Today the RV is an integral part of American life. There are campers and trailers, as well as push or pull motorized homes for every budget. They are used to enhance vacations or as retirement homes for the individual with an adventuresome spirit. For sales or service the professionals at Trotters RV will provide years of experience to assist the novice or veteran. There was a time, however, when the concept of a recreational vehicle was a revolutionary idea.
William Stout was a man with vision. He was a man who envisioned the future and was able to transform those visions into reality even with limitations of technology. He was also an aeronautical pioneer. Development of the first commercially successful monoplane that utilized internal bracing for wings that were cantilevered was one of his accomplishments. Construction of the first all metal airplane was another milestone attributed to Stout. Sale of the the Stout Metal Airplane Company to Ford Motor Company would lead to the production of the Stout-designed Ford Tri-Motor, the first commercial passenger airliner. As a result of these and other innovations he is often referenced as the “father of modern aviation.”
Stout was possessed of a gift to examine existing engineering designs and envision how they could be improved. Lessons learned from aeronautical engineering applied to automotive design led to an array of developments and the creation of a revolutionary vehicle. The Stout Scarab was a unique vehicle, to say the very least. It hinted of the minivan that would debut more than 40 years later. It was also an RV.
Stout’s reputation enabled him to find willing investors for the project and as a result the Stout Scarab was built without compromise or concern over cost. After completion of one model, Stout began taking orders but $5,000 in 1934 was a heady sum. As a comparative a new Ford could be purchased for less than $900.
Every aspect of the Scarab was innovative. The streamlined design, extensive use of aluminum, the deletion of running boards and integration of the fenders into the body were a few examples. To aid in streamlining skirts were used on the rear wheel wells. Flush safety glass and recessed hinges also allowed for further streamlining and improved safety.
The interior cabin featured amenities not even available in many homes. A series of filters ensured pollen and dust free travel. Thermostatic controlled heating and ambient lighting, power door locks and leather seats that could be re-positioned to fit around a table at the rear of the cabin provided passengers with a unique traveling experience. The drivers door was traditionally positioned but passengers used a centrally-mounted passenger door that allowed for easier access.
Work on the first prototype commenced in 1932. Association with Ford Motor Company allowed Stout to employ that company’s new V8 engine, albeit in an unconventional manner. The engine was mounted flywheel-forward over the rear wheels to improve traction as well as allow for increased interior room. A three-speed manual transmission sourced from Ford provided adequate acceleration, 0 to 60 MPH in 15 seconds. Production models weighed 3,300 pounds, almost 1,000 pounds more than the prototype that had used aluminum for the upper body and magnesium for the doors.
Only nine units were built, each with a slightly different interior layout, between 1934 and 1939. Each was a manifestation of genius. Each was a glimpse of the future as envisioned by William Stout.
Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America