Automotive History

Groundbreaking 1930s Stout Scarab was 'the first minivan'


Flickr/Wade Brooks

By Jeff Peek
Hagerty Automotive History   

(September 29, 2021) “The world’s first minivan.” Few automotive honors are less sexy than that dubious title. Unless, of course, you look like the 1930s Stout Scarab. The Art Deco, aerodynamic, head-turning multi-passenger vehicle created a stir eight decades ago. Its powers have not waned. Designed and built by engineer William B. Stout, the Scarab’s shape not only resembled the beetle for which it was named, but it also aptly represented what Egyptians believe about the winged insect — that it symbolizes rebirth and renewal. Appropriately enough, Bill Stout did a whole lot of rebirthing and renewing in his day, both before and after the Scarab.

Crosley Hotshot — Serious contender too few took seriously


1950 Crosley Hotshot

By Robert D. Cunningham
The Old Motor

(August 22, 2021) Powel Crosley, Jr. introduced his two-cylinder roller skate of a car in 1939, followed by slightly larger postwar offerings in 1946. All body styles were strictly practical until he unveiled his exciting new Hotshot on July 13, 1949. “America’s first true postwar sports car” was a bare-bones street racer. Being equipped with few frills allowed dealers to deliver the roadster for as little as $316 down and $7.64 per week, and at only $849, the Hotshot was the least expensive production car in America that year.

The Fridolin — A Volkswagen-engineered mail truck

(August 5, 2021) Every Volkswagen car has a story, but not all have a historic significance quite like the Volkswagen Fridolin. Originally known as the Type 147 Kleinlieferwagen, the oddly tall wagon has become a rare collector car but was once a common sight on German and Swiss roads — as a sign that the mail was on its way.

Strange automotive history — From the 3-wheeled Tiger to the Interceptor


The three-wheeled Tiger Roadster

By Robert D. Cunningham
Courtesy of The Old Motor

(July 23, 2021) When Mrs. Joel Thorne ran off with a sailor in 1921, she left her 7-year-old son, Joel Wolfe Thorne Jr, in the hands of his father, the influential owner of Chase Manhattan Bank. Three years later, the banker was struck and killed by an automobile, and young Joel became the beneficiary of a trust fund worth an estimated $38 million (roughly $600 million in today’s money). With no need to work, the young man simply played, and he played to win.

Seven Volkswagen Beetle successors that never were

(July 17, 2021) The Volkswagen Beetle is an icon. Over the years, it has symbolized many different things to many different people, from a classic example of German ingenuity to the calling card for a counterculture movement to a reminder that the simplest of things can sometimes be the best. Above all, it set the standard by which all other small, economy cars are judged.

Mythbusting — The truth about the GM EV1

By Gary Witzenburg
Hagerty

(July 4, 2021) About halfway down the long hill leading to the General Motors Proving Ground test tracks in Milford, Michigan, it hit me that the electric concept car I was driving rolled on a cobbled-up show-car suspension and was armed with barely functional brakes. Uh-oh! It would be a supremely stupid, costly, career-ending blunder to crash this incredibly significant hand-built prototype EV by plowing off the fast 90-degree corner that awaited down the hill. Though the concept was called the Impact, I had no intention of putting that name to the test.

Sound and color added to 1920s New Jersey street scene

(February 28, 2021) The hustle and bustle of Kinney Street in Newark, N.J., comes to life in this old film from the 1920s with color and sound added creating the feeling of actually being there. Notice all the electrified street cars on the street.

1911 Reeves Octoauto was an 8-wheel technological marvel

By Jeff Peek
Hagerty

(February 21, 2021) Eight is enough — exactly the right amount, as it turns out, when it comes to the number of wheels on a car. In 1911, Milton Reeves tested that theory with an eight-wheel vehicle he called the Octoauto. The odd-looking automobile wasn’t his first creation or his last, but it was definitely Reeves’ most significant, even though it wasn’t a financial success. Reeves, a native of Indiana who was born during the Civil War, was among the early architects of the horseless carriage in the late 1880s. In fact, his initial iteration is widely considered the fourth or the fifth American automobile ever created.

Rolls-Royce Spirit of Ecstasy — Flying high for 110 years

(February 7, 2021) Rolls-Royce Motor Cars is celebrating the 110th anniversary of the Spirit of Ecstasy — its official emblem. The intellectual property of the design was registered on Feb. 6, 1911, establishing a defining feature of the Rolls-Royce brand and one of the most famous, iconic and desirable symbols of luxury in the world. Almost unaltered throughout her long and storied life, the Spirit of Ecstasy graces the bonnet of every Rolls-Royce motor car built at the Home of Rolls-Royce, Goodwood, England.

Perrymobile was a rationless World War II era alternative car

By Robert D. Cunningham
The Old Motor

(January 26, 2021) For a time in 1944, when World War II gasoline rations were just two gallons per week, many automobile owners drained the precious fluid from their tanks, filled the engine cylinders with oil, and put their cars up on blocks. However, a few fortunate owners of obsolete electric-powered and steam-powered cars pressed their relics back into service. And one clever Los Angeles inventor demonstrated what he claimed was a greatly improved version of the steam-powered motor that any mechanic.

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