Van Build

Installing Scopema swivel seats on a Ford Transit (and mistakes to avoid!)

A handicap man sits in the driver's seat of a Ford Transit campervan conversion. The passenger seat is swiveled around 180 degrees.

TLDR: Don’t install the driver’s swivel. We gutted the parking brake and replaced it with a push button. Had to cover the electronics beneath the brake with something creative.

Ah, the driver’s side swivel seat. Often requires lowering the parking brake with a metal adapter. No problem, right? How bad could it be? Van lifers do it all the time. It’s on youtube and many veteran van blogs.

Hot Take: The driver’s side swivel is totally overrated.


TLDR: I wouldn’t do it again. We threw out the whole parking brake.

This being one of the very first projects I did in the van, and it was quite daunting at the time. Messing around with the parking break entails cutting through metal to get it to fit. This means extra tools, more mess with metal shavings, and potential to break your brake. In retrospect the driver’s swivel doesn’t make any sense in our layout, where a wet room wall sits right behind it. But hindsight is 20/20, and I didn’t fully anticipate that when I started my build. That said, I learned a lot of important lessons and dealt with some serious (and pricey) struggles that aren’t mentioned in the van life blogs I read, so it’s worth considering my experience if you are an enthusiastic DIYer.

The main reason I went with a Scopema swivel as opposed to other brands out there is because of the height difference. The Scopema has the shortest height added of all the swivels out there, and we knew we were going to add hand controls since my husband is disabled. The hand controls have a physical brake attachment, and that takes up some of the space between the steering wheel and the seat. He’s got quite skinny legs and it’s still a cozy fit with the swivel and hand controls. It was non-negotiable here.

There’s several blogs and videos describing the process of lowering the parking brake. Definitely worth reading thoroughly. That said, we still had problems with the driver’s side install, and ultimately decided to remove the whole brake, add an electriconic brake, and cover the exposed area. I would not install one again if there’s a parking brake present.

Tools to install the driver’s side swivel:

  • T-40 Torq bit (to unscrew the seat from the base)
  • Allen wrenches (for attaching the swivel)
  • Hex wrench bit, 7mm (to disconnect the airbag)
  • Hacksaw for metal (for removing a couple welded bolts in the base)
  • Jigsaw or box cutter to cut plastic (to allow for the van wires to come up through the center of the swivel to the airbag)


  • Remove the seat
  • Disconnect the airbag under the seat using the 7mm hex bit
  • Disconnect and remove the battery
  • Remove bolts inside the seat base attaching to the parking brake
After removing the parking brake cover
  • Detach the parking brake from the outside of the seat base (requires removing welded on bolts)

  • If lowering: Slice through parking brake base to remove and modify so it will sit flush in lower position
  • Add adapter plate*
  • Reattach modified parking brake and base*
  • Replace battery
  • Cut a hole through plastic battery topper for airbag cable
  • Attach swivel to base
  • Reconnect air bag
  • Attach seat to swivel
  • Done with swivel install

* We didn’t do these steps (:

Removing the bolts that hold the battery cover in place

Where it all went wrong

When I got to the part of trying to actually lower the parking brake, no matter what we tried the brake cable would not budge any lower. I watched every Youtube video and blog tutorial, and scoured the Ford transit forums. I ended up completely taking the parking brake apart, discovering there were airbag controls beneath it, and not having a parking brake for a couple weeks. (I wasn’t driving it at that point.)

Finally I found out after hours of searching and digging through forum threads, that someone had to go to an autoshop, order a shorter cable, and have it replaced. And then I also discovered about the estopp, from someone else who was disabled and working on a conversion.

Getting a shorter cable may have been an inexpensive fix, however it also still came with the issue that the swivel will not work on a hill when the brake is required. So, I just removed the whole parking brake. Threw that ugly shit out. Found a competent and open minded auto body shop. I went with a place that worked on custom hot rods. The e-stopp is a linear actuator parking brake mounted under the van body, with a little push button added on the dashboard for engaging and disengaging the parking brake. It’s possible for a car saavy person to do on their own, but I am not such a person.

The parking brake completely removed

Since I’m apparently a masochist who hates saving money, I thought this was the best solution. Total cost: $350 for the swivel, $500 for the e-stopp, $500 for the install. Definitely expensive and 100% worth it to us to have the e-brake.

Are you voiding some portion of your warranty? Perhaps, it’s not impossible. Push button parking brakes are an accessibility feature for those with limited upper body mobility, and there are places that perform this often.

Here’s the bottom line: even if we could have lowered the parking brake, it would still have been in the way while the brake was engaged. So no swiveling on hills. Given that Casey is a paraplegic and needs to swivel the driver’s side seat so that he can get into it, the parking brake still presented a problem. So this ended up being a great solution for us, minus the price.

Because there are electronics underneath the parking brake that are now exposed (I believe air bag controls) we wanted to make sure we don’t damage them accidentally by stepping on them. So I built a “snack box” out of wood that sits just barely above the electronics and attaches to the now free mounting holes on the side of the seat. I LOVE my snack box. (Read below for how I built it.)

The passenger side swivel

If you can only do 1 swivel in your van, let it be this one, seriously. 1 million times easier and most likely fits with more van layouts.

The passenger swivel is similar to the driver’s but far less steps. You’ll need the T-40 bit to remove the seat, then disconnect the airbags, then attach the swivel, then reconnect the airbag and seat, with one final step that took about 10 minutes or less – cutting away the metal attachment on the rear of the seat. You do NOT need an angle grinder (this will have sparks flying and metal shaving all over your van!). A simple hack saw will do. I used this one and it took me just a few minutes and some elbow grease. Be sure to get a car vacuum and clean up the metal shavings! They will rust!!

Using a hack saw to cut away the thin metal bar that would otherwise block the swivel from turning.

How to build a driver’s side storage box

(to cover the airbag controls that are beneath the parking brake)

Tools and materials to build a driver’s side storage box

(to cover the electronics that the parking brake formely does)

  • Chop saw or miter saw
  • Titebond wood glue
  • Drill
  • #8 1 1/2″ wood screws
  • Paint if desired
  • 1×6 pine board
  • 1×10 pine board
  • heavy VHB tape (I had left over from the vent fan)
  • right angle clamps (optional, but an indespensible tool for nice boxes IMO)


  1. Cut the pieces of wood to your desired box size with the chop saw (or miter saw).
  2. Use the right angle clamps to pre-drill and countersink for the screws.
  3. Paint the pieces
  4. Add glue along the seams
  5. Screw together
Painted wood sides and bottom glued together with Titebond III.
After clamping the glued pieces together, I added some screws to hold the box in place while it was drying (always pre-drill to prevent the wood splitting 🙂
The finished box is approximately 9″ x 11″. You’ll have flexibility to make it a little bigger or smaller.

Determine where to drill to make mounting holes. There were previous mounting points on the outside of the driver’s seat from where the parking brake was once mounted, and I just made sure those became part of the box design.

Add the extra thick VHB tape, and mount to the driver’s seat

Close up of the VHB tape against the seat base
The finished “snack box”

12 months later…

Would I add an e-stopp again? Yes, absolutely. It’s sleek and easy to use and can’t accidentally be used during driving.
Would I add a swivel again? They are very cool and add a nice accessibility feature for Casey to transfer, but I wouldn’t install it again on the driver’s side. Since we ended up deciding on adding the bathroom behind the driver’s seat, the swivel is kind of useless now. The passenger seat swivel is much easier to install and adds more value for us in particular. If I had to start over, I’d just get a van that had push to park instead and only install the passenger swivel, which was super easy. Or I’d just skip it entirely. I keep THINKING I’ll use it, but then most trips I don’t.

Would I add a snackbox again? THIS IS MY FAVORITE PART OF THIS WHOLE MESS! 😀 And I’m genuinely surprised the VHB tape and mounting holes have kept it attached through tens of thousands of miles of road trips.

About Author

Betty, aka Stoked Betty. DIY camper van builder, maker, engineer, surfer, skater, and snowboarding travel enthusiast. One-half of the brains, muscle, and labor behind this site. Proud wife to Casey.

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