A Rare Art Deco Stout Scarab ‘Minivan’ Is Heading To The Concours Of Elegance This September
The Renault Espace and Plymouth Voyager may have ushered in the age of the mass-produced minivan back in 1984 but the first vehicle to fit the ‘minivan’ description preceded both models by almost 60 years. It was called the Stout Scarab and came into being through the efforts of journalist and automotive and aviation engineer, William Bushnell Stout.
Technical highlights and innovations of the Scrab, which was styled by Dutch auto engineer John Tjaarda, included a rear-mounted Ford V8 with the three-speed manual transmission mounted ahead of the engine. This did away with the need for a driveshaft running through the center of the vehicle, freeing up interior space. Lightweight materials were used in the construction of the streamlined Scarab, which kept the curb weight down to under 3,000 pounds. A removable table and swiveling second-row seats were equally notable for the time.
This particular example has its own fascinating history and is thought to have been used as a meeting place for General Eisenhower and Charles de Gaulle during the Second World War. A somewhat less grandiose existence awaited it during the 1950s when it was used by a circus owner to transport his monkeys around the continent. It then spent some time in a museum at Reims under a new owner and will now be displayed at the upcoming Concours of Elegance at Hampton Court Palace between 6 and 8 September.
Andrew Evans, Concours of Elegance director, said, “Our event is an oasis of the rarest Ferraris, Bugattis, Rolls-Royces, Maseratis and more. But in amongst the sea of motoring legends, visitors often find a truly special outlier—as worthy of its place in the line-up as any other, but without the big-name recognition. This year, the Scarab will undoubtedly be that car; not only is it beautiful, but it’s rare and relatively unknown. You can bet once you’ve seen it at Hampton Court Palace, most visitors will never see another Scarab.”
Stout drew his inspiration from an earlier creation called the Dymaxion (below), a teardrop-shaped vehicle built by architect and designer Buckminster Fuller. Stout saw his revolutionary Scarab being built in limited numbers at no more than 100 per year, but high production costs and a price tag of $5000 (the equivalent of $100,000 in today’s money) meant that just nine were eventually produced.