Hi… Meet Tabbytha…

Tabbytha is a 1992 Tabbert Baronesse 660 caravan.

Tabbytha

This is Tabbytha at her recent inaugural outing in the New Forest

We bought Tabbytha in December 2009 and started to work on renovating her on the 28th December on what was to be a 4 week project – 2 months at the most.
Eight months later and she still isn’t finished, but we have managed to have a holiday in her!

Just hours before the start of our holiday in mid August, though, we were franticly working on her in order for her to be road legal.

We made it of course and Tabbytha proudly made her way down to the New Forest to give us our first holiday in her.

This is the story of Tabbytha, why we wanted her, what she was like when we bought her, and what we have done to her.
We have hundreds of photographs of her at each stage of her renovation to show how she became what she is today.

As we write her story so the site will change to include a blog, a forum and a photo gallery

Thank you for looking… please come back soon

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First Repair

Empty

The second day of the new year had arrived, we had broken up the seating yesterday, just keeping the ‘rock and roll” brackets and the lift brackets off the other seats, and first thing this morning we’d taken it to the recycling centre.

I’m not sure what it is about a recycling centre but we always


And Tidy

have to look and see what is in the ‘shop’ and today was a good day for us – 3 brand new lengths of worktop still wrapped, the big question was would it’s colour match with everything else – well it was black granite and probably looked better than the bits of walnut we’d taken out and at a fiver a sheet we couldn’t lose

Locker Door Repair

I decided to do some repair work to the gas locker door – it had three cracks in it two major and one small one. With hindsight I made two mistakes – the first one, it was January – it was absolutely freezing outside and I had decided to work out there in the freezing cold. The second mistake I was using glass fibre – I didn’t

Gas Locker Door Repair

take into account that it was a ABS door! That last part was a shame really as I reckoned I did a reasonable job of applying the patches in freezing conditions.

Those of you that don’t know about ABS, it is one of those plastics that can be difficult to repair with some people saying that it

One Of The Cracks Outside

can only be successfully repaired using sonic welding, the picture on the right shows the extent of one of the cracks outside – the black splodges are dirt, I really think that we should get this caravan washed :lol:

Anyway I can say that the glass fibre repair worked, everything held together perfectly after it all hardened and all I had to do now was to trim the edges and generally clean it up – a job for tomorrow.

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A Happy New Year

So here we were on the 1st of January 2010 back working on the van

What We Had Left

As you can see from the pictures very little was left, we had decided to get rid of the cooker and our thoughts were the same for the seating as well, although it could have been recovered it wasn’t really going to fit in with our plan, but I was going to salvage some of the mechanical bits for later use

Everything Stored Under The Bed

Much of the stuff we had removed and thought we might need we stored under the bed – although we couldn’t get the bed base back down again :roll:

Getting everything out of the way gave us the chance of examining the caravan internally for bad bits and unfortunately there were one or two, the

Hole In The Floor

wallboard below the EHU socket was decidedly wet and spongy as was the wallboard below the fridge vent, and we also found this hole on the right – actually it wasn’t this big when I found it but by the time I’d been prodding it for a while it didn’t ‘arf grow :lol:

Was the caravan full of ‘damp’ – well no the caravan was quite dry actually – the odd bit of condensation on the


Basking In The Sun

windows in the morning which was to be expected seeing the inside of the van was a lot warmer than the outside… and talking of the outside she certainly knew how to present herself in the low winter sunlight of a January afternoon.

Who could not want a caravan like this – even if she did have one or two blemishes – she was still very striking

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The Nesters

In the old wild west of America, Nesters was the name given to squatters, homesteaders, or farmers who settled in cattle-grazing territory, fencing off the open grazing land of the ranchers and creating another range war to be eventually settled by the blazing guns of that all American hero John Wayne… well that’s that’s how I remember it anyway :D

The Fireplace and Seating

So what has that to do with this story? Be patient, all will be revealed shortly ;) The next day we were back at the van removing more doors more panels and 2 mirrors without breaking either – and I, at least, was relieved about that – both were stuck on with double sided tape which stuck quite well, we used a combination of a bread knife, a saw and the tip of my finger pressure underneath the mirror edges.

Removing the Parquet Blocks

The toilet floor had been fitted with parquet blocks, different I suppose but they had to come up and they did, right after we got the toilet walls down. The next job on the agenda was the removal of the “fireplace” and display cabinet (although we had none of the doors for it), we removed it from the bottom upwards – the problem with caravans is that they are built from the inside outwards which means the ceiling is stapled to the top of the furniture – so removing the bottom first was the easy option and it worked, once we had got the bottom out the way it was just a case of unscrewing the top part and prying it from the ceiling, except I was greeted with a cry of

We Have Nesters

“you’re pulling the ceiling down” I wasn’t but what was left when the cabinet came down was the object pictured on the left: a wasps nest, fortunately although there were some wasps in it they were all dead, they had obviously got in through the open Truma exhaust vent and made their home between the ceiling and the top of the cabinet. Well had it been a live nest I think we may have had a problem, but it wasn’t and so we carefully removed the nest and kept it.

Scorch Marks on the Wall

One of the things that did concern me was the scorch mark running up the wall that you can see in the picture on the right: it’s the thick curvy line that you can see, it actually carries on up the wall to the exit point throough the roof badly scorching the plastic trim as you can see in the next picture.

Burnt Plastic

The wall has actually been coated in this picture and was taken at a later time, but the plastic ceiling trim had not been replaced but it clearly shows a very overheated bit of plastic that when removed was very brittle, I wonder just how this happened, whether it was a faulty fire or whether it was a normal occurrence for these fires, however either way there wasn’t a Truma going back into the caravan as firstly they took up too much room and secondly I no longer trusted them

Removing the Seating

Having removed the Nesters we moved on to taking the seating out, again I still hadn’t made up my mind what to do with it but the covering was in very bad condition so at the very least we would have to re-cover it. Some of it was still covered in protective plastic.

It was while removing the seating that we found some evidence of the original owners, photographs and calendar pages and a few cards from a happy families pack – all in French so it was looking as though our Tabbert first started life in France – perhaps we would find out more…

The Ceiling Board Pattern

We took a picture of the ceiling board pattern, as we thought we may have to source some at some stage to fill in where we were removing something from like a rooflight for example.

Doors

Finally we had this load of doors to find a home for on a temporary basis, each had to be rubbed down, repaired if required and then coated – either stain and varnish or a wax stain – we hadn’t yet decided. Then there was all the stuff we didn’t require that had to go to the tip sorry recycling centre, well the doors would go home tonight, the tip run(s) would happen tomorrow as the last job of the year, Thursday, New Years Eve, was going to be spent partying – see you in 2010

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The Plan

Well the 26th arrived and although I was itching to see the caravan in the flesh it wasn’t until the next day that I looked at it, yes it was in a bit of a mess but it didn’t really matter as everything would be coming out anyway for the rebuild. The important thing was that the actual shell was sound and would contain the new design without problems.

The plan was quite simple really, we wanted a fixed bed in a closed off bedroom, also fixed bunks for the girls in their own closed off area, a toilet with a separate shower, a kitchen where the cook wasn’t disturbed by people coming in and  out of the van, a seating area, a decent hanging wardrobe and storage space (everything had to have a home), as I said simple really…

Having examined everything and made notes we retired to B&Q to buy some new screwdrivers (these were to be “caravan screwdrivers”) and a box to put them in. We didn’t know it at the time but B&Q was going to become the supply station for most of our wants, we also had Wickes, Focus and various other builders merchants to choose from, so we should be able to get exactly what we wanted (hmmm… no comment!)

Removed Doors

The next day saw us working on the caravan, very much like kids in a sweetshop – so much to do we didn’t know where to start first, but we implemented one thing – our bedroom was to be left – it wasn’t perfect but it was usable and we could close it off from the remainder of the van so we could leave it until the following year to renovate it and concentrate on getting the living area renovated in the 4 weeks or so I had allowed.


Kitchen and Wardrobe Removed

So we spent the day getting busy with screwdrivers and battery drills fitted with screwdriver bits removing doors, units and appliances – well there were only 2 – at the end of the day we were left with a caravan that looked like a bit of a bombsite.

We had removed most of the doors and the kitchen units and wardrobe and had managed to get the plastic bathroom cabinet out – it had no doors so we wouldn’t be re-using it, we had also found that the aerial pole seen in the


The Now Empty Toilet/Shower Room

picture above was not capped and rain water had been running down through the centre of it. Also the rooflight cover had come off at some stage, I’d screwed a temporary cover over it but the water was dripping off the screws where it had made it’s way down the thread through the cover – a very good demonstration of why a sealant is needed with screws.


The Cooker Awaiting It's Fate

We had taken a lot of stuff out so far, some we would re-use while other bits would end up being scrapped, it would definitely be goodbye to the Calor heater but we weren’t sure yet if we’d be keeping the cooker – I wasn’t sure if it was a natural gas or LPG plus it was a bit on the grubby side, at the moment it would stay, but who knows what tomorrow would bring.

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Wohnwagen u. Wohnmobil Tür

So we’d paid the deposit – the balance due when we picked it up on the 26th December,  now all we had to do was to find bits and pieces for it and somewhere to store it, that may be our biggest problem as we need to work on the van – most storage sites didn’t like you working on your van and it was a tad too big for our drive. So I thought it best to let the OH sort somewhere to store it (bear in mind that I wasn’t at home) while I got busy finding the stuff that I knew we needed – first off was security – we had no key for the door and we wanted a hitch lock at the very least, so off I went to the place that I knew all these things were going to be – good ol’ eBay – to source our needs.

I’m not sure how many of you use or are familiar with eBay, but I know many people are wary of it, in many cases not without good cause, but once you get used to how it works and what to look for in sellers and their adverts then it becomes easier to use it. With a new project on the go I suppose the first thing was to set up a load of searches, where eBay will send you a daily email of all the latest listings for a particular product, This I did, the first ones were for Al-Ko, because the hitch was a early Al-Ko, a search showed a large number of these and in among them were a couple of hitch locks for the 2000. The first one I missed (too slow on the button) the second was a buy-it-now so I bought it, but it was pick up only – why people insist on selling something that is easily post-able as a local pick up is beyond me as just adding postage can double the price you can get for an item, Anyway the hitch lock was up the other end of the country… but my mate was visiting his mum for Christmas in the same town so I could get him to pick it up – except when I asked him it turned out that he’d changed his plans and wasn’t going now but he rang his mum and she picked it up and sent it down for me – all it cost was £10 and a trip to the post office – why couldn’t the seller have done that?.

The door wasn’t so easy though, I set up a eBay search for a Tabbert door and got nothing, I even tried the breakers as well, one of my favourites is The Caravan Centre in Blaenavon in Wales and although they had loads of doors none of them would have fit the Tabbert.

It was a couple of days later that J (my OH) rang to say that she had found one – where? – on eBay, not our eBay but German eBay. I looked up the number she gave me and sure enough it was a door under the heading “Wohnwagen u. Wohnmobil Tür” (Caravan and Camper Door) with the following pictures:

New Door Outside

New Door Inside

So in my best google translated German I asked the seller if it would fit our Tabbert and would he be prepared to ship to the UK should I win it and sat back to wait, the listing finished on the 21st and today was the 15th so 6 days to go.

During this time J had found storage where they were happy for us to work on the caravan and not that far from where the caravan was at the moment either, she had been visiting the caravan from time to time and was starting to get concerned that it was getting damaged by horses, so we decided to move it into our new storage as soon as possible rather than wait until after Christmas. The guy we bought it off said that he could move it for us, so we paid up the balance and the caravan was moved – in the snow – yep it was moved into our storage in deepish snow, first part of the journey was done behind a transit until it lost traction, the remainder was behind a Pajero 4×4.

Monday 21st December

The day had arrived – tonight I was determined to win our new caravan door, I left my bid to the last minute, put it in and won the door, now all I had to do was get it – well get it sent to me but first I had to pay for it – via EU Bank Transfer. Now I’m not sure how many of you have done this method of payment in theory it’s simple you just enter the other persons bank details, the amount you want to transfer and it’s done…

Except my bank wouldn’t let me do it on line – I had to call into my local branch, and that’s where the problems started. I told the cashier that I wanted to do an EU Bank Transfer – she gave me a blank look, so I told her what it was, she consulted the other cashier and the manager before coming back with a form – a big form.

In order to do an EU Bank Transfer you need what is known as a Account IBAN and a BIC/SWIFT code, and the amount. The IBAN contains the bank name, the sort code and the account and the BIC/SWIFT contains additional bank details – anyway that’s all you need…

Except my bank “Where is the branch you are sending to?” I didn’t have a clue – “it’s in the IBAN” “Oh OK “  She put the IBAN, the BIC/SWIFT code in and the amount, it wouldn’t go through, I had an idea – I told her to put in the town the company was in – can’t remember the town now but I remember it had the German character ß in it which she entered as a B I told her it wasn’t a B, if she couldn’t find the proper character then put in ss instead (which is what it represents) “Alright she said” and sent it with a B “arrrrrrggggh” “Ooh it went that time” she said. I had no idea if it was going to the right bank or not but it was on it’s way.

I wanted to get a email off to the company to tell them the money was on it’s way and if there was any problem to let me know etc. The company was closed from the 23rd and it was the 22nd today so I needed to catch them before they started on the schnapps or whatever they do for their Christmas and anyway the transfer would take 3 days to go through. With that done all I could do now was wait – they weren’t back until the 6th January and would send the door out after that.

For me it was a case of finishing my work off for the Christmas break and getting ready for the day itself – except the day in question this year would be the 26th :D

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In the cold light of day

Well after agreeing a price and shaking electronic hands on the deal the thoughts of “what have I done” began to appear, as they are want to do on these occasions of course, but the feeling wasn’t helped later that night as I looked at the photos which my OH had taken of the van:

Scratched and worn

Scratched and worn

Many of the doors were in this state, some were broken others were broken and badly repaired

Kitchen and Wardrobe

Both the kitchen doors and the bottom wardrobe door were broken, bits and pieces of the furniture were missing as well, and the cutlery drawer when opened fell off

The drawer fell off

A hole had been hacked out of the worktop to fit the cooker

The cooker

A Calor potable heater had been installed?

The heating

This was in place of the Truma or Carver blown heating and fire. Pipes were sticking through the floor where appliances had been removed

Terminated gas pipework

And wires had been cut and left hanging

Cut wires

Then came the entrance door

Bottom door inside

The bottom of it was carpet coated shuttering ply and the top

Top door inside

wasn’t much better – neither was the outside of it

Outside of door

And while we are on the outside


Nearside rear corner

Lenses were missing off the lights and the trim was coming out

EHU point

Covers were missing or damaged

Gas box door vent

and windows were broken

Broken rear window

In fact only the horse and trap stopped it from leaking water.

And then there was the rear corner damage

Damaged rear corner

Which really looks bad here but in real life…

Well I hadn’t seen it in the flesh but my OH had and her main concern was the damage to the back corner, which didn’t really worry me at all. With hindsight it all looked bad but something was saying we should buy it, there was something there that we wanted, something that was drawing us to this Tabbert.

Two days later we paid the deposit

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A Baronesse

We found a Tabbert Baronesse on eBay just before Christmas 2009, it was described as a shed or children’s  play den and came with a set of pictures:

Our first view

Well at first glance it didn’t look bad so…

Inside view of the seating

The seating could do with recovering

The Seating Area

Well I suppose that could be an improvement, how about the kitchen?

The existing Kitchen

Could be something there, a wardrobe next to it and then a bedroom

The Double ^Fixed^ Bed

Ahh… a fixed double bed – well frame anyway – but we were promised there was a mattress being stored in the dry

But the bathroom…

Wash Room

Was empty and there was some damage…

The Lighting Damage

To one corner where someone had reversed it into a tree.

But the best bit was that it was close to home, in fact only about 5 miles away. OK so it wasn’t perfect but there was something there, enough to warrant a look at least, but I was working away until Christmas so I couldn’t see it in the flesh… But my OH could, so I duly sent an email to the seller asking for a viewing, a day and time was arranged and the OH, armed with camera and a friend went to see it.

I rang her while she was there and we talked about it, she had some reservation about the damaged lighting, I was quite happy it could be fixed easily we discussed worth together and then I talked to the buyer and we discussed price, we eventually agreed on a figure to be paid half as a deposit and the remainder on pick-up on Boxing Day and that is how we came to buy a van without me seeing it in the flesh!

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The Beginning

The beginning started in our old van, a 15′ (that’s just under 5 metres) Compass from the 80s. I think it was a combination of a number of things, it was a 4 berth although the bunk was too light to be usable so the girls either camped out in the awning or a tent. The bed for us was made up from the seating every night and stripped every morning and became a pain – both to do and in the back as the cushions got thinner and we never did work out how the cushions were designed to make up into a bed properly.

Don’t get me wrong it did it’s job giving us holidays to remember away from the bustle of home and everyone enjoyed it, but we were never really satisfied with what we had. Of course eventually we were spending more and more of our time on dealer forecourts looking at layouts.

We knew what we wanted, a fixed double with bunks or singles for the girls – both teenagers. The first thing we found was that the size of fixed doubles were short to say the least and then there was that chopped off piece, not so bad on an island but massive on a side fitted bed and if you had the latter someone had to be climbed over at bed time (or in the middle of the night), and then there was the cost of a replacement van.

We had our last holiday for 2009 in Wales for the October half term and by then we were getting concerned about a couple of things with the Compass, one was the fact that it seem to have a permanent list and, on the same side, the wall was completely damp behind the kitchen units (probably due to badly sealed fridge vents and water inlet). I think it was then we really decided that it was time to get another van.

From November on we spent many hours looking for the van of our dreams – fixed beds – two singles or bunks – separate shower – toilet & washroom – seating and of course cooking facilities… at a price we could afford. Yes that would be the clincher, we had to be able to afford it, we didn’t want to be tied up with HP or loans, it had to ours from the beginning.

One of the first vans to go on the short list were Stirlings, they had part of what we wanted, then we found a Tec Travel King with a layout that did suit us but the price was just out of our reach. We looked at LMC as well and almost bought one, we had been going back to it night after night on eBay until eventually I put a last minute bid in for it – I can say now that fortunately I was out bid – but only just.

Then we discovered ebay.de – German eBay – and spent hours together giggling at the google translated descriptions, there were some nice vans on there though at reasonable prices but at great distances from us.

It was on the German eBay that we first saw a Tabbert in what we now know as the “Classic” design and it was in this country that we found the one we were to buy.

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