European caravans? Small is beautiful

  • 12 June 2021
  • 4 min read
  • 9 images
European caravans? Small is beautiful image

Big cars, large caravans, small cars, small caravans. We have already documented how as early as the 1930s in the United States, trailers as they called them, were already large and luxurious, at times with aeronautical origins and mirror-finish metal bodywork. In Europe, the first attempts at producing caravans came much later and in significantly smaller sizes. 

1-1The luxury of a DKW convertible and the comfort of a villa on wheels with an abundance of glass, a Dethleffs caravan in the Alps in the late 1930s. Europe had also discovered the charm of traveling in freedom

In fact, some were specifically designed to be towed by utility vehicles such as the Citroen 2CV, Fiat 600 and the Mini. And not only that, even the tiny Fiat 500 had its own small bespoke caravan. That’s right but what should we call them? The name ‘roulette’ derives from ‘rouler’, the French word for ‘drive along’, which is essentially exactly what it did and still does to this day: drive somewhere and stop when it arrives in the right place.

2-1In the delightful Erwin Hymer Museum in Germany, small caravans for small cars from the recovery years: an old Opel 4 PS, a Volkswagen Beetle and another Opel, the Kadett, climb towards an ideal mountain

The magnificent, tiny European caravans of the 1950s and 1960s are now very rare and hard to find, as they have mostly been left out to rot under the bad weather. But today there is a return to the spontaneity of those years in which everything made it possible to forget the poverty of the war. Some of the examples we propose come from Erwin Hymer Museum in Germany and confirm the charm of this interpretation of journeys. 

3-1An Italian mini caravan: with refined wooden sides, the small caravan created for the small car that powered Italy. The Fiat 600

The Germans have always been great holiday lovers with caravans and campers, and for those in search of one, it’s a great hunting ground. The historic Knaus still makes them, as does Trigano in France and Arca and Roller in Italy. Alas, for now, there are no new Mini and new Fiat 500 style revivals. But as the saying goes: never say never.

4-1A small MINI Cooper 1300 makes an equally small caravan look quite big

5-2This beautiful Austin Healey deserves a spider version of this luxurious Bessacarr caravan

6Large windows for this elegant Fahti Lexus 600 caravan towed by an Opel Rekord P1. We are in the 1960s

7As shown in our cover with the Citroen 2CV pulling a bespoke caravan, the Fiat 500 also had a small, dedicated house: the Arca. If Noah had used this trailer, he would only have saved a few of us!

8-2Fearless 500: not only the house, but also trailers to transport bulky luggage

9-1How to make the small BMW version of the Isetta look big: a mini trailer that’s more elegant than it is useful