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The History of Sprite Caravans

If you’ve ever taken to the roads on a Bank Holiday weekend, there’s a good chance you’ll have encountered a Sprite caravan – one of the oldest and most trusted caravan manufacturers in the UK, the Sprite brand is synonymous with quality, comfort, great value and durability.

But Sprite hasn’t always had an easy ride where its business dealings are concerned and has had to come back from the brink on more than one occasion. Here’s the story of Sprite caravans.

 

How were Sprite caravans founded?

The Sprite caravan brand dates back to 1947, when Sam Alper left his position in the armed forces to work as a caravan designer for his brother, Henry Alper, and his newly established caravan company, Alperson Products.

Shortly after Sam’s arrival, Henry left the family business and left his brother to take over the reins, in what appear to have been some trying circumstances. Not only were the raw materials in short supply in post-war Britain – the first ever Sprite was constructed from surplus war materials – the caravans built by Alper were heavy, cumbersome and, at £600 per unit, very expensive.

But Alper recognised there was a gap in the market (as he would again a decade later when he launched the Little Chef brand of motorway diners) and went about designing a cheaper model for a public that was tightening its belt after the war and desperate for an affordable way to holiday.

And so the first Sprite was born – a robust caravan that could easily be towed by a standard family saloon car and, at £199, was a lot more affordable than previous models.

 

The caravan boom of the 1960s

In order to prove how robust and mobile his caravans were, Alper took one on the road and invited a caravan journalist along for the ride. Heading off to mainland Europe, they covered 10,000 miles without a hitch (so to speak), to not only cement the Sprite’s reputation as a reliable caravan but also to help build up a pretty healthy export market in the process.

The demand for caravans and caravanning holidays grew rapidly during the late 1950s and 1960s, so to keep up with this demand, Alper bought Eccles Caravans – a company with a long and proud heritage, having produced the first ever car-pulled caravan back in 1919.

Alper merged his company with Bluebird Caravans in 1963 to become the chairman of Caravans International. Also known as CI Caravans, this new company would revolutionise the caravan industry by taking a leaf out of the car industry’s book and launching dealerships all over Europe. This meant that if something went wrong with your Sprite while on the road in France, you could simply visit a local Sprite dealer there to get the problem sorted straight away.

 

Taking caravanning global in the 1970s

By the 1970s, Sprite caravans were being manufactured in countries all over the world, including Germany, Italy, New Zealand and South Africa, but Alper had bigger ambitions and wanted to crack the USA. He decided the best way to achieve this goal would be to buy an existing US company that would be able to mass produce versions of the Alpine, Major and Musketeer units to meet US specifications and regulations.

Things didn’t work out quite as planned though – not only did the US models not take off as well as predicted, an increasing number of manufacturers were emerging to eat away at Sprite’s market share. And then there was the recession to contend with in the late 1970s – less disposable income for UK families meant fewer units would be bought, as people concentrated on simply making ends meet.

By the 1980s, CI Caravans had gone into liquidation and Alper’s involvement in the caravan industry came to an end when the company was bought by Hull-based caravan manufacturer Cosalt – it was the end of an era for Alper, but the beginning of a new one for Sprite.

 

The rebirth of the Sprite

Cosalt kept the Caravans International brand going, launching a range of new Sprite caravans, which were smaller and more efficient, but still had the same durable build quality. This continued until the 1990s, when Cosalt decided to concentrate its efforts on the growing static caravan market and subsequently sold its touring caravan business to Swift Leisure.

Swift continued to use the Sprite name, and these new Sprite caravans continued the brand’s tradition of innovation, fitting Tyron safety bands, which lock the tyre onto the wheel in the event of a flat tyre, as standard, as well as loose-fit carpets and halogen lamps to the interior.

 

Flower blossoming

The Sprite was temporarily dropped from the UK market in 2005, but was quickly reinstated in 2009, when a range of models new Sprite models were launched to different markets. In total, seven new Sprite caravans were launched, including the Alpine 2, Alpine 4, Musketeer TD Musketeer EB, Major 6, and the twin axle Quattro FB.

Swift was also looking to break into the UK’s burgeoning small car market, with a caravan that was light enough to be pulled by a regular three-door hatchback, and so the Finesse 2 was born – at just 3.66m in length with a maximum weight (MTPLM) of 1,084kg, this smallest of Sprite’s could easily be pulled by a VW Golf or Vauxhall Corsa, opening up the caravan market to a whole new market of small car owners.

The Sprite range has continued to go from strength-to-strength. The Alpine, Major and Quattro have all had an interior design overhaul and three-piece windows fitted to the front, to appeal to the luxury end of the market, while all models have benefitted from a new construction system that increases both safety and durability against the elements.

If you’re looking for comfort, affordability and innovation, you need to look no further than a Sprite caravan.

Looking for more information about caravans, check out our post on the most pimped out caravans.

Sprite caravan insurance

Whether you’re towing a top-of-the-range Sprite Quattro or the more compact Finesse 2, it’s essential you have the right cover for your specific unit.

To find the right policy to suit your needs, give our insurance experts a call on 0800 0304 206 – our unrivalled choice of policies, is what makes 99.6% of Comfort Insurance’s customers say they’re happy with our service and would recommend us to a friend*.

*April 2014

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