Thursday, 6 October 2011

How it all started - Was there ever a world without ERIBAs? Part 2

Erwin Hymer was born in 1930 in Bad Waldsee and was 24 years younger than Erich Bachem. He studied mechanical engineering and initially started work with the Dornier aircraft company, in Spain where he helped design the successful Do27 short take-off and landing single engine aircraft. 
A Dornier Do27
Later he moved with Dornier to Munich and of all things designed bubble cars for them.
A Dornier Janus bubblecar
In 1956 Hymer moved back to Bad Walsee to join his father’s car business. At about the same time his father bought some land from their neighbour, Erich Bachem, to extend his premises. Bachem had actually designed a caravan for his own use and asked Hymer senior to produce it for him. Erwin was put in charge of the project by his father and it was this decision to put the two experienced aeronautical engineers with knowledge of vehicle and caravan design together that still resonates today.
A late '60's Eriba Puck
The initial prototype caravans were built in 1957 and tested by both families during their summer holidays, with production starting in 1958. The Puck Luxus, Faun Standard and Faun Familia were produced by Hymers at Bad Waldsee and the Troll Luxus range topping van was contracted out to glider maker Schempp-Hirth, surely a throwback to Bachem’s Aero Sport experience from the ‘30’s.
The first year’s production was 167 vans, followed by 455 in 1959 and then on into the thousands.

In 1961, a year after Bachem’s death, Hymer diversified further, moving into motorhomes using a Borgward chassis and Eriba-like pop-top. Unfortunately Borgward ceased trading in 1962 and Hymer decided to drop the motorhome project and concentrate on caravans. 
A Hymer Borgward Campervan from 1961
During the ‘60’s they brought Troll production in-house and launched the Nova range of caravans, whilst gradually developing and modernising the Eriba range. They also diversified into alloy ladder production and caravan components. Production volume rose to 1,500 vans a year with the 10,000 van milestone being reached in 1966.
In early 1968 fire swept through the Bad Waldsee factory, destroying all but the cabinet production area and offices, but full production in enlarged buildings was back in operation by June of the same year.
In 1970 Hymer France was set up at Thann, Alsace and moved two years later to a brand new factory in Cernay where Eriba caravans were produced until early 2010. With most caravan production moved to France it was time for Hymer to get back into the motorhome market. 
The offices at Hymer France factory complex in Cernay

Part of the production buildings at Hymer France

Hymer launched their second assault on the motorhome market in 1971 when a total of only 701 motorhomes were registered in Germany but by the end of the decade that figure was 4,750 a year.

A 1971 Mercedes based Hymer 555 motorhome
In 1973, after the death of his father, Erwin Hymer became head of the Hymer company, and in 1978 he also took over the top job at Eriba following the death of Eric Bachem’s successor in a road accident. In 1980 the two companies were formally brought together under the Eriba-Hymer GmBH banner. 
A small part of the immense Hymer plant at Bad Waldsee
Over the intervening years Hymer Group has grown enormously with its name being inextricably linked and synonymous with their highly regarded range of motorhomes. In 1990 after suffering a health problem Erwin decided to turn the Group into a publicly owned company with himself as majority owner and chairman of the supervisory board. As it has developed and the years have passed the Group has acquired ownership of many other brands including Burstner, Carado, Laika, Niesmann & Bischoff, Dethleffs, Sunlight, LMC, TEC and the accessory company Movera.
Erwin Hymer has celebrated 50 years of the Hymer Group. Here he's standing in front og one of the oldest and one of the newest eponymous motorhomes.
Despite reducing his involvement with the business Erwin Hymer at 81 years old can still be found in his office in Bad Waldsee on an almost daily basis and on his wall behind his desk is a picture of that very first Eriba from 1957.
Erwin posing in front of the museum that bears his name in Bad Waldsee, it's due to open at the end of October 2011
In the next blog I'll explain the Eribas that the blog is about and I suspect I'll upset some people in the process.

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