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Saturday, 17 October 2015

Ponfa pram restoration - part 1

Many Sasha collectors know of the beautiful prams which were made in France as playthings (not salesmen's samples as some believe) in the 1950s.  Dawn L has a wonderful collection of them which I've blogged about before and this year in the Sasha Festival Journal (which my daughter received ahead of the festival from Rosie S because she wrote an photo story for it) Dawn had written a fascinating article about the prams (Doucet, Red, Ponfa and the mysterious Yellow).  Personally I think they were all made by the same company with different names applied over a period of years as some Doucet prams are identical in body shape to the Red and Ponfa prams, while other Doucet prams have a different body shape and chassis construction.

I have long wanted one of these prams to restore but even prams needing major attention tend to command a very high price and they only appear occasionally on ebay, RubyLane or other antique sites. So I've seen several go well beyond my reach.  In May this year I was lucky as I spotted a lovely little Ponfa pram on RubyLane which needed some restoration but wasn't in terrible condition and was within my price range.  It was described as follows:

Vintage French Doll Carriage, Pram, Buggy-Ponfa, Made In France
Showcased here for your consideration is this vintage French Ponfa miniature toy doll carriage in good condition! It still retains the manufacturer's sticker on the bottom that reads "Ponfa Made In France." I believe these diminutive prams were made in the late 1940's to early 1950's. This wonderful little accessory is the perfect foil to display your vintage and antique baby dolls. It measures about 9" tall by 11" long and 6-1/2" wide. It is intricately made with moving parts and is very realistic in its presentation--almost like a salesman's sample. The blue vinyl hood can collapse down or stand up to shade Baby. It is constructed with chrome and metal parts. Little bonded leather straps hold the carriage assembly to the frame, acting as shock absorbers. The whole thing sits on old rubber wheels that turn. Inside the buggy is are a pillow and mattress which are not original to the piece, but will be included. The chassis is in very good condition, but there are some scratches & wear to the painted metal surfaces. The hood and the tires are excellent. Though not from the same era, there is a newer vinyl "nursing" doll included, since she has been on display with the carriage ever since my Mom acquired the carriage many years ago.

MDM's photo on Ruby Lane of the Ponfa pram
I contacted the seller (MDM) and asked for additional photos which she very kindly provided.  It didn't take me long to decide that this was the pram I wanted to restore.  I could see what needed to be done to correct the 'lurch' of the body in the chassis and I could tell it was in very good condition for its age.

MDM's photo on Ruby Lane of the Ponfa pram with hood down
MDM's photo of the chassis, showing how the curved strap holders are bent sideways, hence the scratches to the bodywork
MDM's side view of the chassis, showing how the chassis arms are too close together at the top, resulting in a lack of tension between the body straps
MDM's end view of the chassis, showing the twist of chassis arms
MDM's photo of the pram body with the hood up, showing hood framework distortion
MDM's photo of inside the pram body, showing how rust free it was - the minor rust marks from scratches in paintwork did not go through to the inside
MDM's side view of the pram body
MDM's side view of the pram body 
MDM's hood view of the body showing the small distortion of the hood framework
It was shipped from the USA at the end of May and arrived (once UK customs had charged me for importing it) very well packaged along with the baby doll which apparently had been displayed with it for several years by the seller's late mother.  Both the seller and her mum were avid doll collectors of good reputation.

My family were charmed by the pram when I removed it from the box and extensive bubble wrap.  We soon had it reassembled to see how it looked and began to study its various problems to work out exactly what order to do all the stages of the restoration.

I had done some internet searches to try and find other pram restorations and discovered there was not very much published openly, most restorers don't document the whole process and explain techniques online, especially if they are doing it commercially.  As I had explained to the seller, both of us have restoration skills (metal and woodwork) from another line of work, many tools and the workshop.  Dismantling and restoring the pram became a two person job simply because my husband couldn't keep away from it - his engineering mind flipped into gear as soon as we started discussing what needed to be done.  It would have taken me much longer without his help.  I had piqued his interest in this little project and although there have been many times in the past few months when it has had to be put to one side because of daily life, home DIY jobs, family celebrations, visitors staying overnight, my full-time work and voluntary project we have succeeded together in giving it a new lease of life. I have taken photos of most of the stages of work and will publish them in a series of posts in the coming days.

For the other parts in this restoration process see
Ponfa pram restoration - Part 2
Ponfa pram restoration - Part 3
Ponfa pram restoration - Part 4
Ponfa pram restoration - Part 5

The contents of this blog post (except the photos which are all rights reserved to the original photographer MDM) has been created and shared using a Creative Commons ShareAlike Non-commercial licence which means others can remix, tweak and build upon this work non-commercially as long as they credit me and licence their new creations under the identical terms.  If you reuse any text of this blog post please use the following attribution to credit me:  CC BY-NC-SA by DollMum
If you wish to use any of the photos please contact me at dollmum at yahoo dot co dot uk
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Kendal said...

The little prams are absolutely perfect for our Sasha girls.
What an interesting restoration project.
Great too, to see it as you bought it and look forward to seeing photos during it's restoration stages. How super too, to see that your husband is joining in helping you.

Dee said...

I do love these little prams and they are very hard to find at a reasonable price. So it's good if you can find one and just need to do some work on it.
I look forward to seeing the results of your husband and you efforts to bring it back to full glory.

Anonymous said...

Looks a great project, I think my husband would like that challenge too. Looking forward to seeing the results. Viv.

Sharon said...

What a great find and I think it's even better when you can put your own 'mark' on something rather than have it come in perfect condition. Obviously I do like nice new things but I also love to 'customise' and restoring is just that really, isn't it!
I look forward to seeing the finished result....and great that your husband enjoyed doing his bit too :)

Ginger said...

Congrats Doll Mum on a terrific find! Thank you for posting the photos of the pram being disassembled too. It is very interesting to see it taken apart. I look forward to your future posts too and how things progress as you restore it. Well done! :) xxx

Serenata said...

I think it is wonderful that you can both share this process of restoration and the enthusiasm for it is obvious. Looking forward to each stage.

miniaturista said...

Pero que bonito te ha quedado.
Un abrazo