Saturday, January 7, 2017

Erwin Hymer Caravan Museum

While we driving from Friedrichshafen to Bamburg in Germany we saw a flyer for the Erwin Hymer Caravan museum in Bad Wadsee. Hymer are a caravan company and their factory a little way from the museum. As Bad Wadsee was on our route and we had a long driving day ahead, we decided to pop into their museum to have a look and break up the journey. We were glad we did. This is an excellent museum housed in an amazingly ultra-modern building.

The displays were very well done and focused on the evolution of German caravans from the 1930s to 1970s. There was lots of information and context provided about caravans, vehicles and social context. Moreover, the museum was actually fun and captured some of the sense of fun and adventure of a caravan holiday 'back in the day.' What we had expected to be a half hour diversion turned into a two hour visit. A well recommended stop in southern Germany. Erwin Hymer Museum is located at Robert-Bosch-Str. 7, 88339 Bad Waldsee

For details see their website:

The first German caravan was a home built affair made by Arist Dethleffs in 1931. Dethleffs was traveling in Germany for work and decided he wanted an alternative to staying in hotels. He built this little plywood, folding roof caravan that he could tow behind his car. Soon friends were asking him to build a caravan for them.

1939 Dethleff Tourist was an improved version of his first caravan. It was homebuilt and plywood. The extendable roof is an interesting feature that lowered the van's profile when being towed but allowed passengers to stand up inside them when in use. Cloth screens would have covered the gap.

Dethleffs interior

A Czech Praga Piccolo with the Dethleffs Tourist.

1929 Opel P4. This conventional car was pitched at the budget car but was actually well beyond the resources of most people.

For a small car, the Opel is carrying a heavy burden in the Sportsberger Karawane. Streamlining was a critical feature of the early caravans.

Although caravaning originated in the 1930s it would only really take off with the advent of a people's car that bought affordable motoring to the masses.

The topside view of the Sportsberger G2 highlights how small it is. It really was little more than a double bed on wheels with storage, but caravans like this gave Germans mobility in the post-war world.

1938 Opel Kadett and Schweikert Kleiner Strolch

1939 DKW F8 with a Hirth Tramp

The Hirth is quite a large caravan for the DKW's 700cc two-stroke engine. Despite their size these caravans were very lightweight. Hirth also had experience with aircraft engineering.

Sportsberger folding tent. I can remember seeing similar caravans in Australia as a kid. It's doubtful many would be left these days.

1953 Sportsbergen Land Yacht. Not a particularly practical caravan but certainly striking.

1953 Deftleft's Globetrotter

1953 Mercedes-Benz 220B cabriolet

1956 Mikafa Student Special

Zundapp Janus

Not only did the passengers sit back to back, the seats could be folded down to create a flat bed for the passengers.

1961 Dethleffs Nomad

Nomad interior

Borgward Isabella Coupe

1956 Westfalia Camping 2. In the 1950s plastics and fibreglass began to appear in caravan construction.

1954 Schollmeyer and Mahler Wittener caravan

The Schollmeyer made a great use of very small space. The caravan was not very wide and the top section retracted into the bottom half to lower its profile.


1967 Goggomobil T250

1956 Elektro Stahlbau Piccolo. A caravan specially made for the microcars popular at the time.

Fiat 500 and a Laika caravan. The Laika was a lightweigh, fibreglass, folding caravan that was specially designed for the Fiat 500. To reduce its top weight the upper section of the caravan slid down over the bottom half so that it was no higher than the Fiat's roofline.

1959 Mikafa Reisenmobil Deluxe. Mikafa didn't only built caravan but also mobile homes like this luxury model. The vehicle was powered by a BMW V8 engine.

1961 Hymer Caravano 3 camping bus. It was based on a Borgward rolling chassis.

1961 Knaus Schwalbennest 'baby' caravan

A very art-deco styled home built caravan from the 1960s

1959 Opel Rekord P1

1970 Wurdig 301 caravan from East Germany

1982 Trabant with a Muller rooftop folding tent. This was certainly a novel solution to camping challenge.

A MZ motorcycle and trailer

French Renault Dauphine

Ford Taunus

Mercedes-Benz ponton

A replica of the second model Dethleffs caravan shows its construction.

What you need when you have an amphibious car is an amphibious caravan

Scandinavian fibreglass bodied amphibious caravan

1959 Edsel Ranger towing an Airstream

View from the ground floor

The museum is very interactive with lots of fun things for the whole family.

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