The Holdsworth Campervan conversion business was a UK based camper van conversion company running from 1968 to the mid 1990s that was run by Richard and Heather Holdsworth.
The company was successful with the motor industry having contracts in place with British Leyland who gave their full approval for the conversion of their Sherpa vans into campervans and due to the quality of their conversions they were also popular with the public.
Success continued through the 80s but in the 90s the company ran into increasing financial difficulty and after one deal left the business with a surplus of stock to convert the company ceased trading. The company would then go on to become Cockburn Holdsworth but this venture wwa short lived and it would shortly cease trading as a camper van manufacturer.
Starting in the late sixties, the campervans were converted in a lockup garage at Clapham Common in London.
The company began as is the way with many camper van
conversion companies from a love of VWs and travelling. Richard and Heather would return from a holiday in Australia where campervans and the open road are part of the culture and decide that they needed a campervan to explore the UK and Europe in.
They carried out a conversion with Richard constructing the furniture and Heather working on the upholstery aand soft furnishings such as curtains.
The conversion was successful and would lead to further conversions. Companies became aware of their work and would ask Richard to build conversions kits that they in turn could offer for sale to their customers for fitting in their own vans. During this time the Holdsworth conversion business would move to premises in Ashford, Middlesex offered by a vw campervan conversion company.
The success of the business saw a further move from Ashford to an ex-aerodrome hangar in Woodley, Berkshire during 1972. The company would convert many ordinary vans into campervans, these vehicles included Commer Standard and a Commer Super, Ford Transit, Bedford and two types of VW: one with a fixed roof and one with a rising roof. The line was extended with the addition in 1977 of the Leyland Sherpa van and the combination of VW vans that was offered was constantly evolving.
The company would branch away from camper vans into mini bus conversions and it was this side of the business that would ultimately see its downfall. A deal to supply a few thousand minibus conversions collapsed and the company was left holding stock that it couldn’t sell. The financial burden of this overstocking would lead to its ultimate demise.
The Holdsworth Conversion Company created some outstanding campervan conversions many of them panel conversions. Innovative use of space created comfortable conversions that combined a utilitarian ethic with a sense of romance and adventure. During its life the quality of the company’s work was recognised by external motor companies such as British Leyland and most notably Volkswagen who gave the company approved status for its conversions.
The landscape that the company left behind was a healthy campervan conversion industry with many companies following in the wake of the Holdsworth Conversion Company.
Richard Holdsworth is today the president of the The Holdsworth Owners Club
and we understand is now a novelist and at work on his second novel.
Breakfast in a Holdsworth conversion
All the picture used in this article are of a vw camper van conversion called Notty. If you have a conversion of any type that you wish to share, please feel free to drop us a line. We’d love to post your photos and tales of personal campervan conversions.