The Future Car From 1936

The 1936 Scarab Ad
The 1936 Scarab Ad
Of the remaining today
Of the remaining today
Stout (L) shows off his automotive design
Stout (L) shows off his automotive design
From a brochure showing off the six foot wide read sofa.
From a brochure showing off the six foot wide read sofa.

When William Stout first saw a photo of the German VW in its early rendition, a light bulb went off in his head about creating a car that would be like an office on wheels with six foot wide sofa rear seats, a folding table, and swivel front seats that turn 180-degrees that could also be removed for more space. What he ended up creating was what we call the Minivan today.

In the 1920's, Stout was funded for creating his own aircraft company that made all metal seat airplanes. The company made 15 of these aircraft and then sold to Ford. Stout, then created Stout Airlines and was one of the few to fly between several cities on a regular basis. More important was that his airline was also the first to have stewardesses and serves in-flight meals. After making a small fortune in the aircraft industry, he started thinking of a car that had more utility, this ended up being the Scarab, which truly resembles a elongated beetle.

The Scarab remains unique today, less than six exist today. It was a car of the future that few could afford in 1936 when a person earned maybe $20 a week. The car sold for $5000, which was much more than even the Cadillac at $3500. Stout was the first to use a unitized body, so common today, made of aluminum. The engine was a Ford V8 in the rear of the car. Unlike many cars then, the floor was totally flat (like the Chevy Corvair of the 60's). The driver sat directly over the front wheels, while the engine sat on the rear axle (like the Corvair). The seats inside swiveled and could be removed or reconfigured. The table could be folded. The Scarab was first to use a totally independent suspension using coil springs on all four wheels, something unheard of in the 30's. These coil spring struts were designed after Stout had used them on aircraft. In 1957, the struts were used in Lotus racing cars but called Chapman Struts. The V8 engine was reversed in placement over the rear wheels so the front fan faced rear, while the transmission faced the driver.

Stout wanted to make 100 cars a year, but that would never happen. No more than 11 were made and each one was hand built. Today, they sell for just $12-20,000. Stout greatly believed in his car. Drove his own across the country and showed people how stable it was on the road by placing a glass of water on the table inside and driving it normally without spilling any water. That was the difference in independent coil suspension. It is thought that only maybe five remain. One lucky owner is Ron Scheider of Milwaukee, who bought his for $12,000 and restored and then drove it across country.

He loves it. His car of the future from the past.

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Comments 4 comments

lyoness913 profile image

lyoness913 15 months ago from Overland Park, KS

So totally cool! Imagine what cars will be like in 80 years from now. Voted up!

-Wendi


perrya profile image

perrya 14 months ago Author

I agree, this is the father of the minivan today, long forgotten.


DWDavisRSL profile image

DWDavisRSL 14 months ago from Eastern NC

It is always fun to learn that something we thought of as a 'modern' innovation was actually done long ago. The Scarab was indeed an idea before it's time. Thanks for highlighting this little known classic from the past.


perrya profile image

perrya 14 months ago Author

Agreed. I was shocked. I thought the Minivan was from the 80's.

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