This was written by Ron Schneider of Milwaukee, 65, owner of
Leon ’s Frozen Custard.
William B. Stout was a Michigan-based inventor, best
remembered for building the first all-metal airplane and a portable
folding house, one of which I own. In the 1930s, he turned his
attention to the auto industry with his Stout Scarab, of which nine were
His goal: to build a car of the future. It
was no bigger than a normal car on the outside, with twice the room
inside. It had flush window glass and fenders incorporated into the
body, so it would drive without wind noise. It had a table, moving
chairs, and three cigar lighters.
In retrospect, some say Stout
built the first minivan. But the car, so radical and expensive for
its time (about $5,000, which would be about $85,000 today), didn’t catch
I paid $12,000 for one, and bought another for parts, then
began a two-year restoration. Once done, I drove the Scarab across
country twice. Along the way, I found Bill Stout’s grandson, living
in Phoenix . I asked if the car was like what he remembered as a boy. He
said it was, down to the finger and nose prints on the windows, from
people wanting to see inside.
Some thought Stout was a crackpot, at
first. But his ideas were more right than wrong. I restored my
Scarab to see if the car was as good as he said it was. And it