Formula Boats says it is sorry to announce that "the heart" of the company, Vic Porter, passed away late Sunday, at the age of 90.
Vic Porter’s life story began in Decatur, Indiana, and that's where he still resided at the time of his passing. 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 60+ years.
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 100th 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 expand in a new 18,000-square-foot facility with plans to double capacity. He also developed a V-hull boat series for a better ride.
In 1964 he achieved a million dollars in sales for the first time, 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 Signa tri-hulls and Formula deep-V hull boats, through 1975.
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, as market advancement indicated heavy preference for the deep-V hull Formula 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, FAS³TECHs in 1997, Super Sports in 1999, Yachts in 2002 and Crossovers in 2012, Vic has led the company with imagination and integrity into a model business manufacturing today’s prestigious Formula Boats. Vic was often seen in the manufacturing area and in the office right to his final days. Vic’s entrepreneurial spirit took him, his family and his business to places he only imagined.
Vic is survived by his wife of 70 years, Kristine. Together they have six children, five of whom are actively involved in the Formula Boats business, and 17 grandchildren.
A full obituary and information on services will be forthcoming.