Once again, it was the design of these Constructam caravans from Belgium, that caught my eye. Rounded features, edges and windows gave them a softer look for their size… even the cupboards inside had rounded edges! I chose a 1970 Constructam Coral 1 to include in our designs… why… well, why not! It’s the same age as me 😊
The History of Constructam Caravans
The history of the Constructam began in Belgium on May 1, 1947, when Theo van der Herten bought land in a region called Temse and started making supplies for shipbuilding and railway parts with his two employees.
When many Europeans started receiving higher wages and paid leave in the early 1950’s, a leisure market was created. This paved the way for Constructam to enter the market with their brand new ‘Camping Car’. The larger ‘Happy’ (for 6 people) and the smaller ‘Micky’ (for 4 people) were in production until 1965.
Having worked as a technical draftsman in shipbuilding, Theo’s brother Lucien also joined the company, and in 1958, the first Constructam caravans were built using a metal chassis and a wooden frame with Masonite plating.
In the early 1960’s, the company experienced rapid growth, partly due to a revolutionary streamlined design, in which the bottom half of the caravans consisted of a metal frame with aluminium, and the top constructed from a fibreglass-reinforced polyester hood. This heavy substructure meant that the centre of gravity was low, giving Constructam caravans their perfect driving characteristics.
From here on in, almost all Constructam models were given names beginning with the letter ‘C’, starting with the Cresta, the Comet, the Coral and the classic Condor series (both distinguishable by their round roof windows), followed by the smaller Corona during the mid-1960’s.
By the late 60’s and early 70’s, changes were being made to the construction of the vans (for example, the round roof windows were replaced with bigger, square ones, and the exterior replaced by an aluminium skin), with even more drastic changes being made due to the oil crisis and increasing labour costs.
In fact, at this time, around 30 Belgian caravan factories went bankrupt. Constructam managed to survive this crisis by turning to different designs and materials. On a side note, from 1977 onwards, all models were equipped with a signature blue or brown band around the van body; yet another feature that set Constructam vans apart from other brands.
Constructam were able to keep afloat until the early 80’s, when, after 35 years, production finally came to an end.
In 1986, the company was taken over by Chateau BV, who designed the New Generation caravan, incorporating the classic Constructam design. In total, Chateau BV built around 400 New Generation caravans, before they too fell victim to bankruptcy.
Jacky Broers, who was co-responsible for product innovation and product development at Chateau, took them over in 2008. He designed a luxurious, modern version of the classic Constructam, calling it the C42O. Sadly, only nine C420 models were produced, before his production partner went bankrupt in 2011.
But all is not lost! Many people have once again gone crazy for the classic, vintage, retro styles that made Constructam vans so popular back in the day. Above there is a Constructam Condor, a Constructam Comet 5 and a Constructam Coral 3T. You can see some of the vans above on Instagram @judidithcaravans and @danielle_happymess and see on the internet how they have lovingly restored them. Whether for travelling, or as food trucks, the Constructam dream is very much still alive and well.