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.