*Image from Bonhams
Having been custom built from a Ford Model T way back in 1914, what is believed to be the world’s oldest motorhome is certainly one of a kind. When it went up for auction last week, it was expected to fetch between £20,000 and £30,000. However, on the day, it proved to be worth far more to the winning bidder, who paid more than twice the high estimate, at £63,000, to own this unique piece of motoring history.
Still fully functioning and beautifully restored, the story of the world’s oldest motorhome began over a hundred years ago. It was commissioned to be built for the Bentall family, founders of the Bentall luxury department store.
The Ford Model T chassis was extended and strengthened by specialist Baico, while the all-wood bodywork was handled by Dunton of Reading. Designed and made to accommodate four people, the interior of the motorhome included a lounge area with a leather couch and fold-down table, a kitchen complete with wood burning stove and a bedroom area. It was finished with touches of luxury, including an ornate letter box and rich velvet cushions.
Little is known about the motorhome thereafter, including how long the Bentall family enjoyed it. What we do know is that it was sadly abandoned for some decades before being discovered in the 1970s in Surrey by a man named Leo Smith, who began the long and painstaking process of restoration on the vehicle.
Having been such high quality when originally made, cabinetmaker Robin Tanner found himself able to retain the majority of the wood parts, including the original polished pine floor, when given the task of handling the woodwork.
The entire restoration project took four years, after which time the motorhome was proudly displayed at car shows and won a variety of awards, including the Concours award at the HCVC London-Brighton Run in 1976. It has even enjoyed several TV appearances and been in the presence of Royalty, making it something of an automotive celebrity. Undoubtedly, this boosted the appeal and potential value of the vehicle, which was finally put up for sale this month with Bonham’s auction house.
Today, many elements of the motorhome remain the same or similar to the original features. The thoughtful restoration has allowed it to maintain its original charm. The new owner’s plans for the charming and historic vehicle are, as yet, unknown. One thing is for certain, though – they won’t be going anywhere fast in it since it’s capable of reaching top speeds of no greater than 45mph, perhaps even less due to weighted parts.
Hopefully, this delightful and unique motorhome will be preserved well to be enjoyed for many more years to come.