The History of Franklin Caravans
It was 1947 when a friend suggested to a 17 year-old Geoff Robertson that they take a Christmas holiday in Lorne, Victoria. Not exactly flush with money, Geoff thought he’d build a caravan for the trip, although he’d never done this before.
The timber and Masonite van made it there and back in one piece, and soon people started asking if they could borrow it…. Geoff wondered if there was something in this, so he built another one. It was then that he decided to hit the road to find a buyer.
First stop was Les Gough and Sons, who owned Hawthorn Caravans in Melbourne. Les and his sons thought Geoff’s van looked okay, so offered to sell it on consignment. When asked what his caravan business was called, the first thing that came into Geoff’s head was the name of his old family home, ‘Franklin’.
By the time got home to Ballart, the van had already sold and Les was asking when Geoff could build another one. Not bad for an 18 year-old!
So Geoff got to work, building vans at the rear of his father’s pub - the Town Hall Hotel in Armstrong St, Ballarat. Word has it that Geoff’s dad soon told his son to get the vans out of the hotel yard, as there’s no future in caravans!
Little did they both know Franklin Caravans would become one of the biggest caravan brands in Australia.
However, back in the 1950’s, Geoff was producing vans at the rate of one per month. After building and selling the first fifteen caravans, he began hiring workers and moved to a proper factory. As the business grew, so did the factory, with extensions being added to accommodate the increasing demand.
By the 1960’s, the business was experiencing great success with its high quality, yet affordable, lightweight caravans. Franklin became only the second caravan manufacturer – in the world! – to start producing vans from polycarbonate and aluminium sandwich panels.
Franklin dominated the market in the 1970’s, employing more than 500 workers that manufactured a whopping 200 vans per week! The company moved to a bigger factory, allowing for a complete caravan production line where the vans were pushed along to different sections to be assembled, piece-by-piece. All upholstery was made on site, too. It was definitely a ‘one-stop shop’.
Sadly, Franklin’s good fortune came to a standstill sometime later, and the brand lay dormant for quite a few years. Queensland caravan retailer Kratzmann came to the rescue, contracting Concept Caravans to build Franklin vans in Melbourne in 2004.
Concept saw the potential in Franklin caravans once again, purchasing the brand from Kratzmann, and opening a dedicated Franklin factory in 2017. The $3 million ‘green’ factory churns out 7 vans a week, with each van taking five days – or 250 man hours – to manufacture in the traditional hand-built manner.
This iconic Australian brand is well and truly back in business.