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Propert 'Trailaway' touring caravan, a unique example built by the company in 1956 for advertising purposes

Object type

Object number

Propert 'Trailaway' three-berth touring caravan. The body of the caravan has a wooden frame clad in screwed-on pink-painted aluminium sheets and half-round wooden edging, which covers the joins between them. A dolly wheel is fitted to the A-frame at the front of the caravan and even the towing hitch and brake-assist mechanism are painted pink. The body is mounted on a steel chassis, and it has a single leaf-sprung beam axle fitted with white steel wheels and aluminium hubcaps. Decorative, painted white, grey, and pale lime green stripes are staggered along the side, and the interior is painted cream. Rectangular perspex windows with rubber seals are fitted into the front and back of the caravan. They have pelmets on the inside, which conceal grey roll-up holland blinds. A perspex 'porthole' window is fitted into the top half of the door, which is in the passenger side of the caravan near the front. There are three other rectangular glass windows that can be opened to varying degrees using a hinge-out pegged-arm latch, and they are fitted with copper mesh flyscreens. Two are in the driver's side and one is in the passenger side near the back of the caravan. Mexican-inspired cactus-patterned yellow, orange, red, green, blue, black and grey cotton cloth curtains cover the windows, and they are attached top and bottom on sprung metal wires that run through the hems. The floor covering is two-tone fawn linoleum in a rectangular geometric pattern, with small blocks of red, blue, green and black. The air vent in the roof is hinged and a flyscreen is fitted to the ceiling. The caravan is wired to connect to 240-volt mains power, and it has two fluorescent lights; two dome ceiling lights, one wall light with a cylindrical bubble-textured clear plastic shade; and two bulbs, both fitted with parchment shades that have braid trim. One of them is cream and the other is red. The kitchen area is on the driver's side of the caravan and a Maxco Industries two-burner stove sits on top of the kitchen bench. A hose runs from the stove to the cupboard under the sink where there is a fitting for an LPG cylinder. A square flat metal water tank is attached to the wall behind the sink and draining area, which are made from cream moulded plastic, and there are two cupboards above it. The back end of the kitchen bench between the sink draining area and the back wall of the caravan is covered with cream tilux. The bench under the stove and the splashback to it are laminated plastic in imitation of black marble. Below the sink there are three kitchen cupboards, a cutlery drawer, and a small bread cupboard with lift down front. The framework of the kitchen cupboards and drawers are painted cream. The plywood cupboard doors and drawer-fronts have brown wood veneer facings and red plastic handles with chrome insets. Opposite the kitchen area is a tall clothes cupboard with a mirror on the outside of the door. Aft of the stove and the clothes cupboard are two fold-down tables with red mottled laminated tops. Along the curved front wall of the caravan is a fixed bench seat/bed with a mattress that is covered with vinyl printed in a design of abstract shapes in black, red and white, on a red background. Its backrest is padded in finely-mottled red and black vinyl and it is attached to the wall with red upholstery buttons. In the back of the caravan there are two other mattresses that are covered in the same material. The daytime position for them is along the opposing side walls on fixed wooden bases. A three-part wooden panel folds out to cover the gap between them and it supports the two mattresses which need to be swung around ninety degrees so they cross the width of the caravan to create a double bed.

Thomas Propert (1889-1969) founded the Propert Body Building Works in Sydney in 1910. For twenty years the company built car bodies for imported chassis but, partly in response to the economic downturn and changes to the car assembly industry, it moved into caravan building in the 1930s. The National Museum's pink Propert was neither a production-line model nor a prototype. It was a one-off built for advertising purposes.

Collection name
Thomas Propert collection

Collection statement of significance
The Thomas Propert collection comprises a pink wooden-framed, aluminium-sheeted, Propert “Trailaway” caravan. Built in 1956 by Thomas Propert (1889-1969), founder of the Propert Body Building Works, Sydney, in1910, the three-berth touring caravan is neither a production-line model, nor a prototype, but a one-off built for advertising purposes.

In Australia, the 1950s ushered in the end of petrol rationing, and post-World War II prosperity led to increased car ownership and leisure time. Motoring and caravanning holidays became popular in this period as an economical alternative to expensive rail travel and hotel accommodation. Keen competition between caravan manufacturers led to sleeker models with sophisticated interiors, boasting modern conveniences such as gas and electric refrigerators and ovens and electric lighting. Though new, locally manufactured Holdens were able to tow large caravans, the compact Propert caravan was designed to fill a niche in the new caravan market, by enabling towing by less powerful, but more affordable English and European sedans. The van’s fittings, which reflect contemporary trends in 1950s interior design, include geometrically patterned linoleum, aluminium cookware, laminex bench tops, vinyl furniture coverings, Mexican-patterned curtains and red, black and cream internal décor.

The Propert Co

Mr Thomas A. Propert

Place made
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Date made

Period of use
1956 - 1960

Aluminium, Wood, Steel, Linoleum, Cotton cloth, Glass, Perspex, Vinyl, Plastic - non specific, Rubber

Length: 4460mm
Width: 1850mm
Height: 2310mm
Weight: 600kg

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