Twisted Comfort

I know transit vans are not luxury vehicles, they are purposely built for lugging. Tools, TV’s, machinery, pipes, sand, builders, parcels, bikes. You name it and I’m sure there is a transit out there that has lugged it, or is even lugging it right now! I’m no different, I’m using the transit to lug all the things that make up my campervan, along with my lazy ass.

And, you’d be forgiven for thinking that for a vehicle with a primary purpose of lugging, it would be able to do this day in, day out, better than any other…. Right? And yes, the vehicle is happy to go as long as you need it to. But, as with most other technology, it is let down by the soft, sweaty, organic bit behind the wheel. I guarantee, your mechanical lugger can go all day, but your ass can’t.

Certainly, that is the opinion I’ve come to. Whoever designed the transit knew that everyone from plasterers to parcel-ers would drive this vehicle and that they would cover some big distances in their lugging careers – so why the rubbish seats? Ford has had several iterations of the transit up to the point I’ve bought one, I’ve got the MK7. So why are the seats not the same as you would find in their luxury saloon range? Certainly, the seat is going to get used enough, why not make it as comfortable as possible? While I can understand that my van is now 7 years old and having done 140k miles, the seats may have sagged a bit. But the crux of the matter is, why would you put a solid steel bar directly under the drivers coxxic so when they hit the inevitably poor surfaces some councils try to pass off as road, it shoots straight up into the drivers spine…??? 

After several long driving trips to Cornwall, Scotland, the Lake District and Wales, coupled with the frequent 200 mile round trips for work and occasional long distance favours for friends, my ass is fed up. It’s become uncomfortable for long trips now, so I’ve been searching for new seats. You’d think this would be easy, but since the yoofs of today seem to be copying me and converting vans into campers, they are rarer than rocking horse shit. Anything with a swivel, that can turn around to face backwards while parked, is going for hundreds of pounds, even in seriously questionable condition. 

Eventually I found a chap selling a pair of Land Rover Discovery seats, non-leather, all black, in really good condition for £100 and jumped on them. I also ordered myself some seat swivels from Jennings Seats for WAYY less than ebay was listing them. 

Now comes the tricky part. 

The Landy seats have a bolt pattern that is similar, but not the same as the transit so they needed a bit of hitting finessing bodging modification to fit correctly. This process took some serious disregard for the proper use of tools to make it work. The drill got a serious work out and I even had to cut off two little welded collars that were preventing a bolt head sitting flush, but I got there eventually.

By midday, the passenger seat was in and by nightfall the driver seat was mounted. It was absolutely life changing the difference it made. It has always been a bit of a pain climbing between the seats to get from the rear to the front of the van, especially with a plate of food. The dogs are alway on hand and hopeful that today might be the day a whole meal ends up on the floor. Now, it’s going to be no more effort than sitting in a comfy armchair like you do at home! 

There are a couple tricky things that still need to be solved…

The diesel heater that I had so compactly installed under the passenger seat is now trapped. Specifically, the tank of diesel, and the ability to reach the screw cap to fill it up, has been covered by the swivel plate, meaning there is no way to top it up. I’m going to have to unbolt everything and find a new home for the diesel tank. I’ll also need to route a fuel line from wherever it ends up, back to the heater but that requires rolling around under a van, in the rain in December, so I may leave it for now.

The other major issue is that the driver’s seat, while being mounted on the swivel, still cannot rotate to the rear. This is because the handbrake is too high off the floor and the chair cannot swivel past it. I’ve had a search around and cannot find a suitable kit or product to lower the handbrake. Most other vanners have just fabricated something themselves, which is a whole other butt ache I was hoping to avoid. But, until I find a way to do it, all I will have is a drivers seat that can rotate about 5 degrees away from dead ahead.

And lastly, not a problem but…. I’ll no longer have easy and direct access to my van batteries. This was useful for jump starting other peoples cars and for general electrical access (when you are converting a van, its crazy how often and regularly you need to connect and disconnect stuff like the batteries) but is now covered by the large metal plate of the swivel mechanism. Not the end of the world, just a bit more effort.

For now, these jobs can wait. The van is still being used regularly so needs to be road worthy and I haven’t yet worked out how I’m going to work on the handbrake. I live on a hill so I don’t want to accidentally end up parked in the kitchen of my next door neighbour…