Home / Auto News / News article: Top 10 Most Important Cars You’ve Never Heard Of - AutoGuide.com News
 |  Dec 10 2012, 2:02 PM

Stout Scarab

Chrysler invented the modern minivan when it introduced the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager in 1984. They delivered car-like driving dynamics in a spacious, functional package, and they moved like beer nuts during happy hour. Surprisingly though, these family icons were not the first of their breed.

Arguably the earliest minivan was introduced in 1936. Frankie D. was president, the Great Depression was in full force and when it came to cars, William Bushnell Stout thought Americans deserved a “new deal.”

With its bulbous bodywork the aptly named Scarab offered drivers unheard of utility and passenger room in a streamlined, bullet-shaped vehicle. Overall it looked a lot like the abortive Chrysler Airflow that was in its second-to-last year on the market.

The car took advantage of weight-saving aircraft-style construction techniques. This automotive innovation was no surprise given Stout’s history building planes.

Today’s minivans share much of the Scarab’s DNA. They feature voluminous interiors, independent suspension, unibody construction and short front ends.

The reason the Scarab was so exceptionally pug-nosed was that the engine, a Ford flathead V8, was mounted in the rear. This puts the heaviest part of the vehicle right on top of the drive wheels for maximum traction.

Today, the Stout Scarab is largely forgotten because so few were built. Given the sticker price it’s not hard to understand why. They reportedly cost $5,000 when new, an astronomical figure in 1936.

  • Tomst37

    I loved this. It was really interesting and informative.

    Thanks

  • Greenjeep1998

    Don’t know if you knew this Craig, but the Eagles and Cherokees were sold side by side for a short period of time since AMC owned Jeep for the last 20 years before being bought by Chrysler for the Jeep brand. IIRC, Chrysler’s Turbine program was started shortly after WW2 and died right around the time they went bankrupt the first time. Even though the turbine engine has yet to make it into a regular production vehicle, Chrysler had some ownership in the manufacturer of the Abrams tanks and I’ve often wondered how much of their turbine tech went into the Abrams instead.

    BTW, the Turbine Cars weren’t the only Mopars capable of burning whiskey……..their 2.7l and Pentastar V-6′s as well as the 4.7l V-8 are all built to be capable of burning corn whiskey. The Pentastar is quite fond of the stuff and my 4.0l I-6 Jeep don’t seem to mind a couple gallons being splash blended every once in a while too :D

  • Craig Cole

    No, I had no idea!  That’s really interesting but not as interesting as Chrysler helping build tank engines.  That’s really cool.  You must be a Pentastar Historian.