The following piece is a summary of a much more extensive story about the history of the Constructam caravan that is available only for members of the Constructam caravan club.
The story about the history of the Constructam caravan is written by Herre Wynia and Jacky Broers.
On May 1, 1947 the history of Constructam (Ateliers de Constructions de Tamise) began when Theo van der Herten founded this company. He bought land at the Krijgsbaan in Temse and started with two workers the company to make supplies for shipbuilding and parts for the railroads.
From the beginning of the fifties, in many countries in Europe, workers receive paid leave and wages go up, creating a market for leisure activities, Constructam entered this growing market in 1953 with the design of the Camping Car. At the end of the fifties the models from the Camping Car series were further developed into the Happy (for six people) and the smaller brother Micky (for four people). The Camping Cars were produced until 1965.
The first caravans
At the beginning of the sixties, the Van Herten brothers laid the foundation for a stormy growth of the company. One of the reasons for this was a revolutionary development in the way the caravan was built up. The lower half consists of a metal frame that is covered with aluminium on the outside up to the waist. From the middle line, the top side is made up of a fiberglass reinforced polyester hood. Because of the relatively heavy substructure, the center of gravity of the caravan is low, giving it its characteristic great road holding.
In the sixties, Constructam's designers continued to optimize their designs. At the beginning of 1961 the new Cresta and Comet types appeared on the market. The name Cresta was then replaced by Condor. Around the beginning of the sixties the classic series Constructam models such as the Condor and the Comet 4,5 and 6 came into being. From this moment on almost all names of the models start with the letter C. The Condor and the Comet are designed with different layouts and so the Comet 4,5 and 6 and the Condor 2, 3 and 4 are born. These models have the two characteristic round roof windows or roof fans. Also the somewhat deviating small caravan Corona is designed at this time. This one has many more straight angles and is relatively small. This model was produced between 1963 and 1965.
In a brochure from 1967 the new model Coral is introduced in models 1 and 3T. This is a model that in terms of size lies between the small Condor and the large Comet. Meanwhile big and small changes to the design of the caravans take place. In 1967, for example, the angular wheel arches were changed to round and the round rear end was given a slightly more curved shape. A larger change took place in 1969 when the round roof windows were replaced by larger square ones. In 1968 a second workshop was opened in the village of Houthalen in Belgian Limburg, where there was high unemployment due to the mine closures and enough workers were available. Here furniture and polyester parts were made, which were then assembled in the Temse workshop.
Forced to a new construction
As a result of the combination of the oil crisis and the increase in labour costs, Constructam has to drastically reduce its production costs. In 1972 this led, among other things, to a different construction method in which the upright construction of metal and polyester was mounted on a sandwich floor. First the lower half of the structure was built and then the floor was placed. In 1973 the polyester roof of the Constructam was replaced by a polyester roof and the metal frame of the sides was raised above the windows. The outside is completely covered with an aluminum skin.
The smooth exterior was replaced in 1972 by a slightly profiled aluminium skin. In the interior changes took place and the round cabinets for example were replaced by more angular furniture and the oak veneer was replaced by a lighter wood type. Meanwhile, the entire caravan industry is in dire straits due to the oil crisis. During this period, one after another of the estimated thirty caravan factories active in Belgium is going bankrupt. With some art and flying colours, Constructam withstands this crisis.
Slowly to the end
From 1977, the caravans are equipped with a characteristic brown or blue band. Convinced that the factory in Houthalen would not be able to manage with only the production of furniture, the head office in Temse decided to start the production of caravans in Houthalen in 1974. The company NV Temka was founded for this new production line. The head office is, just like that of Constructam, located at the Krijgsbaan 247 in Temse.
Under this new company name the new caravan brand International Trailers (IT) is founded. The models of this caravan are much more in line with the traditional caravan construction of the competition, and are therefore a lot cheaper to build.
Problems with the Constructam
Because the construction of the Constructam is still very labour-intensive in this period and the caravan is therefore relatively expensive, fewer and fewer caravans are sold. An additional reason for the decline in sales is that Constructam has had to deal with serious moisture problems since the drastic construction change in 1972, causing many caravans to rot on the floor.
This last big problem, the economic downturn and high energy prices, meant the end for Constructam. Constructam was one of the last Belgian caravan manufacturers to go bankrupt in 1982 and after 35 years the production of this legendary caravan at the Krijgsbaan in Temse came to an end!
Nowadays the old production halls and offices at Krijgsbaan 247 are part of the Business Park Constructam. The business park even organizes an Open Door weekend and uses the Constructam logo on their website!
Facebook: Constructampark Temse
A new generation
In 1986, the name Constructram Caravans was taken over by Chateau BV from Budel in Brabant. At the factories of Chateau Caravans in Hamont-Achel (Belgian Limburg) the design and preparations for a completely renewed Constructam, with not for nothing the name The New Generation, are prepared in the development department. For the production of this new caravan they try to connect as closely as possible to the conventional caravan construction.
A quote from the New Generation leaflet:
Due to, among other things, the high production costs, Chateau decided to stop the production of the New Generation in 1988 and the production of Constructam caravans seems to come to a definitive end. A total of about 400 The New Generation caravans were built.
Still a new Constructam!
In 2008 Jacky Broers, co-responsible for product innovation and product development at Chateau, took over the Constructam brand after the bankruptcy of Chateau. He takes the initiative to design a modern version of the classic Constructam and calls it the C420. This is a very luxurious caravan and is thus adapted to the needs of the modern caravan user. For example, the most modern appliances, an electrical installation with rechargeable battery, LED light with remote control are built in. In cooperation with the TTP Group, a group of independent companies in the transport and tourism industry including Solmar Tours and Home-Car, the design concept for the Constructam C420 will be developed and within the TTP Group the manufacturer Mobil Partner will be engaged for the construction of the C420.
A total of nine C420 caravans have been produced. The first three were built in 2010 and were still real prototypes that served to stand at trade fairs. In 2010, the prototypes are presented, first in Utrecht and then during the Salon Mobicar in Brussels. The public is very enthusiastic and it is easy to find 100 potential buyers at both fairs! Unfortunately, partly due to the banking crisis, the producer Mobile Partner in Overpelt goes bankrupt in 2011 before the first orders can be produced.
Just before the bankruptcy in the spring of 2011 six fully finished C420 production caravans with different interior layouts have been realized. These were claimed by the company Constructam BV in the bankruptcy of Mobile Partner. Four of the six finished production caravans have been taken over by Caravan and Camper company Fred Heijda in Loon op Zand. Three of these unique caravans have now been sold. The other two C420 models are, together with the Industrial Property and Trademark Rights, still owned by Jacky Broers.