenery in the narrow lanes the night before!  Over 100 caravans being driven briskly through tiny lanes must have made quite a spectacle.  It’s hard to imagine it being allowed today – but at that time this was a respectable event which ran every year and I think there were other smaller competitive caravan road rallies as well.

There was a variety of special tests as follows: reversing test, driving judgement test, parking test, rough ground driving test, braking test and fast towing/stability test.  The reversing test involved reversing round a bend.  The driving judgement test was a slalom through pairs of cones.  The parking test required reversing into a layby.  The rough ground test required driving such that the nearside caravan wheel had to pass over specific marked spots as if avoiding potholes.  A high tech electric bell was used to indicate if the correct route had been followed!  The braking test required stopping in a marked area from 40 mph.  The fast towing test was a course against the clock with penalties for showing ‘instability’.  There were further tests as well – a hill climb, a slow hill climb (as slow as possible without stopping), a ‘surprise’ wheel change test (i.e. it was sprung on crews without warning) and a turning test.  All in all a thorough test of caravanning!  I remember we had trouble with our caravan brakes locking in reverse which cost us a lot of penalties so we did not fare too well.

The Caravan Road Rally ran from 1954 to 1976 and there is an interesting online archive of information about it at www.nationalmotormuseum.org.uk/road_rally_introduction .  It played a significant role in improving the stability and roadworthiness of caravans as their design evolved.  In 1954 caravans were limited to 30 mph on the public roads and this road rally played its part in proving that higher speeds should be allowed; now the limit is 60 mph on dual carriageways and motorways.

 

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