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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

The groundbreaking 1930s Stout Scarab was the first-and coolest-minivan

"The world's first minivan." Few automotive honors are less sexy than that dubious title. Unless, of course, you look like the 1930s Stout Scarab. The Art Deco, aerodynamic, head-turning multi-passenger vehicle created a stir eight decades ago. Its powers have not waned. Designed and built by engineer William B.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/automotive-history/the-groundbreaking-1930s-stout-scarab-was-the-first...
28 REPLIES 28
hyperv6
Gearhead

This was just a car before it’s time.

The Scarab was built in an era where styling over took usability. Cars were large ans styling help define the owner.

Move ahead to the 80’s when cars shrank and styling got replaced by utility. We went from mini vans to the CUV.

This is not by chance as Americans like a specific size vehicle. The 1940 Ford sedan is about the size of the average CUV. They both have similar usability in many ways. Years ago the family sedan could double as a truck with plywood on the roof.

I have a truck CUV and sedan. The sedan is nice but you can’t fit anything in the trunk,

If the cars had not shrunk in the 80’s I don’t think the mini van or CUV would be here today.
OldCarMan
Instructor

Wrong.
The utility of the 1st Chrysler minivans was far superior to the bloated station wagons it replaced. CUVs and SUVs, do NOT have the utility and flexibility.
The Stout car had other issues besides cost- power, handling, rear visibility, serviceability, and no assembly lines. Never mind, how it was a dead branch of the automotive tree.
This is revisionist history, with an out-of-focus 20-20 hindsight.
RokemRonnie
Detailer

The Wrigley family's Stout Scarab is in the collection of the Detroit Historical Museum. Unlike Bucky Fuller's rear-steering Dymaxion vehicle, which was a death trap, the Scarab was practical and safe enough that the Wrigleys put about 10,000 miles on it at their Lake Geneva summer home.

Because the Detroit Historical Museum doesn't have a lot of display space for cars it's not well known but they have a collection of about six dozen historically very important cars. They own one of the surviving Chrysler Turbine cars, that's the one on display at the Gilmore Museum and Horace and John Dodge's personal Dodge automobiles donated by their widows.
sgc
New Driver

how did the drive work in the car?
sgc
New Driver

how did the drive train work in this car
hyperv6
Gearhead

The engine a Ford Flat Head V8 was in the back facing backward with a customer transaxle. 

 

Note the designer was Jan Tjaarda  He was know for some advanced design and his son Tom Tjaarda  did the Pantera, some Ferrari designs along with many other Italian designs for Fiat and others. Saab and even the Ford Maverick and Festiva were some of is more common work. 

RokemRonnie
Detailer

It was a rear-engine configuration with a three speed manual transmission on the back on the engine, pointed forward. The final drive was mounted below the engine, driven by a chain drive from the transmission output shaft. I wonder if that's where GM engineers got the idea for the original Toronado FWD drivetrain, which also had a chain drive between the transmission and final drive.
ROBBO99
Intermediate Driver

Love the baby blue paint on this gorgeous design .
1950Willie
New Driver

What about the Dymaxion? Wasn't it about this time period?
Harrdware44
Intermediate Driver

A beautiful car to see in person. I was fortunate to have seen White Post Restorations do a complete restoration on one several years ago, the same one which now resides in the Stahls Automotive Collection in Michigan. Check out the headliner - it's hand woven out of wicker!
onteo
Pit Crew

Hey Chrysler, here’s your next retro looking minivan.
Bullypit
Pit Crew

Both features - Big AND Ugly...
427sc
Intermediate Driver

These are actually pretty cool cars/vans/"pods"/whatever you want to call them.
Very modern, actually elegant styling for their day.
Lots of thick/rich chrome detail pieces.
You really have to see one in person to fully appreciate it.
I've seen one of these up close and personal in a private collection located in a NW suburb of Detroit. I wish I could attach my own pics of that one...
rokky
Intermediate Driver

Now the world is full of Ugly SUV's (Some Ugly Vehicle) with no styling and they come in only 3 colors, White, Black and Gray. and Black interiors.
They must have fired all the designers..
OldFordMan
Detailer

OMG a flathead Ford Beetle-Bug for the whole family. If Bill Stout has any family surviving they need to get back in the game. Updates and an Eco-boost and these would sell!
Today's design and engineering never look back at history and see the opportunities!
technician440
New Driver

Love this car! One thing I noticed is that the Scarab has exceptional ground clearance. Thanks for this article.
TG
Instructor

That's fairly liberal use of mini
Tinkerah
Technician

It strikes me more like a bus.
Maestro1
Instructor

Many pioneering efforts end up the same way. But it is those pioneers that show us the possibilities that count. Thank you for this and stay well.
misterlou
New Driver

Has a Tatra quality to it.
tigercat
Intermediate Driver

Good, Bad or Ugly, I am always amazed that so much innovation and technology was known so long ago in all things and that we just discard things entirely and do not think to go back and cobble the best idea's into a modern configuration. Two examples where we did do it were the Horton brothers of WW2 and their flying wing which we modernized into our stealth bomber and the old German aerodynamic designs that Pete Brock designed into the tail of the Daytona Cobra. We all know how well those two projects worked out.
KdFregistry
Pit Crew

One has to wonder how the Scarab influenced the future Van (people mover) market. The VW Transporter which comes to mind was first sold in 1949. Driver up front, engine in the back and a lot of seating with windows in the middle, or alot of cargo space in the middle. The idea of a people mover was just too good to let go that sales of the eventual mini van totally prove. Perhaps if the Scarab could have somehow been built less expensivlely and sold not as a luxury car but as a less expensive family car (think station wagon) it could have eventually taken off?
janedon
Intermediate Driver

For it's day--it was fantastic--but just too expensive because it was hand built--
MKG
New Driver

Your information as to Stout establishing the first scheduled airline is incorrect. It was the St Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line Est Jan 1st, 1914.
JRJones
Intermediate Driver

The Stout Scarab design is not so shocking next to the 34-37 Chrysler Airflow, which was somewhat more practical. Leading both cars was the Offenhauser/Miller Golden Submarine of 1917, a race-sedan?
ThumperUSMC
Intermediate Driver

The Scarab was a beautiful car and way ahead of it's time. Expensive for it's time, it's price was more than likely the reason behind it's faltering. It was near to the price of the 1930 Duesenberg Model J Murphy Torpedo Berline Convertible, undisputedly one of the most beautiful cars of the 1930's and were also priced way more money than the average Joe could afford, here in America. It's too bad there are only five of the Scarabs still surviving. If they were to be made today, I can guarantee I would purchase one ...
Real_Life
Intermediate Driver

I just love this car. I first saw it a Meadowbrook decades ago, and the interior reminded me of my grandmother's kitchen with its art-deco touches. The use of space, the creativity of the design, were all just incredible. All that to the good, but another term for "scarab" is "dung beetle".
Gary_Bechtold
Technician

I think it looks cool and is pretty practical. Definitely too different for it's era.