Motoring Trailblazers - Stout Scarab

Sat 23rd Feb 2019

The world of motoring is hurtling headlong into a bright new future of all-electric, automated, connected technology - and Marty McFly is not behind the wheel! But what were the cars that were ‘back to the future’ of years gone by?

There have been many different trailblazing motors which were seen by the critics to be ahead of their time, and in this series, we will investigate and showcase many of the best in class.

Stout Scarab
Though MPVs didn’t really come into vogue until the Renault Espace hit the production lines in the early 1980s, there were some vehicles which made a bid well before the French company took the motoring world by storm.

One of those such vehicles is the Stout Scarab, which may be credited as the world’s first minivan or MPV, but also employed many other innovations and has the kind of design aesthetics which could earn it a place amongst the classic concept car series.

Designed by William Bushnell Stout, whose simple philosophy on engineering was ‘simplicate and add more lightness’, a moto which would be adopted by Colin Chapman of Lotus many years later.

After earning his stripes at the Packard Motor Company in the early decades of the 20th century, Stout went it alone and in 1932 produced the first prototype for the Scarab car, a beetle-like car which featured an all-aluminum tubular airframe, covered with aluminium skin, which certainly lived up to the ‘lightness’ feel of the motoring design. The car also incorporated moveable passenger seats, and in a nod to Stout’s work in aviation, the Scarab’s seats were more like those you might find in an aircraft.

In 1934 the Stout Motor Car Company was formed, possibly with the hope of mass producing the Scarab, one year later a second prototype was built and William Bushnell Stout announced that the vehicle would be sold in limited quantities and by invitation only. The aim was to build up to 100,000 Scarabs from the Michigan factory, but for all its innovation, the hefty price tag of $5,000 was way more than its contemporaries and though it is now considered an Art Deco masterpiece, many at the time thought the Scarab ugly. Only nine were ever produced.