1974 Bedford CF Dolphin campervan

As a precurser to this updated page, let me share the comments made by Andy, a Bedford CF camper enthusiast in the UK, who now owns and enjoys a delightful Bedford CF campervan named Betcie. He wrote to me in February 2018 to say, "This was the first Bedford I found that inspired me to go for it with ours, so I thank you for that because through the magic of Google I found the story of yours, and that was when we bought our beloved Betcie, still a labour of love every day, but worth every minute!"

I hope the story of 'Dolph' inspires many others to restore and enjoy their own Bedford CF campervans around the world!

Before 

I purchased this individual and amazing built-to-order Dolphin campervan on April 12 2011. The vehicle had always been in the one family. It was built to order for an interesting man who emigrated from England to Australia at a very young age and led a fascinating life enjoying true outback Australia in a way none of us could do today. In his older years he commissioned this vehicle at Dolphin in Dandenong so he could continue to enjoy the country he had adopted, and which he loved so much.

 

On his passing, the owner's daughter and her husband became custodians of the vehicle, and they treasured and used it regularly for another 21 years before they moved to a retirement village. The large folder of service records, the honest condition of the vehicle, and the obvious love the couple had for it, the times they had enjoyed in it over more than two decades, and indeed for each other, all contributed to our instant 'falling in love' with the camper we soon named 'Dolph', and the decision to purchase it.

My partner Patricia and I enjoyed Dolph after attending to a few urgent items, and some photographs of our time with Dolph in its original form can be seen here. However, I decided on a further 'quick' freshen in late 2011.

Many months of painstaking work later the restoration is now almost completed, and 'Dolph' will enjoy another 40 years on the road. Some photos of the rebuild can be seen here. They will show how I eventually decided, after a lot of research, soul-searching, and sleepless nights, to reclad the entire body - after doing structural repairs - in 1mm aluminium sheeting rather than the original white, ribbed aluminium caravan cladding. I had developed an image in my head that I couldn't ignore, and even when it all seemed too difficult, I worked out a way I could make my vision work, and went ahead with it.

It is definitely a result that Patricia and I love, and judging by the reaction Dolph enjoys on its regular outings, it's a result that many other people appreciate as well.

Please enjoy the following photos of our treasured 'Dolph'.

The vehicle is also now fully 'Leave No Trace' compliant, with electrically controlled grey water storage of my own design that seals automatically as soon as the engine is turned off, making it impossible to forget to close the system when setting up camp. The grey water can be released only with the engine running, and switching the system to open from the driving position when it's at a suitable dumping spot.

Many thanks go to the following Bendigo businesses who were engaged in aspects of Dolph's mechanical restoration.

  • LPG conversion was carried out by Garry at Gejay Automotive. A very neat and professional job done in a stunningly clean and organised workshop!
  • A 'red' 202 was built with a specific camshaft to maximise the potential of LPG. Power and flexibility over the original low-compression 173 is amazing!
  • The reconditioning was entrusted to a longstanding Bendigo business, but the work was disappointing. Subsequent re-machining has been undertaken by Heath O'Brien at O'Brien A.M.S. in Kerang, a small but extraordinary machine shop that I now entrust all my tricky work to, and who always does beautiful machining on the various challenges I entrust to him. A new replacement engine was finally built and installed in January 2018 - the full details can be seen here.
  • Dyno tuning was by Baden at Bendigo Dyno Tuning, which has ensured that LPG, carburettor and timing are at optimum settings for power, economy and longevity. The Bedford runs perfectly on either LPG or petrol (strictly 98 octane), with no perceptible difference between the two on the road. Perfect!
  • Ray at Bendigo Radiators built a new heavy-duty 3 core radiator. (The existing standard radiator was in good condition, but was at the limit of its capabilities with the increased heat from the higher-performance 202 engine.)
  • Another Bendigo business, Morrison's CV & Driveline, did a fantastic job making the new two-piece tailshaft that replaced the original, worn-out item, and which mated to the replacement differential (a Salisbury) from a 1978 Bedford.
  • Davies Craig are also due a big thankyou for their superb products and after-sales support. This vehicle was initially fitted with twin 10" thermo fans controlled by the 0444 adjustable electronic switch - a great combination, and the largest I could install on the 3 core radiator while the original engine-driven water pump was in place, but which was, as expected, underspecced. In June 2015 this was updated by undertaking substantial work to fit a 14" High Performance fan (part number 0107) along with one of the original 10" fans, fabricating a custom fitting to replace the original water pump, installing an EWP115 electric water pump & LCD controller (part number 8830), and an EBP15 booster pump to constantly feed the LPG converter and heater. With custom mounts fabricated for a lowered alternator mounting and very careful attention to detail, this setup JUST fits in the very tight Bedford engine bay without any butchering of the vehicle. It also cools things perfectly, while offering power, fuel consumption and quietness benefits.
  • Update June 2015. The original Tri-matic transmission was still working well, but due to the very high mileage it had done and my desire to have everything totally trustworthy, I have purchased a fully reconditioned transmission (including torque converter) from Trade-Alley, the eBay division of BBE Automatics. The professionalism of this company is a refreshing change from many others I have dealt with, and I highly recommend it. The transmission has proven to be absolutely perfect in every way, and completes the mechanical reconditioning of the Bedford.
  • I highly recommend any of these businesses to you.

     

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    Photos of the original vehicle can be seen here, while some photos of the rebuild can be seen here.

    click here to see the other shed inhabitants

    Fellow enthusiasts are welcome to drop me an email.

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