Hymer’s history as motorhome manufacturer stretches back nearly fifty years, although the company owes its existence to events at least another forty years earlier, in the last century. Herr Alfons Hymer (1897-1973) gained his diploma as a ‘Meister’ in the craft of coach building in 1921 in Ravensburg, Germany. He began to work independently within his parent’s business, initially specialising in farm carts, but then in 1924 he built a workshop and house in Bad Waldsee, also in Germany.
After marrying in 1925, Alfons expanded his activities into car repairs and started to sell ‘Aral’ petrol. His son, Erwin Hymer, born in July 1930, studied mechanical engineering and then joined the Dornier aircraft company in Spain, where he was one of the team responsible for the very successful DO27 short take-off and landing aeroplane.
Later, still with Dornier, he moved to Munich where he developed the Dornier Delta bubble car. One of a crop of ‘micro-cars’ Later, still with Dornier, he moved to Munich where he developed the Dornier Delta bubble car. One of a crop of ‘micro-cars’ created in the 1950s to bring cheap motoring to the masses. His unusual four-seater design (two occupants faced forwards and two rearwards) was taken up and built by motorcycle manufacturers Zundapp as the ‘Janus’.
In 1956 Erwin Hymer made a timely move to join his father’s firm in Bad Waldsee, back in Germany. Alfons Hymer had just bought land from his neighbour Erich Bachem to extend his works. Bachem not only was another man with an aircraft industry background, in 1944/45 he had headed the ‘Natter’ rocket-assisted interceptor aircraft project, but had, together with Wolf Hirth, built a small caravan, the ‘Aero-Sport’, in 1938. Now he had new ideas for a caravan for his own use and had asked Hymer senior to build it for him. Alfons put his son in charge of the project and the result brought together Erich’s and Erwin’s thoughts on caravan design, which was influenced in no small measure by their aircraft industry experience..
Caravanning only started to take off in Germany in the mid-1930s. After the war there were more pressing priorities and caravan construction was slow to revive, but by the mid-fifties an upturn was underway. The Hymer/Bachem team were quick to appreciate the possibilities stemming from their first design exercise and prototype caravans were ready in 1957 in time for the Hymer and Bachem families to be able to check out their practicality on their summer holidays.
Now the Hymer family business was to take a new direction. It would build the caravans and Erich Bachem would market them. The name for the new caravan was derived from a combination of their names, ER
Ich and Bachem; hence the ERIBA caravan was born. Production of the caravans began in February 1958. In fact the Hymer workshops built the ‘Puck Luxus’,MOTORHOME‘Faun Standard’ and the ‘Faun Familia’ models, whilst the ‘Troll Luxus’ top-of-the-range model, based on the caravan created for Bachem’s personal use, was at first put out for manufacture by the glider makers Schempp-Hirth. By the second half of the year one Eriba caravan was being built every day; the annual total was 167.
In 1959 output rose to 455 units and it wasn’t loo long before the magic figure of 1000 a year was achieved. Sadly, however, Erich Bachem did not live to enjoy the meteoric rise of his partnership with the Hymer. He died in 1960 after a severe illness. His friend Armand F. Protzen took over as head of the Eriba marketing organisation. From touring caravans the next logical step for Hymer was a motor caravan.
Although Westfalia had paved the way for the post-war motor caravan industry in Europe with their ‘Camping Box’ conversion of the Volkswagen Transporter, and had moved on to refine their concept, there was a decade later, still no other volume producer in Germany.