Model year 2013 marked Thunderbird’s 57th anniversary in the production of fiberglass
powerboats. A progressive, family-owned company located in Decatur, Indiana, Thunderbird
produces boats that are world renowned for beautiful styling, advanced engineering
and exciting performance on the water. With a long-established philosophy of uncompromising
quality in every detail, Formula is recognized as today’s premier powerboat. Company
history reflects the constant evolution of forward-looking product in the FAS³TECH
hull, trendsetting Super Sports and Sun Sports, and also in luxurious Performance
The guiding force behind Formula’s vision of excellence is the Victor B. Porter
family, with Chairman Vic Porter and four sons and a daughter actively managing
the business. Scott Porter serves as knowledgeable, energetic president while executive
vice president Grant Porter directs all product development and manufacturing. Wayne
Porter is vice president of sales, Jean Porter Brune is vice president of marketing
and Ted Porter is vice president of human resources. The eldest son, John, also
a company shareholder, is a medical doctor and is not involved in daily business
activities. Vic’s wife Kris aids in personnel records and also in special projects
promoting Formula. Scott’s wife Shelley is active in the MIS department and is also
involved in various Formula promotions. Third-generation Porters work in the business
as well. Wayne's three children, Adam, Jeremy and Sarah, work full-time for Formula.
Adam is software project coordinator and developer. Jeremy is traffic manager and
Sarah is marketing promotions coordinator. Jean’s son, Jason Brune, is a full-time
project engineer for Formula. Grant’s son, Kyle, works full-time in the production
area, and Ted's son Danny, is a cost analyst. Several other third-generation Porters
work after school and during summer breaks.
Thunderbird was founded by Woody Woodson in 1956 in the Miami, Florida, area, and
Richard C. Cole was the original designer. Decisively proving its staying power
and stability, an eighteen-foot Thunderbird made the first successful sterndrive
crossing from Miami to Nassau in 1959.
In 1958 Vic Porter began building and selling small fiberglass runabouts, enjoying
success largely in the Midwest and Northeast. This boat line was developed early
in marine fiberglass technology, and with Porter as president, was marketed under
the Duo, Incorporated name. Because of its timely product and increasing popularity,
Starcraft, a larger regional boat manufacturer, purchased Duo in 1966. For a time,
Porter stayed on as president of Duo.
Don Aronow founded Formula in 1962 in Miami, Florida. The original 233 deep-V hull
design was built at his direction and later earned notable victories on the national
offshore racing circuit. Formula was the first of Aronow’s boat companies. While
many of today’s Formulas have matured well beyond the speed-only image, the prestige
originating with past racing victories is still quite evident in the highly successful
series. In 1961 Thunderbird was acquired by Alliance Machine and Foundry
and they followed up by purchasing Formula in 1964. Both Formula and Thunderbird
models were then produced in North Miami. An Atlanta-based conglomerate, Fuqua Industries,
acquired Thunderbird /Formula in 1969.
Vic Porter once again exercised his entrepreneurial spirit in 1970 and, along with
five business associates, founded the Signa Corporation. This venture resulted in
a quality line of trihull boats manufactured in Decatur and marketed throughout
the Midwest and East. With Porter as president, Signa’s growing success attracted
the attention of Fuqua Industries. Fuqua’s offer to buy Signa was accepted in 1973
and, based on his expertise in the boating industry, Porter was named president
of Fuqua’s entire small-boat division. At that time there was also a manufacturing
facility in Paso Robles, California.
In mid-1976 Vic Porter purchased Thunderbird/ Formula from Fuqua. The second generation
of Porters joined in the management team as they finished their college work and
gained experience in the business. The trihull design was discontinued in 1979,
and company emphasis centered on the offshore deep-V hull configuration of the Formula
Formulas were manufactured in California through 1981. In March of 1988, Thunderbird
also departed South Florida and consolidated corporate and production headquarters
in a brand new, state-of-the-art facility in Decatur, Indiana. Formula continued
to grow and evolve in the 345,000 square-foot plant, and, in September 2000, production
capacity was expanded with a 143,500 square-foot addition. And again in 2006, Formula
expanded with an 85,000 square-foot addition.
Vic Porter, chairman of Thunderbird, continues to be actively involved in the business.
With the Porter family focusing on quality in every aspect, it is certain that Thunderbird
will continue to maintain Formula’s long-established reputation as a premier powerboat
Formula Celebrates Vic Porter's
50 Years in the Boating Industry
Victor B. Porter, chairman of Formula Boats, celebrated a milestone at the 2009
Annual Dealer Meeting in Fort Myers, Florida. The year of 2008 marked 50 years in
the boating industry for Vic. From small-town beginnings to larger-than-life reality
– Vic's story is truly the American dream.
Vic Porter’s life story begins in Decatur, Indiana, where he still resides. Early
career ventures included mobile homes sales, real estate, and his own frozen food
and ice cream business. An entrepreneur at heart, Vic felt the urge to start down
a new path, and in 1958, that decision led him to his place in the marine industry
today. Interesting developments followed each move Vic made throughout the past
In 1958, Vic started a boat company, Duo, Inc., to manufacture fiberglass boats
in his converted ice cream plant with three employees. His first model, the Volare,
was a catamaran equipped with two outboard motors. In 1959, the hundredth boat was
built, and the Hepcat, a trimaran, was introduced. Vic was president, and also doubled
as sales manager. The following three years, Vic developed the Catfish and monohull
runabout design X-Series and F-Series boats. By 1962, Duo Inc. was booming. Vic
now had 30 employees who built 20 boats per week. Business continued to expan d
in a new 18,000-square-foot facility with plans to double capacity. In 1962, Vic
developed a V-hull boat series for abetter ride. 1964 marked Vic’s first million-dollar
year, and in 1965 the plant grew to 100,000 square feet and employed 185 people.
1966 was a whirlwind year — Vic traveled nonstop for a month, visiting 21 cities
and numerous dealers to promote and sell his product. Duo, Inc. caught the eye of
Starcraft Corporation, a larger, regional boat company, and in 1966 Vic sold Duo,
remaining for a time as president. Vic’s entrepreneurial urge surfaced again, and
he decided to captain a new ship in 1970.
Signa Corporation was the next step in Vic’s developing career. Manufacturing tri-hull
boats in a 20,000-square-foot facility with 50 employees, it wasn’t long before
Vic’s second successful boat company attracted the attention of investors. In 1973,
Fuqua Industries purchased Signa Corporation. Fuqua had previously purchased Thunderbird
Products and Formula Boats in 1969. Vic was named chairman of the small boat group,
with $3 million in sales reported that year. Fuqua Industries manufactured the three
small boat lines, including both tri-hull and Formula deep-V hull boats, through
Once again, Vic felt the need to head up a company all his own, and took advantage
of the opportunity created by an energy crisis. In 1976, Vic purchased the small
boat group from Fuqua Industries. Vic continued the company as Thunderbird Products,
manufacturing the Signa and Formula boat lines. In 1979, Signa tri-hull production
was ended. Market advancement indicated heavy preference for the deep-V hull boats.
The same year marked Thunderbird Products’ introduction of the Formula 302, a special
edition offshore performance style boat. In every direction Vic led the company,
creativity prevailed and successful innovation followed.
In 1980, integrated, continuous cockpit liners improved both structure and design
flow. 1982 marked Formula’s first use of Imron® hull graphics. In 1984, as an industry
first, Thunderbird Products innovated and installed curved, tempered glass windshields.
Also that year, the Silent Thunder® exhaust system was introduced. In 1988, a brand-new,
state-of-the-art facility was built — 345,000 square feet to manufacture the highest
quality powerboats possible with a dedicated workforce of 600 employees. From facility
additions to the development of new boat lines, Sun Sports in 1994, FAS³TECH
1997, Super Sports in 1999 and Yachts in 2002, Vic has led the company with imagination
and integrity into a model business manufacturing today’s prestigious Formula Boats.
Vic is now chairman of the board, often seen in the manufacturing area and in the
office. Vic’s entrepreneurial spirit took him, his family and his business to places
he only imagined.
Vic remains happily married to his wife of 62 years, Kristine. Together they have
six children, five of whom are actively involved in the Formula Boats business.
Vic and Kris have 17 grandchildren, and over the years have seen interest in the
company flow into the third generation — six grandchildren full time and younger
ones employed as summer and after school help. Vic and Kris have also been blessed
with eleven great-grandchildren.
Vic has appreciated the support of his community, family and employees throughout
his life, and has responded with personal involvement. Over the years he served
with a number of organizations in various capacities such as the local Chamber of
Commerce, including serving as president, in many areas with his church, area Boy
Scouts, and helping spearhead the development and funding of Decatur’s industrial
park. Vic was Adams County’s Republican Party Chairman from 1973-1975, and was on
the Board of Directors of the county hospital. In earlier years he was a volunteer
fireman and helped coordinate a high school drug awareness program. He also served
on the Board of Directors of Indiana Central College, the Cole Foundation Board
and on various committees of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. The
Porter Family Foundation provides philanthropic funding to local schools, churches
and charities and provided the seed money for the formation of Woodcrest, a local
not-for-profit retirement community. The Foundation donated the land for the new
hospital in Decatur, as well as aiding substantially in funding an oncology center.
He and Kristine have also established an ongoing fund through the Adams County Community
Foundation to benefit community projects.
Over the years, Vic Porter’s service and entrepreneurial spirit gained recognition.
In 1964, Vic received the Outstanding Young Businessman Award from the Decatur Chamber
of Commerce, and in 1990, Vic was a finalist for the Indiana Entrepreneur of the
Year Award and was that year’s recipient of the Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award,
recognizing his outstanding involvement and contributions in his community and state.
In 1994, the Board of Directors of Woodcrest chose the Porter name for the auditorium
there, and in 1997, Vic was awarded the Stephen Decatur Community Service Award.
In 2000 Thunderbird earned the Large Business of the Year Award, and in 2012, Vic
was inducted into Junior Achievement's Greater Fort Wayne Business Hall of Fame.
As gratifying as all this is, his greatest satisfaction surely is that his family
is carrying on in full accord with his example of living and giving, as well as
continuing the business with the same values and goals he established.
Vic has literally lived his philosophy, “to be successful in business and generous
in worthwhile programs that build people up to their full potential so they too
will be successful, generous and serve their community.” His goal was to build a
viable, Decatur-based, boat manufacturing company, and from the looks of it, mission
accomplished. From small-town beginnings to the personally fulfilling present, Vic
has spent his time well, as proven by his business success and family following.