Was the Scarab an Original Minivan

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Ron Schneider of Milwaukee bought and restored a 1936 Stout Scarab.

It is believed only a handful were made. Many say that the car was ahead

of its time and seems to be a minivan prototype. 


‘I restored my Scarab to see if the car was as good as [William B. Stout]

said it was,’ says Mr. Schneider. ‘And it is.

The Scarab out on the road.

Ron Schneider of Milwaukee , owner of Leon ’s Frozen Custard, with his 1936 Stout Scarab.

The car is the brainchild of inventor William B. Stout, who also dreamed up the first all-metal

airplane and a folding house.

The Scarab’s front end, designed with an apparent mustache in mind. Only nine Scarabs

were built, historians believe. Mr. Schneider bought this one for $12,000, plus some more

for another one that he used for parts for his restoration.

With its unique styling and forward-thinking ideas, the Scarab was very avant-garde for its day

The inventor incorporated the fenders and flushed window glass into the body to make the

machine streamlined and noiseless as it drove. It also used lightweight materials for better efficiency.

The car was a challenge to the automobile industry to build something different,’ says Mr. Schneider.

A look at the driver’s seat. The inventor William Stout lived in the Detroit area and had

many business dealings with Henry Ford. Thus some parts are Ford-derived.

The logo on the Scarab’s steering wheel. The car is named for the scarab beetle.

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 made. 


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 on. 

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 is.

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