Camping: Meet Nicole & her retro caravan called Jessie

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Last year, Nicole Kennon set about renovating ‘Jessie’, a 1970 Franklin Regent caravan. We thought her van was super cute and asked Nicole if we could take a peek inside her adorable adventure machine.

What prompted you to renovate a caravan?

Jessie is actually the second caravan I have renovated. About five years ago I went to my first music festival in Byron over Easter and it rained (as it often does). I was in a tent and the rain and the mud were just horrendous. From that moment on I swore I would never do another festival in a tent again. Soon after that, I purchased my first caravan for $100 (it was about to go to the dump so I got it for a bargain). It was a York pop-up camper van and I gave it a very basic reno with new MDF walls, new cushions and some wallpaper on the cupboard doors. I hand painted the exterior bright pink with polka dots and named her ‘Priscilla Queen of the Festivals’.

That van lasted almost five years and we travelled to many festivals during that time. When I sold Priscilla, I knew I wanted to find another vintage van to renovate and so the search was on. I purchased my 1970 Franklin Regent in April 2018. Luckily she had good bones so I didn’t need to do much to her structurally, but she looked a bit tired and needed a big facelift inside and out.

Over the next nine months (with the help of my amazing mum) I cut to size and re-sheeted every wall, removed, cleaned, polished and resealed every window, painted the interior, installed new cupboard doors, wallpapered the ceiling (yep you heard right, definitely a two-lady job but it looks awesome!), installed the flooring and a splashback in the kitchen, prepped and painted the exterior and then sealed up every hole I could find to make sure she was watertight. The final item I installed was my own private wine cellar, as what is camping without a good red to drink at night? I named the van Jessie after my Mum, as I wouldn’t have been able to do this project without her.


Did you know what to do before you started?

I completed 95% of the renovations on my own and I had to learn how to do everything. I invested in some power tools (no girl should be without them). I spent many hours online watching hundreds of other people doing renos just like mine and asking them “How did you do that?” I gathered ideas, collected screenshots of renos I loved, got advice from girlfriend’s husbands and joined several Facebook groups and online vintage caravan forums to arm myself with as much information and education that I could. The only thing I wasn’t able to complete myself was the electrical work, and I needed some assistance with painting the exterior (but I still had a go at this too!).

I surprised myself with just how much I was able to do on my own and the quality of the work for a first timer. I feel very proud of what I have done and think it’s made me fall in love with my caravan even more

What’s it like travelling in your own camper?

I love that I now have the freedom to grab my dog, jump in Jessie, and go see some of the beautiful places southeast Queensland has to offer. And the fact that I’m ‘glamping’ makes it so much better!

I’ve also discovered that camping is such a serene and beautiful way to travel. I recently stayed in a caravan park on the Brunswick Heads River and got talking to some of the other campers there. They told me they have been coming to the same caravan park at Easter for over 30 years, first as young adults themselves, then bringing their kids along, and now their grandkids too. It’s just awesome that this can still happen and the tradition can live on. 


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What advice would you give to someone keen on restoring their own van?

Expect a lot of hard work and don’t cut corners if you can. Check out what others have done and don’t be afraid to ask questions, most people are proud of their work and would love to share their knowledge with you. Do your homework, and get a professional to check it out first. Outsource the tricky stuff and then just do it!

Follow Jessie on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/jessiethevan

Words by: Nicole Kennon

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