Vanlife: Dodge A-108 Custom Camper that lives by the sea…
Dodge A-108: the characterful custom camper saturated in the style of the late sixties.
Pauline and Terry Cronin’s 1968 Dodge 108 Custom camper is as charming as any labrador. “Some people take their dog for a walk,” says Pauline. “We take our Dodge for a walk.” Pauline is a retired educationalist and has been the partner of Terry since they were teenagers. “The Dodge IS part of our family,” she tells me.
The Cronin family live in a beautifully sleepy part of North Devon. The area consequently gets slammed with holiday makers and surfers – especially in the summer months. The Dodge 108 always cuts a dash in the Lanes. “We’ve had so many vans over the years,” says Terry. “But when you’re in the Dodge it’s always like an event. You don’t have to try to make friends or talk to people. It just draws people to you.”
They’ve had this characterful slice of psychedelically tinged Americana since 1993 – and though it has nestled amongst an ever-evolving fleet of vans and campers of every imaginable shape, size and brand – the Dodge has assumed pride of place in the quiver of vehicles these last twenty years.
“We’ve never really thought we needed a brand new camper,” he says. “When you drive this thing it’s a physical experience, you live it and grow to love it.” When they were designed at the end of the fifties the A-100 series of vans was marketed as a small, compact wagon. Of course from today’s perspective it has a substantial presence. The Cronin’s version was converted by a crew in Detroit called Explorer. By a man called Frank. “They took the roof off, raised it by a few inches and replaced it with a fibreglass tub,” he says. “They also removed the rear doors so that you could get a permanent double bed in the back.”
“It’s the most comfortable van we have ever owned.” Despite it’s relatively short wheelbase and height, a six foot man can stand up full stretch, thanks to some clever interior design. “It’s the sort of thing that amazes people when they first see the van,” says Pauline. “It’s so well designed it really is home for us.”
Originally the 108 series camper came in two colourways, like this, with the gold flashing offset against the white, and a green version. Period downsides include the temperature transfer of the steel engine compartment, which radiates a lot of heat into the driving compartment over a long journey. There are all the home comforts one would expect, however, from a contemporary camper like a VW California. Only it comes of course with bags of period character. “We’ve just come back from the French Pyrenees,” Pauline says. “And as always, we had an amazing time, meeting friends along the way.”
And what is it about Vanlife that is so special for the Cronins? “It really is about Freedom and family,” Says Terry, as the couple pore over photographs of the vans they have owned, their other significant others smiling against another beautiful sunset.
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