Dull as minivans may seem (well, unless they run 12-second quarter miles, of course), they're pretty useful transportation appliances that do the job asked of them. Lots of folks give VW credit for making the first one, but the Gray Lady would like to point out that the Stout Scarab, a Ford V8-powered machine equipped with comfy furniture and aluminum bodywork, came first. Its builder, William Stout, also designed the aircraft that evolved into the Ford Trimotor... which is cool and all, but can't measure up to the achievement of Bill Lear, who is responsible for both the 8-track tape and the Learjet. <[New York Times]