In return, this meant that only the basics in terms of creature comforts worked just fine, as long as you could still tow it with the daily driver. For a short family getaway, a hunting or fishing trip with your best friend, or a couple of the boys (at most), you didn't need all the trappings of modern life. You only needed the bare minimum. Kind of like camping, but on wheels, so an obvious upgrade.
That's what Otten Caravan offered, starting with their first model, the now-iconic Zwerver, which translates to "Wanderer." Small, lightweight, and very aerodynamic, this teeny-tiny trailer was the beginning of a success story that lasted well into the 1990s, producing hugely popular RVs and, along the way, setting the bar very high for every regional competitor.
The first mass-produced model was the Zwerver, introduced in early 1960. It was a sum of all the improvements the brothers had made to their caravans until that point and resulted in an exceptionally lightweight and stable towable. With a wooden frame sheathed in Masonite, plywood interior, low height, and a low center of gravity, the Zwerver was stable and easy to tow. It was also aerodynamic and fuel-efficient, thanks to the irregular and very small shape with the curved roofline.
Still, despite the size, the Zwerver was quite comfortable, all things considered. This might have been a curvy box on two wheels, but it still offered a kitchen, a dinette, and sleeping for one or two people, and even standing height. That's because this first model offered a pop-up roof, an option that proved so popular that it became a mainstay with all Otten products, including the luxurious-by-comparison later models, like the Speurder, Trekker, Kruiser, and Explorer.
The setup was rudimentary at best, but only if you look at it through 2023-tinted glasses. It wasn't luxurious for the '60s either, but it offered some creature comforts in a compact and very convenient package, so it had the upper hand on the competition.
Otten Caravan continued the production of various models until 1994, becoming one of the most popular and distinctive makers in the country and Europe before bowing out of the race. Two elements that make it distinctive are the pop-up roof and the Masonite exterior, both of which remained standard until the final unit rolled off the assembly line.
The Zwerver, the tiniest and cutest model of the bunch, remains an all-time favorite, though it's a rare find even on the specialized market and oftentimes requires a lot of work and money for restoration. To us, admiring it from a distance, it's an example of creativity and functionality, if not of enhanced comfort – and proof that you can have more with less. The only condition is that you manage and adjust expectations.