1936 Stout Scarab

  • 1936 Stout Scarab. Collection of Larry Smith. Photograph © 2013 Peter Harholdt

1936 Stout Scarab
Collection of Larry Smith, Pontiac, MI

American aeronautical designer William Bushnell Stout modeled this sturdy Ford Tri-Motor after his own 3-AT aircraft. The futuristic Scarab (named for the Egyptian symbol based on a beetle) has a smooth and startling shape, with a tubular frame covered with aluminum panels surrounding a rear-mounted Ford flathead V-8. The Scarab’s passenger compartment is positioned within the car’s wheelbase. Access to the interior is through a central door on the right side, and there is a narrow front door on the left for the driver. This unusual configuration anticipated the first minivan. 

The “turtle-shell” styling celebrated the Art Deco influence, beginning with decorative “moustaches” below the split windshield. It continues to be evident in the headlamps covered with thin grilles, and culminates in fan-shaped vertical fluting, framing the elegant cooling grilles. The Scarab’s design was even more radically different than other cars of the era like the ill-fated Chrysler Airflow. At $5,000, it was very expensive, and the Depression-wracked buying public did not recognize its many advantages.

Stout’s investors, like William K. Wrigley, the chewing gum magnate, and Willard Dow of Dow Chemical, purchased Scarabs, as did tire company owner Harvey Firestone and Robert Stranahan of Champion Spark Plug. At least six cars were built; some sources say nine. Scarab number five was shipped to France for the editor of Le Temps, a Paris newspaper. In the early 1950s, this Scarab was offered for sale on a Parisian used car lot and returned to America.

Sponsored by: Sue and Earl Swensson

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