Colin the Commer Camper was converted from new by English company Auto-Sleepers Ltd. Quite a few of them made their way to NZ, many succumbing to NZ’s harsh environment and rusting away. But Tony Greer, Colin’s owner, has made sure Colin won’t suffer that fate.
A History Lesson: Commer launched the forward control ¾ ton van range in 1960. It incorporated unitary construction and components sourced from across the Rootes group of companies. Commers were popular for motor caravan conversions, at the time campervanning was starting to experience a boom, iconic companies like Auto-sleeper, Dormoblie and Devon created what have become iconic campers.
Tony how did you end up with Colin?
It was by complete chance I happened to be looking on Trademe and saw Colin for sale, owned previously by Geeb who was a modern day hippy renovating her house and could no longer afford the commitment and also with no garaging could see Colin was going to deteriorate quickly left outside.
He was not too bad, although rust was appearing, interior and exterior were very tired.
The start of my restoration began with the panel and paint, at the time I had a restoration panel beater who was happy to work on him bit by bit over two years. He removed all rust, re-profiled the contours at the bottom of the doors (passenger & drivers) out of steel, cut out the old ones and re-welded them back in. After two years Colin was ready for paint, although the factory paint was original in cream/white we decided to add some character with the light blue two tone which we had specifically mixed to get just the right shade, from there we vinyl wrapped the bumpers in chrome, added a pinstripe for the finishing touch.
We imported the chrome hubcaps from England, put new retro curtains in, new carpet, squabs, removed the shellac from the wooden units oiled and waxed them also. The motor surrounds have all been covered in Dyna mat to keep the motor noise down.
Engine wise, he had recently been overhauled before we purchased him, but we replaced the radiator, water pump, starter motor also had the automatic transmission completely reconditioned. Brakes have also been machined and completely overhauled.
Colin is very original including the stove, popup, engine and transmission. All the cabinets are the factory originals, excluding the oak bull nose edging as the taped edges had fallen off
How do you use Colin and how often do you get away?
The idea of Colin was when the surf was pumping I could shack up for a night and get back out there. Julie and I have camped in him on several occasions, our favourite being the Hotwater Beach campground. Colin is self sufficient except for a toilet.
Although 80kms is the top speed, he is fun to drive and brings a smile to people’s faces were ever he goes. His home is at our beach house in Matarangi now, where he stays safe and dry
You must get involved in a LOT of conversations when you’re out and about, with people would be wanting to share their tales of family camping in an Auto-Sleeper?
Yes! Seems at some stage in most of our lives someone has owned one or had a parent that owned one, especially the tradesman. I can vividly remember them and thinking they were the ugliest thing ever, poor man’s vans hahaha, now they are appreciated in a whole different view, as they ooze character.