by Tony "Tosh" Brooks
I’d like to say it has been a complete pleasure to restore this unique and interesting vehicle, but it was a summer of hard work and vast expense that caused a few arguments and lots of heartache along the way!
We all love it (despite what Alison may say from time to time!), and can’t wait to get back out on the classic car show circuit in 2017, starting of course at the NEC at the beginning of April. I don’t think Apollo will ever be totally finished; as with all classics it’s an ongoing project, but we’re happy with where we are now and will continue to improve and change things as we go.
I apologise if I’ve gone on a bit, but I can assure you I have condensed a lot of the work involved in getting it this far, and I apologise if I’ve missed anyone or any parts of the restoration out. Your help and hard work was much appreciated and I hope we all get to enjoy using Apollo for many years to come.
History before our ownership
First registered in 1969 this Rover P5 Camper was sold to it’s second of 4 registered keepers in 1971, and he took the unusual decision to mount a one off hand built caravanette frame on to the chassis. So the original car was just two years old and perfectly straight when it was cut in half! The conversion was obviously a success as he enjoyed many years of touring in the West Country and extensively on the continent with his family.
History is lost for a while, and it’s believed the car fell into disrepair and was off road for quite a while, before it was discovered by a Rover enthusiast and his life long friend decades later.
Sadly however, having purchased the vehicle in 1996, after finding it dumped and forlorn in a sand quarry, the current owner quickly established that the caravanette structure had succumbed to the rigours of corrosion and wood worm and needed to be rebuilt. The gearbox was missing too, so maybe this is why it ended up where it did for so long.
The framework, ceiling and most of the cladding was replaced and resprayed and it seemed an ideal time to modernise the interior and kitchen area. The wiring was also brought up to date, enabling the lighting to be run from a 12v or 240v supply. A new gearbox was sourced and fitted as well as complete restoration of the front bodywork and chrome.
Having owned the vehicle for 19 years, the interior has since been redecorated a couple more times, but as the owner got to an age where maintaining the vehicle no longer possible, he decided to sell it on at the Silverstone auction at the NEC Classic and Restoration Show in 2015.
During his ownership he enjoyed many years showing the car and attending the London to Brighton Classic runs from 1999 to 2014! It was a well known and well respected vehicle on the show circuit, and is believed to be the only surviving camper based on a Rover P5.
If anyone needs any further information, or has any ideas or advice on further improvements we could make, or shows and events we could attend, we are open to any suggestions.
Any readers who would like to know more about Apollo may enjoy our Facebook page here: www.facebook.com/RoverP5Camper
I hope you enjoyed reading my account of the Apollo journey to date - do come and say hello if you visit the NEC this April.
Tony "Tosh" Brooks
by Tony "Tosh" Brooks
into The home straight
It was then onwards and upwards with fitting the external locker doors, entry door, toilet access and flush fillers, side windows, marker lights, sunroof, tv aerial, roof vent, etc, to the body, and we had a set of fancy led rear lights, rear view camera, new number plate, rear window and the spare wheel carrier to fit to the back end.
We deliberately wanted people to see the car from the back and be confused as to what it was. Is it just a regular, modern type caravan or motor home or what? So we fitted high and low rise led stop and tail lights & indicators, led fog & reversing lights and a high rise brake light, as you’d find on modern vehicles. Then with the old style registration plate and the spare Rostyle wheel hung on the back, along with the V8 3500 badges, it would make people realise this was no “ordinary” motor home!
My younger brother Tim had been hard at work, he had taken all the wood pieces from the cab interior, as well as all the chrome trims and door cards home and set about bringing them all back up to a beautiful finish, fit to go back on the car. He flatted, repaired and re-varnished the wood. Polished up the chrome trims, bumper and grille, and re-trimmed the door cards and dash parts with new black vinyl and velour, and fitted new fur flex trim and rubber door seals.
My wife Alison spent hours stripping down the front seats, re-stitching the splits, fitting new padding, feeding and colouring the leather and building them back together, and did a fabulous job of saving what I thought were a pair of seats beyond all repair!
Her next task was to make the seating, curtains and pelmets for the rear interior, as well as helping to carpet line the ceiling, and paper the walls. She had free reign with the interior design, and to go along with the Apollo theme of stars and glamour, she came up with black glitter carpet on the floor, silver grey curtains, and fabulous purple faux leather for the seating and pelmets. The seating then went one stage further with big diamante buttoning! It looks amazing and certainly not what people expect to see in a 60’s motor home!
I fitted a Truma gas and electric water heater, and fresh water tank with pressurised water flow system, which would pump hot or cold water to the smart round kitchen sink and bathroom basin. A 3 way fridge freezer and full cooker with 4 ring hob, grill and oven. The gas bottle is housed at the nearside rear and accessed from an external locker. The external locker on the off side houses the car battery and the leisure battery to run the 12v system, which is then connected to a 100w solar panel on the roof which is split switched so we can trickle charge either battery at any time. There’s a 240v hook-up too, connected to the mains consumer unit, and we have several mains sockets throughout, and can run the water heater and fridge on mains, as well as re-charge the leisure battery when hooked up.
We had smart bespoke worktops made in a glittery white laminate and tiled the kitchen area in purple and white lightweight tiles with chrome trims, which really finish off the look.
With the interior starting to look the part we needed to add some “in car” entertainment, so I added a 12v tv/dvd player on a wall bracket next to the entry door. It is the perfect position to watch tv from the rear seating area or whilst laid on the over cab double bed! The tv connects to a Status telescopic aerial on the roof with signal booster. Then I fitted a cd player connected to two ceiling mounted speakers which also double up for the cd player in the cab, as we didn’t want to put speakers back in the new door cards.
Overall, the only thing that we ended up using from the original camper is the main aluminium frame and the wood roof frame, which apart from a bit of rotten wood that needed replacing, was in pretty good shape, and the plastic wheel arch covers. Everything else is new, and although it looks similar to the original, if a picture of the before and after are put together, you will see they are quite different.
It’s quite obvious the rear end view is totally different with the new lights etc, but the sides look similar until you notice on the nearside, the window in the entry door, the curved led awning light, the gas locker door and the smaller side window, as well as the water tank filler, and the water heater exhaust outlet.
On the offside, apart from the smaller window, the differences are the toilet cassette access door and flush inlet, the fuel filler cap, the battery box door and hook-up inlet.
Next time - Tony reflects on the restoration and what he knows of Apollo's past
by Tony "Tosh" Brooks
The refurb continues ...
The heavy plywood floor was ripped out and refitted in lighter timber after laying the first fix wiring etc for the 12v and 240v electrical system.
Every piece of internal board was torn out as it was all rotten, damp and smelly, and it needed to be properly insulated anyway. This allowed me again to run first fix wiring for the ceiling lights, cd speakers, and tv wiring etc. A large sunroof was cut into the roof, to allow more natural light in than a standard roof vent, and any rotten wood in the main frame was replaced with new stronger timber.
I had some really smart double glazed caravan windows, which came with built in internal concertina blinds and fly screens; luckily they were just the right size for the sides. They would allow me room to fit the overhead lockers, and TV bracket etc without getting in the way.
Alison insisted that we had to have a toilet and wash basin as part of the interior build. If we go to long weekend classic car shows and the like you can’t beat having your own private facilities, and after many years experience of caravan and camper outings, I just had to agree. So the only place I could possibly fit this was directly behind the drivers seat. This meant re-siting the main car battery, which was presently fitted right where the closet floor needed to be! It would be “cosy” but functional and well equipped, with an electric flush cassette toilet and hot and cold water corner wash basin with mixer tap.
The petrol tank was protruding through the floor at the rear, and this had to be removed in order for me to be able to put the fridge and oven in position later. There was plenty of room under the chassis to fit a different tank, and we ended up fitting a brand new Land Rover one, which worked out really well; it had the capacity we needed and the filler pipe was exactly where we needed it to be.
While I was busy with the rear build, Gus had re-built the engine and fitted the new gearbox to it. It looked like a brand new motor with everything cleaned, polished and painted. We were ready for a bench test so he fitted the radiator, and ran a fuel line from a can, then connected a battery. After a few false starts, it fired into life and sounded awesome without the exhaust fitted!!
Unfortunately this was when we noticed the radiator was leaking from several places, so rather than messing around trying to seal it, we ordered a brand new one, which would have a modern core and help greatly with any future over-heating issues. With that and the new Kenlow electric fan, we were confident it would be one less thing to worry about when travelling long distances.
The front sub frame and cross members etc were all under sealed and painted before dropping the engine and box back in. The exhaust was new, the manifolds were sand blasted and re-painted, we had a full set of new gaskets, so it was all pretty straight forward and looked 'the business'.
We read that the vague steering could be much improved by altering the caster angle, and swapping the rubber sub frame mounts for solid ones, so we had some new mounts made and some spacers and longer pegs to alter the caster angle. As it turns out it now steers 100% better, and feels much safer on the road.
Finally the new roof and siding material was delivered, after a much longer wait than we expected. This allowed me to get the paint matched to the colour of the side panels, and also to get on with top coating the front end body panels. Although my work unit is by no means ideal for spray painting, the final finish wasn’t bad and we were very pleased with it. I used two pack paint so this allowed me to flat off and polish up any slight imperfections and rub the flies out!
The next job was to fit the sides which was pretty straight forward, and we had hoped to drop the roof panel on in one continuous 7m length, but this proved too tricky and awkward to handle. We ended up having one cut on the underneath part above the car roof and another cut on the top front curve, as it was too sharp a bend to carry it all the way over the rest of the roof. The joints were are properly sealed and trimmed with aluminium mouldings so hopefully we wont have the same water ingress issues in future.
One of the hardest jobs was mitreing the corner mouldings. With all the different angles, each section had to be slit and curved to follow the contours of the body. It took for ever to get (almost) perfect, but we were happy enough with it, and with the black moulding inserts fitted it looked very neat.
Next time ... the work continues!
by Tony "Tosh" Brooks
I could go on for hours listing everything we’ve replaced, mended, up-graded, re-built etc, but needless to say it would be a lot quicker to list the parts that haven’t been replaced!
We stripped the engine and gearbox out, and sourced a second hand replacement box. The engine was totally re-built from top to bottom, and now purrs like a kitten. Every ancillary was cleaned, replaced, sand blasted, powder coated or painted before being re-fitted.
The electrical system was over-hauled, so everything worked as it should. We fitted a new speedo and cables, choke cables, kick down cables, and any other cable we could find. Every hose, every clip, every gasket, every bush, every joint, everything.
While the engine was out we prepared and re-painted the engine bay. Not to concourse standard but good enough for us. This was after all going to be a car that we would use, and not just be for showing off.
Gus welded the inner wings, the wheel arches, the inner and outer sills, the floor pans etc, which were pretty bad I places, but there was good metal to weld to, so we knew it would be good and strong for years to come and get through a proper mot this time!
While he had his welder out, he also welded new wing bottom repair panels, door bottom panels, and A-post repair pieces etc, so the body panels could be prepared ready for painting.
By the this time the rear “camper” part was still as it was, ready for a “light” renovation further down the line, but that wasn’t to last!
We had a couple of good “family” weekends, where my daughter Claire and her husband Carl, and Gus’s kids Julie and Mike, and Julie’s fiance Kurt came down and helped us gut the camper interior as it was well rotten, damp, heavy and old fashioned.
We wanted to fit a modern interior, with all the mod cons of a modern motor home, and get totally away from the “Old Lady” flowery, 60’s retro look that everyone would expect to see in a conversion like this, so everything had to go!
We were hoping to save the external sidings and the roof, but when we got on the roof we realised the previous owner had poured gallons of tar over the roofing sheets, in the vain hope of stopping water ingress to the interior. So Carl set about stripping all that off, and obviously that lead to stripping all the corner trims off, and the broken roof light off, and before we knew it there was not much left!
With the roof panels off we started to look at the rest of the aluminium sidings; they were dented in several places and the hand carved wood trims weren’t really our style. The side windows were far too long and were going to restrict building the interior as we wanted.
The entry door needed to be re-built, and a new window fitted. The gas locker door was a big heavy thing that would ultimately be in the wrong place in our new design, and the original fridge vents were in the wrong place too. So the decision was made to strip the whole thing back to the bare bones and pretty much start again.
We were working on it outside in our yard up to this point, as the weather was pretty good through March into April. Then as I was slowing down a bit on my own job and had space in my unit we managed to bring it inside before the rains came, ready for some paintwork and moving forward with the camper re-furb.
All the body panels had a coat of sealer and several coats of primer, and the engine bay was painted ready for the engine & box to go back in. The windscreen rubber seal needed to be replaced, so the screen was taken out before preparing the roof and scuttle for paint.
We’d ordered the new sidings and roof panels from Eltheringtons in Hull, and these were coming pre painted white, so we had to wait for delivery before we could order the two pack paint for the body, as we wanted it to colour match perfectly.
While waiting for the delivery we got on with re-building the rear wheel arches, as they were far too high and a complete bodge of wood and fibreglass. Gus fabricated nice solid sheet metal arches, which would be fully water proof, and could easily be insulated from the inside.
Next time - the restoration continues
by Tony "Tosh" Brooks
If you read Part 1, that was the good bit!
As we got going and came to the first roundabout, I seriously thought the thing was going to turn over, the steering was that vague and the weight on the back wallowing about so badly that I thought all four tyres must be flat. When we finally found a petrol station, we filled up and checked the tyre pressures, and to my dismay they were about what we thought they should be, which meant it wasn’t go to get any better, all the way home!!
After going for a couple of hours or so on the motorways at what seemed like a fair pace but turned out to be only 30 mph, I could take no more. I had pins and needles in my hands, my face was wet and freezing and my stress levels were through the roof. I honestly thought if I carried on I would have a heart attack.
The car seemed to want to throw me into every ditch on every camber in the road, and started to wander across all three lanes as soon as I lost concentration for a second. I couldn’t take either hand off the wheel, otherwise I found myself over correcting the sway, and taking out any passing vehicle or road sign that got in the way! How on earth the old boy who owned it used to do the London to Brighton Rally I’ll never know, he must have had nerves of steel!!
I forgot to mention - it’s three speed automatic, which set off fine in first, but had no second gear, so it would scream it’s nuts off until finally finding third and then settle into motion. But as soon as you slowed down to stop it would not tick over and cut out - then take forever to re-start, so I had to keep it running at all cost! Great fun!
So we pulled over at a service station and my brother kindly offered to take over the driving seat for the rest of the journey home. He thought I was exaggerating, but soon found out that something major had to be done to make this a safe and roadworthy car.
I’d like to say my wife Alison was pleased to see me when I got back, but we were so late, and I’d just spent £3500 on an old banger that she wasn’t expecting, that she was actually a bit “miffed”!
The next morning didn’t get much better. When we had a chance to look round the car properly, we realised it was a lot worse than “just a bit rough round the edges”. Although it only had two doors, two wings, a bonnet, and half a roof, every panel had holes and rough repairs that would need to be addressed. The engine was running as rough a pig, the gearbox was shot, the sills and floor were rotten, (despite it having 6 months mot!)
The cab interior was manky, with split seats, ripped headlining and door cards, rotten carpets, cracked and rotted wood dash and door tops, perished rubber seals, no door seals, rotten fur flex etc, and that was before even looking at the camper side of things!
Really the only saving grace with the car so far was that the chrome bright work was in really good shape, nice and straight with very little pitting. This probably gave the initial impression that the car was better looking than it really was - and the fact that it was white, which is a very forgiving colour, fooled us into thinking it would be easy!
So we were at the point where we had a choice to either scrap it, break it up and probably lose most of our money, or go for it and carryout a full restoration job. I know which choice my wife would have preferred, but my brother and I, who still loved the car decided to go for it!
Alison asked me what we were going to call it, and is it a he or a she? After giving it some thought, and discussing several options, we decided it had to be a “He” - it was too big and brash to be a “She”. I then thought about his build year being 1969, the same year as Neil Armstrong’s first step on the moon, and the NASA Lunar Lander vehicle being called the Lunar Rover. So there really was only one option, he had to be called “Apollo”!
That then gave us a theme for the interior. It was going to be as far away from the sort of interior people would expect to see as we could possibly get. There was going to be no flowers and twee Kath Kidson type décor for Apollo! But it would be many months before we started fitting glittery wall paper, carpets and worktops!
Next time - the restoration begins
by Tony "Tosh" Brooks
So it all began on the 28th of March 2015 at the Classic & Restoration Show at the NEC Birmingham, when myself, (Tosh), my elder brother Gus & his daughter Julie, my daughters husband Carl & his dad Tim, and our friend Paul, went for a great day out together. We had no intention of bringing anything home - little did I know there was a Silverstone Auction on at the show that day!
I saw this very unusual looking Rover P5 with a camper type conversion on the back of it lurking in the corner of the auction area. On closer inspection, and after reading the write up, I saw it had no reserve, and decided there and then that I had to have it!
My wife and I have been converting panel vans to campers for the last few years, and my brother Gus is a top mechanic, so I knew from the start that we could make this into something special.
Unfortunately the camper was the very last lot to go through the auction, so I had a long but very enjoyable wait wandering around the show before my “dream machine” would be up for bidding! I drove everyone mad, going on and on about this camper, and everyone thought I was joking about actually buying it, (including my wife Alison, who I’d phoned to tell her about it), but I was deadly serious.
The bidding started slow and I actually thought I was going to get it for £500, but someone else must have had the same idea as me and a bidding war ensued, which neither of us wanted to lose! It was back and forth at £100 increments until the other guy caved in at £3100. With the fees I paid just over £3500 for it, but it was mine!!
Once I’d won it, I was discussing what to do with it with my brother Gus, and we decided to go halves and restore it between us. It looked ok from a distance but was very rough round the edges and the interior was horrible, damp and old fashioned.
It had a current mot, was taxed, and I had insurance to drive it, so we decided to take it home that very evening, although that meant us waiting around until the show had closed before the organisers would allow us to remove the vehicle. By the time we got out it was pitch black, raining and blowing a gale outside, and the thought of driving this strange car 80 miles home filled me with fear, but little did I know exactly HOW much fear, or should I say blind terror, the journey home would bring!!
The drivers window was down and there was no handle on it, so I couldn’t wind it up. The wipers - once I managed to find the switch - were worse than useless, and did absolutely nothing to clear the torrential rain from the misted up windscreen (because I couldn’t find the blower, or it didn’t work!).
The headlights were like using a bicycle lamp, and the interior dash lights were non existent. There’s obviously no rear view mirror and the wing mirrors were so small and badly set, that I had no idea what was behind me either.
So all in all I was getting soaking wet, I couldn’t see further than two feet in front or behind me, I had no clue where I was heading and the fuel gauge was on empty, in a 3.5ltr petrol automatic - and that was the good bit!
Next time - getting Apollo home.
by John Simpson
I was 15 years old when I started work. My first wage was £2.16s (£2.80!) per week - the labour rate was 19s (95p) per hour. Unbelievable, but true.
Every morning I would sweep the workshop floor before being given another task. One such job was greasing the wheel bearings on Mr R's boat trailer, a straightforward enough but messy job. He used to keep his boat in the back of the showroom; a Parker 505 I think it was.
Eventually I was 'allocated' to a mechanic, Mick who was about 25 years old. He taught me a lot in my first year. My job usually involved changing oil and greasing. I remember one incident when greasing a Citroen DS using a power greaser, the customer was watching me working when the gun slipped off the nipple and hit him, covering his jacket and trousers! Whoops - another telling off!!
It was quite common for customers to come into the workshop (Health and Safety?) and watch us working on their cars. This is something that's missing today, because we'd build up a good rapport with our customers and it helped to talk to them to find exactly what their problems were. Today’s service receptionists don't understand and are unable to communicate it to the technicians.
In 1969 I was signed up to a 4 year apprenticeship and I started day release at my local technical college. Now I wasn't the best student at school, but excelled at college due to being interested in the subject. Once a month my boss used to quiz me about what I'd learned. He expected a lot but when I got my exam results his expectations were realised with me gaining distinctions in my exams and gaining my City & Guilds certificates.
We were a Citroen main dealer, selling new and used Citroens, one of my messy jobs was removing the wax off new cars using a rag soaked in petrol - no steam cleaners back then - it was a terrible job.
After a while as well as dewaxing new cars I was allowed to help with pre delivery inspections. This involved well, checking everything really, all nuts, bolts etc. As well as fitting seat belts, number plates and radios, fitting roof mounted radios aerials to the Citroen GS's involved removing the windscreen! Doing a P.D.I. correctly could take all day!
Keep looking, more to come.
by John Simpson
It all kicked off on Monday 16th September 1968 - a date firmly embedded in my memory -when a young, naïve 15 year old boy turned up for his first day of work at his local garage, (whisper this!) a Citroen dealer!
I was wearing a white boiler suit, which caused much amusement and leg pulling by the other mechanics.
Anyway down to business; my very first job in the trade that was to become my way of life for the next 49 years at least (still on the spanners!) was to get a Standard 8 started. It had broken down on the forecourt at the weekend; the boss, Geoffrey Rennoldson was a fearsome but fair man. He handed me a socket and told me to remove the spark plugs and clean them.
I duly did as instructed, refitted them and went and told Mr 'R' (that's what staff called the boss) it was done. He came to the car and tried to start it but no luck. He tried again, again no luck.
Mr 'R' came round the front of the car to look under the bonnet and wasn't happy with what he saw. "You haven't fitted the plug leads boy!!" he exclaimed. I replied " Sorry Sir, I didn't know which way round they went!". Anyway with the leads fitted, the car started. Unsurprisingly, the rest of the day was spent with a broom sweeping the workshop floor!
More tales from my life in the motor trade when I can remember them!
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