By: David Wilkes

Goodwood, West Sussex - Heads must have turned eight decades ago when Captain Francis Scrivens Dunn toured the countryside in this camper.

Built in 1936 on a Pontiac Six chassis from the United States and boasting a mahogany interior, fitted kitchen and pull-out double bed, the vehicle is thought to have been Britain’s first camper van.

And, with less than 16 000km on the clock, it still “drives like a dream” says the man who is reluctantly selling this elegant piece of history.

Crafted by Russell’s Coachworks of Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex, the pioneering creation - preserved right down to the tin of Oxo in the cupboard and tea urn in the kitchen - is expected to fetch £40 000 (R740 000) at Bonhams’ Goodwood Revival auction in September.

Captain Dunn, from Bexhill, made good use of his motorhome, as proved by four photo albums being sold as part of the lot that illustrate his travels through southern England in the late 1930s.

On the road

Even when paralysed after contracting polio while on honeymoon he still took to the road, setting his wheelchair alongside as his wife took the wheel.

Captain Dunn’s disability meant he was evacuated to Wales during the Second World War and the motorhome was almost requisitioned as a makeshift ambulance, even being splashed with green paint by way of camouflage.

The captain died in 1946 and, although the vehicle went into storage, his widow would turn the engine over every few months, until she died in 1991.

The camper van, which also has a rudimentary toilet, was bought by Ron Saunders, who displayed it at his caravan dealership in Poole, Dorset, and took it to motor shows.

It is now being sold by his son, Andy, who lovingly restored it. He said: “Captain Dunn was way ahead of his time when you look at some of the amenities included in this vehicle. It’s a magnificent vehicle and I’ll be terribly sad to see it go. Not only is it absolutely beautiful but it also drives like a dream.”

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