With the theme for this week being focused on Valentines we look back at how love inspired the first ever motorhome. Before there was motorhome hire, an aristocratic polio victim’s love for his wife drove him to create this uniquely pimped 1930s Pontiac. This is considered to be the first British motorhome and therefore the beginning of the industry.

britains first motorhome

Captain Francis Dunn

Captain Francis Dunn could never have dreamed his custom van would be the creation for the motorhome industry.

While others drove Ford Model Cs to seaside B&Bs, the former naval captain turned heads at the beaches with his vanguard vehicle for a new holiday lifestyle.

Captain Dunn had the vision as well as the money, to bring his dream to life.

Britain’s First Motorhome

The military man had contracted polio on honeymoon with his wife, which left him paralysed and needing a wheelchair. So he came up with the idea of the motorhome. It would need a ramp so he could get his chair on board easily and sit beside his wife while she took the wheel. He put a bed on board which meant they always had somewhere comfortable to sleep. This also meant they could travel across the UK easily.The spacious interior was made of elegant mahogany, the kitchen had a gas oven, stove and two-litre water filter, and the sleeping quarters boasted a sofa-bed. He even created a lavatory,. However, unlike today’s motorhomes, it had no plumbing, meaning the waste would just drop from the vehicle.

When we look back now he was incredibly ahead of his time when you look at some of the amenities included within the vehicle.

The van is a remarkable time capsule. It began as a 4-litre, six cylinder Pontiac, ordered in 1935 by Captain Dunn of Bexhill, Kent.

He commissioned local coach builders Russell to build the body on the chassis and fit the interior to his design. Expertly crafted, it was finished in 1936 when Captain Dunn began touring Southern England with his wife. For three years they travelled. But in 1940, he was evacuated to Wales during the war because of his disability.

He made the motorhome available to the military during Second World War. It was painted camouflage green, in case it was needed as a makeshift ambulance or troop carrier. It was never used but sat ready for action in their barn. Shortly during this period Captain Dunn passed away from polio in 1946.

captain dunn

Where is the motorhome today?

For the next 50 years the motorhome was lovingly cared for by his widow, who turned the engine over every two months, until her death in 1991.

When his wife sadly passed away she left the motorhome to her financial adviser. He shortly sold it to a showroom so people could view the first ever motorhome still in great condition.


From 1992 until 2015, the motorhome was on display in a purpose-built showroom at the vendors’ business.

The owners of the showroom say that they “have never seen a vehicle generate so much attention at car shows, it blows people away”. Which of course for anyone who appreciates motorhomes it would. Not only is it absolutely beautiful but is also drives like a dream, which is staggering considering its age. It takes us back not only to an earlier era of motoring but to when life was almost unimaginably different.

Unfortunately today the motorhome has now been sold to private buyer in the U.S.

motorhome hire

It truly is inspiring to see how such a magnificent motorhome was put together and is still around to this day. These days there are around 560,000 motorhomes in Britain. People buy new motorhomes every few years to use for their motorhome holidays. But luckily enough unlike in 1935 Priory Rentals have a motorhome hire service. This is great as it allows you to hire a motorhome whenever you wish providing you book enough time in advance.