Cooking up a treat in a converted Carlight caravan

The Flying Ducks was made out of a 1964 Carlight Casetta
The Flying Ducks was made out of a 1964 Carlight Casetta

Friday, 30, Sep 2011 11:30

by Chris Jefferies

From Aistreams to Sprites, classic caravans have often been made into stylish catering vehicles, but this particular project has had an extra helping of vintage class.

The Flying Ducks was the impulsive idea of catering manager Ruth Tidd, after she stumbled across a 1964 Carlight Casetta while browsing eBay with her sister-in-law Susan last year.

For the bargain price of £400, the ladies snapped up this retro 'van and Ruth even sold her house to finance the 12-month restoration project, which was carried out by St Georges Garage in Camberley.

A labour of love

After getting in touch with Carlight, Ruth immediately became aware of the venerable legacy that her caravan was part of, so she was eager to do the job properly.

"Despite the age of it, the chassis and floors were really sturdy," she said. "We carefully removed the interior parts and sold them on eBay for as much as the original caravan cost me."

This was by no means a cheap restoration job though; as Ruth estimates that the whole project cost her around £40,000 in total.

Since its completion, the Flying Ducks has gone down a storm, with Ruth and Susan taking it on a breathless tour of the UK this summer, including stop-offs at Hampton Court, London's Southbank and Jimmy's Harvest Festival in Suffolk, where it was short-listed for the British Street Food Awards.

Upcoming events for the girls include The Lord Mayor's Show in London and Broadstairs Food Festival this weekend, while many organisers are already asking them to come back next year.

In at the deep end

Despite the fact that her business relies on caravanning, Ruth admits that she had precious little experience before this year, with only a few family caravan holidays under her belt.

Since the beginning of the year, she has taken to towing with gusto, trading in her Toyota Yaris for a Hyundai SantaFe. "I'd never towed before, but I'm an expert now - I can even reverse," she said.

Such a gutsy towcar was called for as the heavy-duty cooking equipment has quite considerably upped the Carlight's MTPLM.

Inside the Flying Ducks, Ruth and Susan can call on a six-burner Calor gas oven and a super-size fridge to help with their tasty creations.

On the menu, punters can enjoy a range of gourmet treats, from fillet steak ciabatta, to handmade pies, and from hearty soups to their famous fish finger sandwiches with homemade tartare sauce.

Those partial to a tipple may be interesting in trying their Stumble Crumble, which includes rhubarb soaked in gin, or a glamorous cocktail.

Everything is served up on authentic 1950s china, and the ladies even dress up in period outfits to complete the retro look.

A baby duck on the way

Enthused by the success of her first 'van, Ruth told Caravan Times that she has already set her sights on expanding, with a second tourer purchased and earmarked for renovation.

"I've just a second little caravan, only six foot long, and it will be serving teas, coffees and cakes. I don't know the make or model, but it's a classic that needs some work. It was being used by a farmer as somewhere for his cat to sleep, so I offered to swap him a cat bed for a caravan, and he agreed" she said.

The only problem now is reigning in the desire to convert vintage caravans, as Ruth admits that before long there may not be any left for everyone else.

"It's ideal for the job, there's no engine to worry about and they really grab people's attention. I've had so many caravanners come up to me and ask about the 'van. It's just been snowballing, and by the looks of things, my feet won't touch the ground next year!"

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