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World's First Minivan Once Transported Circus Monkeys

Minivan / 19 Comments

And now it will be displayed alongside Aston Martins and Bentleys.

The modern minivan was created when Lee Iacocca took over Chrysler in the 1980s. Iacocca's idea helped saved Chrysler from bankruptcy, so he is often credited as the father of the minivan but in reality, the world's first minivan had been built decades earlier. One of only nine ever made, the 1936 Stout Scarab (also known as the world's first minivan) will be on display at this year's Concours of Elegance at Hampton Court Palace in the UK.

It will be on display from September 6th to the 8th alongside one of every Aston Martin Zagato variant, a collection of Bentley's 100-year history, and the most significant Ferrari in existence. The Scarab isn't just the first, it is the most historically significant minivan ever built.

Michael Furman/Concours of Elegance
Michael Furman/Concours of Elegance
Michael Furman/Concours of Elegance

It was the work of journalist and automotive/aviation engineer William Bushnell Stout, who envisioned his creation as a 100-year production masterpiece. But with a price tag of $5,000 back in 1939 (almost $100,000 today), it was too expensive to gain any traction during the war and only nine were ever built. This particular example wasn't hidden under a cover and stashed in a garage like many of the Aston Martin and Ferrari cars shown at the Concours.

During World War II, it was reportedly used to hold a meeting between General Eisenhower and Charles de Gaulle, who likely took advantage of the swiveling middle row and built-in table, which was later sold by Chrysler as "Swivel-n-Go" seating. In fact, the Scarab featured tons of world-first technologies such as a fiberglass body, air suspension, and electric locking doors.

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Michael Furman/Concours of Elegance
Michael Furman/Concours of Elegance

In the 1950s, the Scarab was owned by a traveling circus owner who used it to carry the monkeys, so clearly, the van did not live a pampered life. It was later sold to a French industrial designer, who placed it in a museum, then to the current owner who had it restored in 2001.

"Our event is an oasis of the rarest Ferraris, Bugattis, Rolls-Royces, Maseratis and more. But in amongst the sea of motoring legends, visitors often find a truly special outlier," said Andrew Evans, Concours of Elegance Director. "As worthy of its place in the line-up as any other, but without the big-name recognition. This year, the Scarab will undoubtedly be that car; not only is it beautiful, but it's rare and relatively unknown. You can bet once you've seen it at Hampton Court Palace, most visitors will never see another Scarab."

via Chrysler
via Chrysler

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