Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Stout Scarab - The First Minivan

by Mike - 

Minivans are not normally the subject of My Car Quest but for the Stout Scarab I am making an exception.

The Stout Scarab incorporated design features found in airplanes because the creator, William Stout, had been an aircraft designer for Packard during WWI.

It looks like a beetle, the bug, and maybe non-coincidentally like the Volkswagen beetle. It uses a rear-mounted Ford 221 cid flathead V8 engine producing 85 hp. The fenders were incorporated into the body and thus running boards were not used, a major change from other cars of the 1930s.

The Scarab design eliminated the chassis and drive-shaft which resulted in a flat floor in the interior, so with the engine in the rear there is much more room inside.

The Scarab's body was styled by John Tjaarda, an aeronautical designer, and resembled an aluminum aircraft fuselage. The streamline design reduced air resistance and improved drivability.

Only nine Stout Scarabs were produced in the early to mid-1930s and cost $5,000 when new and this very high price may partially explain why it was not a market success. The radical looks may be another reason, although today these looks would be an asset, in my opinion.

An experimental prototype of the Scarab became the world's first car with a fiberglass body.

Click on the images for a larger view.


  1. Thia is absolutely amazing. Is John Tjaarda Tom's father?Beautiful!!!

  2. looks 'toasteresque' :)

    very cool!

  3. Yes John is Tom's father. The Scarab has a unique style, I wish there were more in existence.

  4. This has to be about the first use of the entire width as interior space. It seems so obvious today.

    The fiberglass car was the last one, postwar, seen at the Gilmore Red Barns, near Kalamazoo:

  5. Johnny,

    I have not seen this version before. Thanks for sharing.

  6. It's surprising to see what the first minivan looked like. The design is good, but the fact that only 9 were produced is more amazing. I wonder if one still exists.

  7. I agree that the first minivan looked like a beetle. Personally, I like the design myself. It's not bad to dream about driving this, right?

  8. Dante - there is at least one Stout Scarab left.

    Erwin - I think this would be a great drive with plenty of interior room.

  9. There is at least one, which I just saw today (1st time) and it is just about perfect... silver color, a custom steering wheel with custom chrome trim around the seat's edges... uniquely very cool!
    It's in a collision shop in Pontiac, MI...
    I'm going to try and photograph it tomorrow...

  10. If you do get photos I would be very happy to publish them on My Car Quest with credit to you.

    My email address is:

  11. I was wrong (after doing a little research for images)... The steering wheel and seat chrome isn't "custom" at all, it's ORIGINAL stuff... what an awesome car!