The first Bedford CA based Dormobile motorhome, complete with a gas stove, a sink and cupboards and seats which converted into beds, appeared in 1957. The elevating roof, hinged on one side and featuring a red and white striped canopy, was quickly evolved in order to make it possible to stand within the vehicle. The campervan idea originated as a compromise negotiated with the UK tax office. Earlier in the 1950s, the manufacturers specialised in converting the Bedford CA van into a mini-bus, featuring extra side windows and seats. The UK tax authorities asserted that the converted vehicle was effectively a form of estate car, and therefore its retail price should bear passenger car purchase tax, a burden from which buyers of vans were spared. However, the manufacturers negotiated an agreement whereby Dormobile converted vans could be sold without purchase tax, provided they incorporated "built-in life support equipment" such as a cooking device, and facilities for the washing and storage of clothes. These stipulations triggered a move away from minibus conversions to motorhome conversions, which carved out a substantial new life-style market as the ensuing decade saw a substantial increase in disposable incomes in the UK.
The company subsequently converted a number of different van-based vehicles to other uses, including minibuses and ambulances, before collapsing in the mid 1990s.
The novelist Anthony Burgess, who owned one and used it as a home and means of travelling throughout Western Europe in the late 1960s, described the Bedford Dormobile as "a miracle of British design, although much let down by slipshod British execution — screws missing, bad wood-planing..."