Scissor lift mechanism

Model T fors van with scissor lift

The Opera Australia production of "The Elixir of Love" was set in the Australian outback and needed a practical scissor lift in the rear of a specially built Model T Ford van. The production designer, Michael Scott-Mitchell, wanted the car to be driven, have working lights and a scissor lift (with a pivoting chair) in the back section that could lift a singer up through the roof. The umbrella on the chair had to pop up as well!


The wheels, front fenders, side boards, head lamps and steering mechanism were all original Model T Ford parts and were the basis for the realisation of the design. These parts were drafted with CAD and incorporated into Michael's design.


Scissor lift design using CAD

Various scissor lift configurations were tested using CAD until the design aims could be achieved in the space available. The scissor lift was driven by a 12V wheelchair motor through a chain drive reduction to a pair of boat winches. The scissor operated using two steel cables connected to the winches. A second wheelchair motor operated a single back wheel through another chain drive to provide motion.


A hand brake was incorporated that applied a friction pad to one of the back wheels when the brake pedal was depressed.

Cabin CAD drawing
Cabin CAD Drawing

A CAD drawing of the van was used to design a scissor lift that would work within the confined space.

Model T parts
Model T Parts

The car was built around original Model T Ford parts. The parts were drawn into CAD and the rest of the design adapted to fit. This is a drawing of the wheels and front axle.

Scissor lift drive
Scissor Lift Drive

The 12V wheelchair motor with chain drive to operate the boat winches that raise the scissir lift.

Scissor lift parts
Making The Scissor Lift

Assembling the scissor lift parts before installation.

Scissor lift in van
Scissor Lift Installed

The scissor lift installed in the van framework ready for testing.

Scissor lift with chair
Scissor Lift With Chair

The scissor lift has been fitted with the swivel chair before the cladding is fitted.

Scissor lift lowered
Scissor Lift Lowered

The scissor lift in the lowered position. The singer would be set on the chair before the car made its entrance.

Scissor lift raised
Scissor Lift Raised

The scissor lift is almost at its top dead in this picture. By this time the singer is doing his number.