Last weekend the NZMCA (New Zealand Motor Caravan Association) held their 61st Rally at the Richmond showgrounds. And in amongst the sea of white motorhomes was fairytalelike ‘Dora’ the caravan.
Dora is proudly owned by Deidre O’Flynn (Dee) from Carterton in the Waiarapa. She has every reason to be proud – she renovated this pocket-sized camper herself.
Turn back the clock to April 2015. Dee a retired school principal was searching on Trademe for a 1960’/70s caravan. The criteria for the caravan was simple … it had to be a rounded shape, structurally sound, no leaks and cheap! Dee had a tight budget she wanted to stick to and was determined not to break it.
As luck would have it, a 1976 Sprite was listed in Auckland. Dee asked her niece, Sharon, to view the caravan, as Dee felt Sharon was more knowledgeable in that area. It turned out the caravan met all the criteria. Once the purchase price was agreed on, Dee traveled to Auckland from the Waiarapa to collect her new project.
Although Dee had never towed a caravan, she wasn’t fazed. Even when the weather turned sour and it poured with rain, Dee still wasn’t put off.
Carterton is Dee’s hometown, which is an eight hour drive from Auckland. To break the journey Dee decided to spend a night in Taupo, ‘I made sure I found a spot to park that didn’t require any backing’.
Once safely back home Dee began renovating. Her grandchildren, who are fans of the animated T.V. series ‘Dora the Explorer’ named the caravan ‘Dora.’ It seemed the perfect name.
Dora’s makeover started with the exterior. The original colour of the caravan was white with a dark green trim along the base. Dee chose an aged white colour for the upper area and for the lower trim she picked the Resene colour ‘Morning Glory’ (a pastel aqua blue).
To compliment the caravan’s cheerful appearance, (and to cover some minor imperfections) bright, colourful flower decals were added. Dee spent hours strategically placing them to create a contour of gentle swirls. A few have been placed around inside and even the towing vehicle has been included, it too has some flower decals.
Being a 1976 caravan, Dee wanted to stay with colours from that decade. Green, gold, orange and yellow were popular colours of the 70s. Dee decided on turquoise. She chose the curtain fabric first, then matched everything else to that colour, give or take a few shades.
Although it doesn’t look like it, the interior paint is actually ten times lighter than the exterior. When Dee was trying to find the right shade of paint for the interior, she began with ‘Morning Glory’ and kept lightening it. Eventually, with the help of Resene, the right shade was created. That particular shade had never been made before, and therefore didn’t have a name. Dee had the privilege of naming the shade ‘Dora’s Delight’.
Fortunately the ceiling and walls were in excellent condition, so were kept original. For the flooring Dee chose black and white tiles which she bought from Mitre 10, ‘’A bargain for $35’.
Dee has done everything herself. She’s sewn curtains, designed and created an awning, crocheted blankets and cushions, made cushions from scrap material, scrubbed, sanded and painted. She even removed all 30 hinges and gave them a clean up, painted them and then reused them.
Anything Dee was unsure of doing she researched and taught herself how. ‘The web site ‘Pinterest’ offered all kinds of ideas and inspirations’. When it came to electrics, gas and plumbing Dee got professionals to help.
After seven months of hard work ‘Dora’ was transformed. She looked like a prop from an enchanted fairy tale scene. And incase you’re wondering if this charming caravan is self-contained…the answer is yes. Hidden away, beneath one of the dining seats is a portable cassette. Plus all requirements necessary for self-containment certification have been meet.
When traveling Dee usually goes two days without being plugged into power and then stays at a campground for a night to use power. Her fridge, which is the original, is cooled down using frozen water bottles. After two days freshening up using a flannel and warm water, Dee looks forward to a long shower at a campground.
Now, fast forward to 2017 and Dee has been traveling and exploring the South Island in Dora for just under a month. The adorable Dora is easily towed by a 2L Rav4 - Dee is mindful of what she carries to keep the weight at a minimum.
Unloaded the caravan weighs 400kgs and anything that isn’t useful isn’t included. However there are a few special exceptions … such as some of her grandchildren’s artwork, a favourite cranberry-red cushion and a treasured framed fabric painting gifted to her by the B.O.T (Board of Trustees) when she left Central Takaka School.
This special little caravan is full of treasures on the inside and a visual treat to come across. Wherever Dee and Dora go, they leave a sparkle in their wake. You can’t help but smile when you see them.
Dee always had a dream to own a caravan and go camping before she turned 70. And she is now living her dream. Dee turns 70 later this year. She is proof that age and gender are no barriers to achieving your goals!