Formula Boats Chairman Emeritus Victor Porter Passes at age 90
Victor B. Porter, the chairman emeritus of Formula Boats and an icon in the recreational boating industry, died on October 24 at the age of 90. He was the patriarch of the family that made Formula into one of the most respected manufacturers in the recreational boating industry worldwide and was inducted into the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) Hall of Fame in 2016.
A True Family Company
In 2021, Formula celebrated its 65th anniversary and Vic Porter and his family have been the guiding force behind the company. He is survived by his wife of 70 years, Kris, four sons, a daughter and grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Scott Porter is the president of Formula Boats while executive vice president Grant Porter directs all product development and manufacturing. Chairman 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 not involved in daily business activities. Vic’s wife Kris aids in special projects promoting Formula. Third-generation Porters work in the business as well. Two of Wayne’s children, Jeremy and Sarah, work full-time for Formula. Jeremy is the transportation manager and Sarah is the director of marketing promotions. Jean’s son, Jason Brune, is the product engineering manager. Ted’s three sons also work in the business, Danny is the Research and Development Manager, Chris is a Product Engineer and Josh is a CAD/CAM Design Engineer. The fourth generation has joined the workforce as summer help.
Thunderbird was founded by Woody Woodson in 1956 in the Miami area and Richard C. Cole was the original designer. Proving its capability, an 18’ (5.49 m) Thunderbird made the first successful sterndrive crossing from Miami to Nassau in 1959.
In 1958, Vic Porter began building 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, Inc. 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.
Meanwhile, Don Aronow founded Formula in 1962 in Miami. 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 today’s Formulas have matured well beyond the speed-only image, the deep-V influence originating with past racing victories is still quite evident in the highly successful FAS³TECH Super Sport hull. 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 line of tri-hull boats manufactured in Decatur and marketed throughout the Midwest and East. With Porter as President, Signa’s success attracted the attention of Fuqua Industries. Fuqua bought Signa in 1973 and Porter was named President of Fuqua’s entire small-boat division. At that time there was also a manufacturing facility in Paso Robles, CA.
In 1976, Vic Porter purchased Thunderbird/Formula from Fuqua. The second generation of Porters joined in the management team as they finished college and gained experience in the business. The tri-hull design was discontinued in 1979, and company emphasis centered on the offshore deep-V hull configuration of the Formula models.
Formulas were manufactured in California through 1981. In March of 1988, Thunderbird/Formula also departed South Florida and consolidated corporate and production headquarters in a new, state-of-the-art facility in Decatur, IN. Formula continued to evolve in the 345,000 sq.-ft. (32,051.55 sq. m) plant, and, in September 2000, production capacity was expanded with a 143,500 sq.-ft. (13,331.59 sq. m) addition. In 2006, Formula expanded again with an 85,000 sq.-ft. (7,896.76 sq. m) addition. Corporate, sales and production are all under one roof in a 575,000 sq. ft. (53,419.25 sq. m) facility, ensuring ongoing collaboration in creating each boat. From facility additions to the development of new boat lines, Sun Sports in 1994, FAS³TECHs in 1997, Super Sports in 1999, Yachts in 2002, and Crossovers in 2012. Formula has led with imagination and integrity as today’s premier powerboat.
In 2018, Vic Porter celebrated a milestone in 2018, marking 60 years in the boating industry. His story began in Decatur, IN, where and Kris lived until his passing. They were married for more than 70 years. Early career ventures included mobile-home 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 60+ years.
Vic remains happily married to his wife of 70 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 a fourth generation employed as summer help.
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. In 2012, Vic was inducted into Junior Achievement’s Greater Fort Wayne Business Hall of Fame.
2016 marked the celebration of Indiana’s 200th birthday. Vic was honored for his community involvement and contributions and was asked to participate in the monumental event. He was chosen to be a torchbearer for the Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay, was held from September 9 through October 15. 2,200 torchbearers represented all 92 Indiana counties. Vic carried the torch by boat for 1/3 mile through Decatur.
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.