Frank Heppell with his retro-style caravan he is building at the Grafton U3A Men’s Shed.
Frank Heppell with his retro-style caravan he is building at the Grafton U3A Men’s Shed. JoJo Newby

Frank's time capsule

AFTER spotting the 50s style caravan featured in our Weekend section last Saturday, retired carpenter and Men's Shed stalwart Frank Heppell was keen to reveal his "secret" project - a hand-crafted version of a similar classic-shaped plywood van.

Now in its finishing stages, the compact nine-footer, painted cream with a racing red stripe to come, Frank's future holiday home is as much a work of art as it is a practical form of accommodation.

Frank spent his younger years 'growing-up' in caravans with his four other siblings, thanks to his parents' love of the mobile home. "It's the way to live," Frank says.

"My dad built five different vans, the one I'm building is a replica of the one he built in 1960," he said.

Frank started working on the van in October last year after looking for a project of his own to keep him busy at the Men's Shed in Grafton.

After already having devoted about 500 hours to crafting the egg-shaped getaway vehicle, he estimates the project has so far cost him around $3700 in materials which includes quality pieces like marine ply and paint, and imported internal lining from Japan.

All the plans and speci- fications were hand-drawn and conjured up by Frank (including the chassis), who used an old photograph of his dad's van and his many years of travelling experience as a youngster to create his custom design.

Everything he requires can be found in the few cubic metres inside, including a kitchen, bed, eating area, and all the storage he needs.

It's definitely a case of "a place for everything and everything in its place" for Frank, a tour of the interior revealing no detail has been left to chance.

Besides a little help from his shed mates over the course of construction, Frank's van has basically been a one-man-show, to create the ultimate one-man retreat.

Once the project is finished, "hopefully just after Easter", Frank plans on heading to the South Coast to fish, look around the towns and villages, and enjoy the great outdoors.

He has christened the van "Iowna" for obvious reasons and says he decided to build the van as a special tribute to his mum Edna and dad Cecil, who introduced him to his love of caravanning.

Who needs a fancy 40-foot Winnebago when you can have a frugal 'Frankmobile' like this?



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