"Simplify and Lighten"

  • 28 September 2020
  • 1 min read
  • 5 images
"Simplify and Lighten" image

In 1924, he got America’s first airliner, the Stout Ford Tri-Motor, off the ground. He was also the genius behind spectacularly innovative trains like the Railplane railroad car in 1933 and the legendary Union Pacific Speedster M 1000 in 1934.

IMG 20200D916 0014-3 The front of the Scarab, with fake air intakes inspired by the image of an Egyptian scarab with spread wings, is both attractive and original. Note the semi-concealed headlights and the central pillar that splits the windshield, giving the front a prow-like appearance.

And the principle behind these achievements was the same one he applied throughout his working life: Simplify and Lighten. It was only after he turned his attention to automobiles, in 1936, that the renowned William B. Stout missed out on the pleasure of seeing his ideas transformed into reality.

IMG 20200916 0A014-5 With a steel grille linking the rear window to the exhaust for the powerful Ford V8 engine, the rear of the Scarab is equally original looking.

And yet the Scarab — it sported fake air intakes inspired by the image of an Egyptian scarab with spread wings — incorporated a series of truly avant-garde innovations: this simple minivan with its smooth lines had movable passenger seats that allowed it to be furnished in any way imaginable, even with a central table; it also had coil spring suspension and shock absorbers with high attachment points to avoid roll.

IMG 2020091FF6 0013 The minivan concept is fully exploited with the use of movable seats that can even be arranged around a small table.

The aluminum body fixed over a framework of steel tubing guaranteed lightness, and the vehicle was powered by a generous rear-mounted Ford V8 engine. All this was combined with almost fanatical attention to detail and absolutely amazing body adornments, including elegant chrome grilles set in front of the headlights and a central longitudinal pillar that, creating a split windshield, gave the front a prow-like appearance. Six prototypes, all different, were produced from 1936 onwards. But then that was it.

IMG 20200916 0014-1-scaled Being designed to be streamlined, the Scarab is not excessively tall, and as a result it looks very long. In actual fact, it is the same size as a normal sedan of the period.

The final one, driven by hopes of a post-war recovery, was a two-volume version. This last Scarab, the Type III, had a fiberglass rather than aluminum body. But nothing came of it. 

This whole idea of "Simplicity and Lightness” was ahead of its time. Today it would be viewed differently. But times have changed of course!

IMG 20200916 0016-scaled The last Scarab prototype was unveiled in 1944, eight years after the first one. It had fiberglass bodywork and a more conventional nose.