proved and improved over the years
these days of styling gimmicks , of pre occupation with packaging
to the extent that it doesn't matter what's inside as long
as the packet looks nice, a touring caravan that has remained
basically unaltered for nearly twelve years can mean one of
two things. Either the manufacturer is not very aware, his
design department content to trot out the same old ideas year
after year, or, as in the case of the subject of this month's
road test, the design was so well conceived in the first place
that any change could only be for the sake of change.
there have been slight modifications to the original design,
the biggest of these, in 1956, being a slight increase in
length to enable alternative models to be offered with or
without a toilet room. This concession to demand from the
caravanning public reflects the popularity of Thomsons among
club members and the increase in Continental touring which
even then was beginning to show signs of its present day
the same time the prominent Vee roof, an unmistakable Thomson
recognition feature until then, was smoothed into a rather
more contemporary line, still Vee -shaped but with end peaks
and a bay front, and the model name changed from Almond to
model tested was the Mark 1V with toilet room. The layout
is basically two single beds at the rear, kitchen and
wardrobe amidships and a three- seater dinette and toilet
room at the front. For reasons which took us some little
time to clarify, the team kept referring to the end with
the single beds as the front. Two singles at the front
end is, of course, accepted practice in the majority
of touring vans these days, and in fact when we tested
the original Almond in 1954 we reported that we would
have preferred the layout reversed to bring the singles
and main dining area to the front, providing this did
not affect the weight distribution. But Thomsons can
see no reason to change and we found the layout far from
inconvenient during our test. The construction is very
robust and towing performance was not very far short
of being perfect. We took the van over what must surely
be the worst stretch of road in Scotland, namely the
famous Road to the Isles from Fort William to Mallaig
. Although the Caravan Club handbook gave dire warnings
that this stretch of road should be avoided at all costs
owing to extensive road reconstruction, we argued that
we were out to test a van and this seemed as good a way
Glenalmond stood up to this treatment very well. Certainly
the mattresses jumped about hut the gas mantles stayed
intact, all cupboard and locker doors remained firmly
closed and opened packets of food in the larder retained
rather better class roads the stability was excellent
and on the well-surfaced sections of the test track 60
mph came up quite easily with no trace of snaking. Slight
surface irregularities tended to cause a little uncertainty
at this speed behind the Morris Oxford V and probably
50 mph would be the more comfortable cruising speed on
Continental main roads.
test of the Thomson was slightly longer than usual and
the mileage correspondingly greater. It says much for
the towability of the Glenalmond that we well exceeded
our pre-conceived 'paper' average and were able to put
nearly 200 miles into a day without any appreciable effort,
stopping many times for photographs and meals, and this
on tourist-cluttered Scottish roads, many of which are
renowned for being none too generous in width.
practicality of this van does not end with its performance
on the road; obviously a lot of thought has gone into
the layout. Immediately opposite the door is a three-
seater dinette, comfortably close enough to the kitchen
for the table to be used as extra work surface if needed.
Although the main dining position would be considered
to be at the rear with the table in its principal
mounting position between the single beds, in which case
there is ample room for four to eat in comfort, more
at a pinch, the dinette is ideal for, say, a late meal
or coffee after the children have been safely stowed
and the partition flaps closed.
bedding storage space is provided in top access lockers.
The double seat against the front wall of the van has
a hinged lid and the lid over the single seat, which
although it contains the frame of the pull-out extension
still has plenty of storage space available, is fully
table completes the platform for the double bed
which is a full six feet long. It was found, however,
that with suitable re-arrangement of the mattresses
a shorter but wider bed could be obtained. The two singles
in the front compartment are slightly shorter than the
double and if used for children would be adequate. The
six-footer in the test team, admittedly using a sleeping
bag, had no trouble in tucking his feet round the front
of the wardrobe and did not find the position uncomfortable.
The single beds have padded, fluted backrests which
do not steal sleeping space. Top access bedding lockers
are generous and will take a suitcase.
Between the singles is a cupboard with a vanity top, a shallow tray with a hinged lid to the underside of which is fixed a mirror, and the test team, having no use for the various cosmetic preparations which would undoubtedly find their way into this compartment if this was a family van, found it useful for stowing the table cloth and mats. The two doors to the cupboard are hinged in the centre for easy access to the shelved interior when the table is erected.
The fair-sized wardrobe has plenty of hanging space from a sliding rail and the provision of four coat hooks is an inexpensive refinement that the makers of much higher priced vans could well copy.
A shelf at the bottom of
the wardrobe rests on the wheel-arch and there is room
beside the wheel box for one or two pairs of shoes. The
wardrobe is not full height and the top is lipped to
form another useful shelf. The door, which is piano-hinged,
has a large mirror on the outside and the partition flap
is hinged to the inside. A large throw-over door catch
provides security on tow.
kitchen, opposite the wardrobe, has a Dudley two-ring
and griller hotplate in an aluminium -lined recess. The
hotplate is on an aluminium shelf with space underneath
which we found ideal for storing frozen foods-while the
hotplate was not in use, of course-but this space is
lost if the optional extra oven cooker is specified.
A fall front flap can be chained to a horizontal position
for added work space. The hinged lid to the hotplate
compartment is faced on the underside with aluminium
and the folding plate rack attached to it proved invaluable
cupboard below the cooker has a shelf resting on the
wheel-arch. The space in front of the wheel-arch is ideal
for bottle storage ;
there was enough height
for milk bottles to be stood in a carrier but wine bottles
had to be laid fiat. This space also houses the gas fire
point and a small hole is drilled in the bottom rail
of the cupboard for the hose to pass through without
interfering with the opening and closing of the cupboard
the test van the Perspex sink and drainer was fed from
the optional extra Whale angled pump drawing water
from cans outside the van. This arrangement is better
than a tank in many ways, but it was unfortunate that
the sink waste outlet was placed so close to the fresh
water intake ;
if care was not taken in placing
the water can one was apt to find the same water being
used time after time.
lid to the sink and drainer is faced on the underside
with aluminium and has a double fold, over on top of
itself and then up against the side wall facing the
cook. It would be better if it folded up against the
full height bulkhead to the forward end of the kitchen
as in its present position it makes use of the pump
the sink is the well-ventilated gas locker which is neatly
filled by a 321b. cylinder. This is sensibly placed as close
to the axle line as practicable able so that weight distribution
on tow is affected as little as possible if the cylinder
Under the drainer is a cutlery drawer which, while small, took a considerable amount of table ware ;
it would not take the fish slice or the bread knife. The drawer tended to stick very slightly. The larder below seemed at first sight to be small but the two shelves are carefully spaced above the floor and each other so that no height is wasted between them. In all there is better stowage in the kitchen than in many much larger.
shelves or lockers are placed right round the interior
of the van including the toilet room. The shelves are
slightly narrower than the lockers and are lipped to
prevent things rolling off. The lockers have spring catches
and the doors are hinged at the bottom so that they do
not have to be held open when in use. The lockers are
placed in pairs and could well be divided to stop the
contents sliding about while on the move, but this is
a minor improvement that most owners could carry out
quite simply. The lockers do not go right up to the ceiling
and the tops make extra shelves on site.
roof lockers over the kitchen are fitted with crockery for
four people-cups, saucers, tea and dinner plates, and fruit
bowls. The crockery is Thomson pattern and is included in
the basic price of the van, surely the only van on the market
to be so equipped at no extra cost.
toilet room in the nearside front corner takes in the
porch of the only door when in use. When not in use the
floor space available is just about enough to take two
water cans if care is taken over positioning the closet
before it is screwed down. There is a shelf above and
below the frosted glass, non-opening window and ventilation
is taken care of by a low wall vent and a rooflight .
In use the door of the toilet room mates up with the
kitchen bulkhead and a small triangular flap on the inside
of the door lifts up to complete enclosure up to the
peaked roof; if this flap is not used at night a fair
amount of borrowed light is available.
two bijou gas lights give adequate light to the two table
positions but leave the kitchen a little dark, especially
as the cook gets in the way of illumination from the
nearest light. During the day the generous window area
makes the interior bright and airy and the amber Perspex
roof vents take good care of top ventilation.
fitted carpet, two-tone moquette mattresses and gay cotton
print curtains (on overlapping strainers) lend an air
of quiet luxury to the Glen-almond that is worthy of
a van in a much higher price bracket. Here and there
one can find small irregularities in the cabinet work
but they do little to mar the overall effect. The Scots
are reputed to extract full value for their money. Certainly
in this instance they give it too.
Price : £365.
Dimensions: Length body net l4ft. 2in.,
overall l4ft. 11½ in., shipping I7ft. 2in., interior
l3ft. 9in. Width overall 6ft. 9in., interior 6ft. 4in. Height
overall 8ft. 3m. max. headroom 6ft. 4in. floor height 2lin.
Weight: As tested 18½ cwt.; nose
weight 1½ cwt.
(sketch not to scale) Boden welded steel chassis, reinforced
at points of max. stress. A 3½ x 1½ x ?in. channel. B 2½ x 1 ½ x
5/32in. angle. Axle 1¾in. diameter, straight. Springs
underslung 4-leaf 33 x 2 x ? in. Brakes 8in. Girling ML,
cable operated, turnbuckle and pulley. Wheels 5-stud ventilated
disc, tyres Firestone 5.90-15 4PR. Coupling Bradley Doublelock
, telescopic jockey wheel. Four brace-operated legs.
Body construction: Framing Meranti , halved,
screwed and glued. Outer panelling 2Og. aluminium walls
and roof. Fibreglass insulation. Inner panelling hardboard.
t and g, treated. Glazed stable door 62 x 21in. Round-cornered
polished alloy windows, 5 opening 30 x 20in. ; 6 fixed lights,
two 11x 20in., four 19 x 20in. Three amber frameless Perspex
roof lights 9½ x 6½in. Four grab handles.
Equipment: Two single beds 69 x 24in.
top access lockers. Three- seater dinette double bed 72
x 44in. top access locker. Spring interior 6in. mattresses,
uncut moquette , padded backrests. Sen panelled furniture.
Hook-on table 42 x 21in. Shelved cupboard with vanity top.
Wardrobe 23¾ x 17¼in. hanging space 51in., 4 coat hooks.
Six roof lockers, roof shelves. Dudley 2-ring griller hotplate
; Perspex sink and drainer two-fold drainer lid, aluminium
lined. Ventilated larder, ventilated gas locker, pan locker.
Fitted crockery. Toilet compartment, floor area 44½ x
27in. max., ventilated. Fitted carpet, lino in toilet ;
cotton print curtains, pelmets, overlapping strainers.
Two bijou gas lights. Full road lights and indicators.
Layout: A dinette, B wardrobe,
C roof shelf, D roof lockers, E single bed, F table, G cupboard,
H cooker, J sink, K toilet.
Makers: Thomsons (Carron) Ltd., Carron,
Towing car for test: Morris Oxford V,
weight inc. crew 27 cwt.
|"Reproduced from an article in
the September 1961 issue of The Caravan"