A Prestige name all to short-lived according to Andrew Jenkinson (Classic Caravans circa 1982)
Royale Precision Coachbuilding provokes images of craftsman built vehicles for which time and money matters very little in a world where quality is a watchword.
The Royale caravan lived up to its name being very traditional in its design and build. The top end of the clubman market marked Royales aspirations bordering into Carlights super luxury caravan status.
Royales background was impeccable; the team responsible for starting the company came from the highly respected Safari caravans.
The Royale story started back in November 1968 when Gwyn Jenkins left Safari reportedly through ill health. It was also rumoured that Mr Jenkins had plans to build touring caravans, but this was denied at the time. Just short of twelve months later in 1969, Royale Precision Coachbuilding evolved. The new company was formed by a trio of ex Safari personnel, Gwyn Jenkins, Harold Woodward and John Fudge who found a suitable factory unit in Upton Street, Gloucester. Here they built their first prototype in the summer of 1969. This was a 12’ 6” two berth selling at around the £750 mark. It had distinctive looks and used glass fibre for its lantern roof and both ends of the van. Wheel arches and spats and drawbar casing were also finished in glass fibre. The insulation materials used on Royales was double laced foil while most makers used glass fibre matting.
The chassis Royales were built on was a B&B heavy duty design which came along with a chrome plated jockey wheel.
Royales first production caravan was the T125, it featured a typical end kitchen, two berth layout, but the Royales design differed by having two exit doors, the second being on the offside allowing access via the toilet compartment. In summer, both doors could be left open creating a corridor effect which allowed through ventilation. Slated bed lockers are now used on today’s caravans to reduce damp, but Royale used slats back in 1969. Again, pull out slats to make the double bed up was another idea Royales used all those years ago. A side locker for storing the gas bottles and another for storage of an awning were provided with an exterior lockable door.
These features were all part of Royales aim to make their vans more practical to the discerning clubman. The Royales profile was changed very little over the companies 14 year history, a testimony to Royales designers.
In Royales first model year of 1970, two further models were introduced – both named 1475. These were 14’ 9” caravans in two / four berth configurations
(T1475 was the two berth and F1475 was the four berth). The two berth was later to become the long running Touranger.
It was about this time that the British Caravan Road Rally was at its peek and the major caravan connected companies entered or sponsored events. Caravans were towed at high speed on all road conditions, then a Concours d’Elegance was held at the end. Royale entered with a T1475 which was towed by a Volvo 164, Roy Wightman was the driver; he came away with a Class A victory in the Concours which was proof that Royales were durable quality vans. For such a new mark, this was a prestigious award; it was now obvious that Royale would become a leader in luxury caravans.
By 1971, Royal had achieved a loyal following and in April of that year an inaugural meeting of The Royale Owners Club was held, 37 years later the club is still in existence with roughly 50 members.
The Earls Court show in 1971 was set to show to the public, Royals latest offerings but at the last minute the stand was cancelled. This was due to one of the Directors being taken ill, this meant that the 1972 Super Clubman ranges wouldn’t be shown, but one of the dealers at the show had one for use as an office, this gave Royale some sales and did not adversely effect the company. All the Royales were now classed as the Super Clubman, it was again at Earls Court that Royale launched the 1974 two berth Touranger, incidentally this was the start of giving new models names instead of numbers for easier classification.
The new Touranger was 14’ 9” of touring caravan luxury with a large toilet compartment, fitted with a folding wash basin and shower unit. A hot water system was also part of the spec along with an onboard water tank which came with a heavy duty water pump.. to complete the van a battery came supplied with a mains charger unit.
Prices of Royale Caravans had doubled by the end, of course, extra equipment compensated for this. With high inflation and introduction of VAT in 1973 the industry was hard hit. Many manufacturers introduced budget models to help falling sales. Royale were no exception and a lower priced range called the Windsor was introduced in July 1975. They were made at Beverly near Hull, but that’s another Classic story in itself.