Tips of the hat today to “Pappy” and “Ol’ Petrol Head” for suggesting this.
Following on the heels of last Tuesday’s post about Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion car, today we feature another forward-looking car from the 1930s, aircraft pioneer William Stout’s Scarab car. When the Scarab is discussed today, it is often thought of as being the first minivan, though that idea likely would not have occurred to William Stout. Stout was an aircraft engineer and a friend of Henry Ford who designed the Ford Tri-motor aircraft. Thus the Scarab car is the result of applying aircraft construction techniques to an automobile, resulting in a roomy interior that reminds us today of a minivan.
The Scarab looks long – and it is built on a long 135″ wheelbase. But, at 16 feet in overall length, it is no longer than (for example) a 1936 Pontiac. It offers vast interior room because of its aircraft-style space frame construction.
Given Stout’s connections to Henry Ford, it is no surprise that the Scarab uses many off-the-shelf Ford parts, including an 85 horsepower Ford flathead V-8 for power. Novel for the time, the Scarab uses a swing axle independent rear suspension. Other features that were unheard of at the time were electric door locks and windows that are flush with the body. Stout wanted to build a car with no wind noise and the flush windows helped him achieve that.
In the interior, only the driver’s seat was fixed. A folding table was included. Styling details are a wonderful mixup of Art Deco, Art Nouveau and Streamline Moderne elements.
Stout hoped to be able to put his novel vehicle into series production. Phillip Wrigley – Wrigley Chewing Gum – and Harvey Firestone invested in Stout’s company and each got one of the nine Scarabs built. The Wrigley family kept their Scarab until recent years.
The Scarab was priced at $5,000 – a lot of money in those Depression years – and Stout was not able to get the car into volume production. Only nine were built.
Driving the Stout Scarab – click on the image below or watch on YouTube:
Two High-Maintenance Items
(Hat tip: “B-Squared”)