William Bushnell Stout: Automotive

Cutaway drawing of a Stout Scarab, 1932. Cutaway drawing of a Stout Scarab, 1932.


1935 Wrigley Scarab 1935 Wrigley Scarab


In addition to aircraft, Stout Engineering Laboratories also designed several automobiles during the 1930s-1940s, the most notable of which is the Stout Scarab. The Scarab featured many innovative designs, including a spacious interior, a configurable seating arrangement, and a small card table, making the Scarab a predecessor of the modern minivan. An experimental version of the Scarab, produced in 1946, featured the first automotive fiberglass body. Ultimately, the modern design and high cost of the Scarab made the cars undesirable to buyers at the time, especially when compared with other contemporary automobiles like the bestselling Fords and Chevrolets. Today, however, the Scarab is considered an ahead-of-its-time design and one of the best examples of Art Deco design applied to automobiles. The 1946 fiberglass Scarab and 1935 Scarab, previously owned by the Wrigley family, are in the Detroit Historical Society’s automobile collection.

Dearborn Coach Co. bus, 1936. Dearborn Coach Co. bus, 1936.


  Stout also applied the design principles of the Scarab to the design of a bus for Gar Wood Industries, which was put into service by the Dearborn Coach Co. Many more images from the Society’s William Bushnell Stout collection can be found in our online digital collection, and you can learn more about the man in the Museum's Gallery of Innovation.