Caravans International or CI is a British company which was founded in 1963 by the caravan designer, entrepreneur and philanthropist, Sam Alper.
Alper had begun his career in the leisure vehicle business just after the Second World War by working in his brother Henry’s workshop, Alperson Products in London. Both Alperson brothers believed that cheap caravans could be manufactured for the masses which people could tow behind the family car. By 1947 Sam Alper had designed and made his first touring caravan with the wheels and suspension made from magnesium and using the brakes from a Spitfire fighter plane. The roof was apparently made from barrage balloon material. Sam took over the business and quickly developed the Sprite model, built from tempered hardboard, which retailed at less than £200 in 1948. Alper sold 500 caravans in the first year of production.
Alper confirmed the growing reputation of his caravans in 1951 by towing one all the way from London to an international caravan rally at Florence in Italy. The Alperson Sprite proved so popular that larger manufacturing premises were required and the company moved to Newmarket in Suffolk. By 1963 Alper had already purchased the Eccles and Bluebird caravan brands, adding them to the Sprite brand to form Caravans International. The company began exporting vehicles to Europe, South Africa, Canada and the United States. In 1966 Caravans International received the Queen’s Award for Enterprise and Sam Alper was given an OBE for services to exports.
During the 1980s the British caravan industry became a victim of the recession while cheap package holidays abroad became more popular with the general public. Caravans International went into liquidation in 1982. Sam Alper, who also founded the Little Chef chain of restaurants, developed new interests in the Arts, wine-making and charity work. The Cosalt company from Hull, who bought out parts of the company, choose to keep the CI brand alive but renamed it Cosalt International. They still manufacture static caravans as part of the CI brand, but the touring caravan business was sold to Swift Leisure in 1994.
The CI brand is currently owned by the influential Trigano Group who invest in motorhome manufacturing businesses throughout Europe. They are still producing recreational vehicles under the CI brand name.