Meet Henrietta, our new 1981 QEK Junior caravan!

31 08 2019

In late May 2019, we had registered our new caravan in Berlin, got the number plates  and went back to Frankfurt (Oder) to pick her up. In the meantime, she has also been christianed, so the new family member is now called Henrietta! She is a 1981 East German mini camper trailer with a fiber glas hull mounted onto a metal frame. She was produced by the Qualitäts- und  Edelstahl Kombinat (German for “Quality and Stainless Steel factory”).  According to Wikipedia, the QEK Junior model was manufactured in three different factories, in Schmiedefeld in Thuringa, in Staßfurt and in Leipzig. Her paper work lists Henrietta as made by Schmiedefeld ISOKO, so she comes from the Thuringa factory.

The rear of the QEK houses a central table and two long benches, which cover the wheel houses and some storage space in the back. The table can be unhinged (two hinges below the rear window) and lowered to bench-level so that, with two additional boards, a very large bed area is generated (about 1.90 m in width and about 2  m in length). The previous owner has bought new matress cussions, new cussion covers and matching. The curtains will go, but nice to know that this is all fresh and new.

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The kitchen block along the front of the caravan is as minimalistic as it can be: There is a mini sink on the right, but no water tab (and no opening for one in the bench top). The sink empties via a hose directly to the outside, onto the ground. The cupboard under the sink has a holder for a gas bottle, and there are openings for a gas tube to run from this cupboard to the platform on the bench, on the left, where originally a removable gas cooker had its home. Unfortunately that was already lost when we bought this QEK. On the outside, in the front of the caravan, there is an additional storage unit with holders for two gas bottles. There is some storage space under and above the kitchen bench and there is a wardrobe on the left.

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The floor in front of the kitchen bench is lowered by about 10 cm and there is a little pop-up roof above the kitchen gallery which can be lifted by about 5 cm, using four unusual, QEK specific screwing appliances. They seem to be made from stainless steel – together with the stainless-steel main door hinges, they are the only obvious stainless steel features that hint towards the “quality- and stainless steel” mother factory:

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One of the previous owners had started to pretty her up and to update her a little: The four extractable feet, in each corner of the caravan, look like solid new versions. The electricity has received a modest overhaul, with a modern exterior wall socket to plug it into camp site electricity, which connects to two new wall sockets on the inside. The connector to the pulling vehicle is already the new 16-pin version and the front wheel looks more modern than 1981. The two tires are from 2016. And as mentioned above, the eight matrass pieces feature very new cushion cores and new covers, with new matching curtains.

On the negative side, some previous owner had used the wrong kind of paint to repaint the inner ceiling, which now comes off in large flakes and looks pretty shabby (see the roof hinge photo above). The original electric system (lights above the table and above the kitchen and a control board outside the wardrobe) does not work and may have been switched off by a previous owner. And the original gas cooker and the yawning were missing. But hey, she is also not meant to be a museum piece but a working camper. So in the last months we have further upgraded Henrietta a little bit and have started using her for this summer’s camping adventures. Soon more on this progress! And if you like, you can follow Henrietta on Instagramm (@henrietta.qek)!





A Caravan for Taiga Lily!

30 08 2019

Earlier this year, with our second daughter about to turn 4 and space getting a bit tight in our campervan without a fold-up roof, we decided to look seriously into buying a caravan. Our 1976 Volkswagen T2b bus  comes with the “large” 2L engine which still provides only a modest 70 horse power. The tow bar we installed three years ago allows us to pull 1.200 kg max. We have been looking around over the last couple of years and it seems that under these limitations the German air-cooled Volkswagen community favors either the West German Eriba caravans (e.g. the Eriba Puck, the Eriba Triton or the Eriba Touring or the East German QEK Junior. Original Eribas from the 1960s and 1970s in good condition have become serious collector’s pieces with price tags way above our means. So we started looking for a QEK instead. Berlin is surrounded by the former East Germany where the QEKS are still available in large numbers. So off we went at the end of April and found this little fellow at a caravan dealer in Frankfurt/Oder, close to the border to Poland:

It is a QEK Junior. I  have now learnt from Wikipedia that QEK stands for “Qualitäts- und  Edelstahl Kombinat” (Socialist German for “Quality and Stainless Steel Factory). Interesting discrepancy between the (West German) official papers which list its first year of registration as 1989, while the plates on the caravan itself give its production date as 1981. I assume 1981 will be the true date of manufacturing. The QEK Junior weighs only 600 kg, light enough to be pulled by the light weight Eats Germans Trabants (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trabant), and therefore hopefully no problem for our bus.

There are two variants of the QEK Junior, with and without brakes, and this one is the one with brakes, which allows a maximum speed of 100 km/h instead of 80 km/h. The overall condition looked ok.  The shell, made from GVK (Glasfaser-verstaerkter Kúnststoff – glass fiber reinforced plastic), looked undamaged and without any obvious water leaks. So we signed the papers and arranged that we can pick it up with a new road-worthy certificate three to four weeks later!