Romahomes - a short history.
In the late 1970s, a great industrial designer and engineer called Barry Stimpson designed a little camping 'pod' to fit on the back of the current Honda pickup.
At that time, little Japanese pickups were getting popular in the UK, but the original Honda Acty was one of the smallest, only having a 350cc engine.
A newer Acty appeared with a larger, 550cc, engine, and a bigger frame.
He modified the design, fitting a Luton extension over the cab.
On the Isle of Wight, Island Plastics Ltd., purchased the design, and went into production.
They were known for their great quality in glass fibre moulding, and with good publicity, and great reviews in MMM and other magazines, suddenly the Romahome Dismountable took off.
You could buy a Honda Acty pick up, remove the side panels and pop down to the Isle of Wight, and have the Romahome body dropped on.
The body was also fitted to other Japanese inspired small pickups.
Island Plastics then designed a slightly larger Romahome on the Citroen C15 base.
Unfortunately, Island Plastics Ltd then ran into financial problems, and closed.
Following a buy-out by some Island Plastics staff members, production of the Romahome resumed.
The Freeborn Group had become a minority shareholder of Island Plastics in 1991.
This was simply because their car dealership in Southampton supplied Island Plastics (based in Ryde) with all the Citroen C15s
Freeborn subsequently funded a management buy-out in the late 90's.
This eventually led to a full takeover of Romahome by Freeborn in the early part of this century in which Brian Bailey retained a stake and became Managing Director. Manufacture of the Romahome and other conversions such as meals-on-wheels for local authorities continued until the lease on the factory premises in Cowes expired in September 2013.
Unfortunately this coincided with Citroen France deciding Romahome could no longer convert the new Berlingo because it now had ESP fitted which would not work effectively with the chassis overhang.
As the R20 and R25 are both built on the Berlingo and accounted for 70% of production, Romahome had little choice but to cease production when the lease ended.
Fortunately, Brian Bailey’s son and daughter, Dan and Jess, had already taken a lease on the adjoining premises and asked if they could take on Romahome production under licence from Freeborn.
This was readily agreed and was excellent news as it meant most of the experienced Romahome staff were able to get jobs with Addabak, the new company.
The single berth R10, built on the Nemo, and the R30 built on the Relay, were not affected by the introduction of ESP as they are built on vans and production therefore continued as before, with sales numbering about two per month.
Thankfully, there was still a plentiful supply of Berlingo vans without ESP and with low mileage.
Examples were purchased primarily by Freeborn Group and converted into
R20 Hi and Lo models and sold with an all-new conversion.
The sales of used R20s numbered about five per month.
On top of that Addabak designed an all-new demountable built on the DFSK pick-up truck, the D20. This didn’t have widespread publicity but is a great little vehicle although it was sold in relatively small numbers as supply was restricted.
Coming up to date, life has moved on, and unfortunately Brian Bailey has suffered ill health forcing early retirement.
Sadly, there won't be any further production of Romahomes.
This does not mean the end of the club, as there are hundreds of Romahomes out there. The Romaclub has a new, keen committee, committed to running your club as the friendly organisation that hundreds of members over the past 30 years have been used to.
We can all look forward to the next 30 years.