The Braemar was the pioneer of the separate
bedroom, and it had a bathroom with plastic bath. It represented
excellent value as a coach-built caravan at £750. Another
good buy was the 18ft. Deveron at £590, first Thomson
with a dropdown bed and two doors.
In I960 Thomson decided to market an oversize caravan, the 30ft. Great
Glen, as a mobile home. It was a very good van at £950, but unnecessarily
expensive as it was equipped with complete running gear, required only
for manoeuvring on site.
After two seasons the Great Glen was dropped. For its length it was probably
too narrow at 7ft. 6in., later thinking being in favour of a 9ft. width.
There was still a market, however, for the larger tourer, and the 18ft.
6in. Glenrosa ran from 1959 to 1963. But the trend was downward, in line
with the lighter cars and smaller engines. It became important to get
the weight down, and a good example of this was the metamorphosis of
the Annan into the Gleneagle in 1957. The 17ft. Annan scaled 23cwt. Only
six inches shorter, the Gleneagle was 18cwt. on the hoof. Since then
the top Thomson model has stretched to 17ft but without adding an unwanted
ounce and still eminently towable.
The adoption of the "Glen" prefix in 1957 was a brainwave. It was a good
Scottish word, short and immediately identifiable, pronounceable
in any language, and there were enough glens to last Thomson for ever.
By 1957 the Scottish company was becoming noticed in the British caravan
market, almost an English monopoly, and sales virtually trebled by 1963,
the next major landmark.
In the meantime two new Thomson caravans had appeared the 11ft 6in Glendale
in 1957, the 10ft Glen in 1959, both still in the line-up, to be joined
in 1963 by another classic, the 13ft. Glenelg.
By 1963 Thomson was taking 4.8 per cent, of the British market in touring
caravans, and was ranking about sixth among manufacturers. It was a fateful
year, firstly because of the death of the founder, Daniel Ferguson Thomson,
in his 80th year. He was succeeded as chairman by his son, David Thomson,
already the driving force of the group. It was also the year of the adoption
of the now famous T-Line symbol, 'T" for Thomson, for touring, for towing.
With the new look caravan profile, it needed only a little imagination
to see the shape of a small letter "t" in the forward edge. These were
the boom days. With exports rising, with the home demand mushrooming,
and with T-Line claiming a growing share. Thomson could point to an annual
50 per cent, rise in production. Between 1962 and 1965 output trebled,
from 1,115 caravans to 3,475.
The T-Line had become well defined, easily recognisable in even the most
crowded caravan site by its "boat" roof and distinctive styling. The
profile was sharpened in the 1970 models in line with the crisper styling
of cars, but without blurring the T-Line.
Year by year detail changes have been made in design, but not for the
sake of change, the one exception to the progressive but conservative
policy being an annual change of upholstery and curtains.
The range of sizes, roughly from 10ft. to I6ft was extended downward
in 1967 with the Mini Glen, named not after a Scottish valley for once
but after the ubiquitous Mini-car for which it was designed, even sharing
the same 10 in. wheels.
When the Thomson group decided in 1967 to "go public," putting its
shares on the Stock Exchange, the issue was heavily over-subscribed,
with many T-Line owners joining the queue. It was proposed that the parent
company should be called simply Thomson Lines Ltd, but because the registrar
of companies objected that it might be confused with a shipping line,
it became Thomson T-Line Caravans Ltd.
Despite the economic squeeze of the latter 'sixties, T-Line production
has risen steadily to a rate of 5,000 caravans a year, with capacity
at Carron to raise to 6,500. This has been due to heavy investment in
mechanisation and extensions. T-Line now ranks second among makes of
British tourers, enjoying nearly 15 per cent, of the market.
In late 1969 was formed Thomson T-Line Homes Ltd. to enter the market
for mobile homes, chalets and special units. These are to be produced
in a new factory, also at Carron.
With company-owned sales centres in Glasgow and Edinburgh, Thomson has
some 100 distributors and dealers throughout Britain and in six European
countries, with a recent operation launched in Canada . Through the seventies,
as people enjoy more leisure and more affluence, the T-Line target is
10,000 a year.