Retreat builds its 3000th van

By: Peter Quilty, Photography by: Peter Quilty

Melbourne-based Retreat Caravans has celebrated a huge milestone with its 3000th caravan rolling off the production line in April.

Retreat builds its 3000th van
Russell and Heather Thom's Retreat Mabel van was the 3000th van to be built by Retreat.

Retreat invited the excited and emotional owners of the 3000th van - a stylish 7.2m (23ft 6in) Retreat Mabel – Russell and Heather Thom of Burswood, WA – to join in the festivities at its Campbellfield, Vic, headquarters.

The retired couple were flown to Melbourne and stayed two nights at the Hilton Melbourne South Wharf hotel. On the morning of the celebration, they were chauffeured to Retreat Caravans HQ in a shiny black stretch limousine.

There to greet them was the Retreat senior management team, led by owners Sam and Shaz Kaptan, and a film crew. After morning tea, the Thoms were escorted around the Retreat factory and introduced to the members of staff, prior to the official unveiling of the Mabel.

Retreat left no stone unturned to ensure the Thoms were feted like VIPs and the couple was almost speechless and visibly touched by several surprise gifts, including a 111L ice box donated by Dometic. Retreat came to the party with contributions including Weber barbecue, $1000 BP fuel gift card, $500 Big4 caravan park voucher, and a 2006 (the year Retreat Caravans opened its doors) vintage bottle of Moet champagne.

"It’s been a long journey; Retreat has been extremely patient with us, and nothing was too much trouble," Russell, a former mechanical fitter, said. "After completing some research, we settled on Retreat based on the quality of its caravans and excellent service."


The Thoms were able to customise their van, opting for an east-west bed and extending the caravan by one foot. They also were impressed by the Mabel’s internal and external storage capacities.

"One of the reasons we decided on an east-west bed is that it allowed us to have princess robes," Russell said. "It not only appealed to Heather but gave her more space to hang clothes, plus extra drawers.

"We also were able to lengthen the van by one foot, put in a full-height pantry and consequently a club lounge because of the additional size."

Russell said that the whole occasion was a moment in their lives that they would cherish forever.

"Manufacturing 3000 caravans is a fantastic achievement by Retreat, which did the right thing by us all along," Russell said. "We couldn’t fault them, and we can’t say thank you enough; they were awesome."

Retreat executive assistant Tilly Rexhep said pulling the day together for the Thoms had been a massive team effort.

"It was full steam ahead once Sam and Shaz advised staff that they wished to celebrate the 3000th landmark," Tilly said. "It would be remiss not to mention the hard work of our tireless staff that went above and beyond the call of duty. It was fantastic to see our team come together for such an important milestone."

The Mabel arrived home in Western Australia less than a week after the celebration, and only days prior to the arrival of their van, the Thoms also collected a Ford Ranger XLT from a local dealership.

The Thoms have since embarked on a trip to Bunbury, 175km south of Perth, for a couple of nights before making tracks to Shark Bay and Monkey Mia, 900km north of Perth, where they hope to spot a pod of wild bottlenose dolphins.


The past decade has been a proud and memorable journey for Retreat Caravans.

Retreat sold 1500 vans in the first seven years of its operation, and the following 1500 vans during the past three years. It was based in a smaller facility at Epping from 2006 to 2010 before relocating to its current base in 2011.