The Story of Dawson

It was leading up to Christmas 2016 that George and I both said hey how cool would it be if we could buy a kombi in QLD, spend Christmas in Theodore with it and drive it back along the coast home.

Every second year we would take two weeks off for Christmas in the Outback on Alyce’s parent’s cattle property and this particular year we had no kombi’s to drive as they were booked out.

So George jumped on Gumtree and low and behold there in front of him was an automatic 1974 Dorbmobile camper which had been resting on a hoist for the last 14 years in a shed, 2 hrs from Theodore.

We knew this beautiful rare kombi had to join our family but the bank wouldn’t give us a loan and we were still scraping the barrel.  For the life of us we can’t remember how we came up with the money but when there’s a will there’s a way.

We had come up with $12k to purchase Dawson which was a lot of money for us so maybe we sold a kidney..haha  We remember it being only days away from Christmas and our family wondering how we were going to get their or if we would make it.

Mae was not quite 4 years old and Kim was not quite 2.  We gathered some bags and a kombi toolbox and I felt like we were really treating ourselves by staying in a room at the Melbourne airport for a night as our flight was at dawn.  The kids were still asleep so we strapped them into their carseats and wheeled them on a trolley to check in.  We were on an adventure and we were so excited!

We flew to Emerald, Qld and a friend drove us just under an hour to Springsure then another friend drove us another hour from Springsure to Rolleston and we were beside ourselves with excitement and our friends were nervous because they couldn’t understand a family with two young kids buying a vehicle that hadn’t run for 14 years in the middle of nowhere but felt familiar territory to Alyce.

George lowered the hoist and started with the basics.  Removed the distributor, changed points and condenser and freed it up to spin properly again.  Removed rocket covers and rockers, retensioned the cylinder heads and adjusted valve clearance. Changed all fuel lines, spark plugs, put fresh fuel + battery.  

This had taken about 2hrs and George knew he was peddling in the right direction and it was only a matter of time until he was turning the engine over.

He had pushed it outside and the shed was across the road from the pub so in this one horse town I remember the town slowly gathering and watching this crazy kombi man attempting what they were saying would be impossible.  They all knew the old guy who had owned this kombi and sadly passed and even his grandchildren were there watching on.  

The kids and I heard the banter as we were at the pub trying to cool down and also watching what was unfolding.  George went to the driver's door, turned the key and fanged it past us with dust flying off the back on his way out of town to the truck wash and the pub was whistling and cheering and I have tears as I type remembering this feeling.  It was one of the best trips our family has ever had.

The shed was on the Dawson Highway and I knew this kombi was going to be called nothing other than Dawson.  Parking him up at the pub was a feeling we’ll never forget.  We had a parma, chips and beer and set off in the dark for the 200km trek to Theodore.  It was about midnight when we arrived at my parents and my dad shook his head with a grin.  We had done it and survived the dust + spiders which had also made Dawson home for the last 14 years.

George spent the week at the farm pulling Dawson’s interior out, run the pressure hose through it, varnished the timber, hung some curtains out of scrap material mum had and we were ready for the 2000km cruise home.

We would have loved Dawson to join the fleet immediately however we didn’t have the time to do what we wanted to him so he sat for too long in our paddock and in 2019 our only auto camper on the fleet at the time was in an accident so it was then that Dawson’s restoration was put as priority and he replaced Mango and has been a dream to drive ever since.

Dawson’s body was exceptional as he was kept in a shed in dry country but we did send him away to get a few spots of rust fixed and the top painted.  We were so disappointed with the work we had to take on the job ourselves.  We spent four months getting everything brand new on the outside except we kept his interior which was in great shape.  

We love Dawson not only due to his very cool Dormobile fit out but because of our history with him and we have lost the details of the grandchildren so if you are reading this, please reach out and come and take that trip we offered you in the pub that night.

Our children absolutely love his stretchers in the roof and hiding all their pencils, books and teddies in the cupboards.  He has brought so much joy to us and many others and cruises the coast and open roads with a beautiful energy surrounding him.

Dormobile is an English conversion.  They’re very unique to other kombi’s in the way the roof functions.  It’s very hard finding a dormobile on the Australian market let alone an automatic so we feel extremely grateful to have one on our fleet.

We hope you love Dawson as much as we do.