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Model year 2006 marked Thunderbird’s 50th 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 Cruiser models.

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 are beginning to 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 brand presence 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. Several other third-generation Porters work after school and during summer breaks.

Thunderbird was founded by Woodie Woodson in 1956 in the Miami, Florida, area, producing boats that were exclusively trihull or “cathedral” design. 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 FAS3TECH 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 models.

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 worldwide.

Formula Timeline

'56 - Thunderbird product line founded by Woodie Woodson in Miami, Florida.

Vic Porter

'58 - Duo, Inc. founded by Victor Porter in Decatur, Indiana.

Early Magazine Ad

'59 - First ever successful Miami to Nassau sterndrive crossing, accomplished in a Thunderbird.

'61 - Thunderbird purchased by Ohio-based Alliance Machine and Foundry.

Don Aronow

'62 - Formula founded by Don Aronow in Miami, Florida, manufacturing the original 233 Deep-V hull, which later earned notable victories on the national offshore racing circuit.

'64 - Formula purchased by Alliance Machine and Foundry.

'66 - Duo, Inc. purchased by "Starcraft Corp."

'69 - Thunderbird/Formula purchased from Alliance by Fuqua Industries of Atlanta, Georgia.

1969 Formula

'70 - Signa Corporation founded by Victor Porter and several associates in Decatur, Indiana.

John Adams

'71 - John Adams becomes exclusive Thunderbird/Formula designer.

'73 - Signa purchased by Fuqua Industries, naming Victor Porter President of both Signa and Thunderbird/Formula.

Formula 255 Series

'75 - Formula 255 Series created with the performance -oriented Liberator, the Castaway aft-cabin cruiser and the Freedom Cruiser.

'76 - Thunderbird/Formula/Signa purchased by Victor Porter from Fuqua Industries.

'79 - Last year of manufacturing Signa models.

'79 - Formula 302LS introduced as a high-performance offshore boat.

Betty Cook

'81 - Formula creates the K-5 racing catamaran for World Champion driver Betty Cook.


Formula 242 Sun Sport

'83 - Versatile 242 Series created, setting new standards with the 242 Sun Sport, 242LS sport boat, and 242 Sport Fish.

'84 - Formula 206LS introduced with first curved glass windshield in the industry.

'85-'86 - Scott Porter races the 302 SR-1 "Secret Formula" in B-Class, winning the Southeast Divisional Championship and establishing a new UIM World Speed Record.

Decatur Ground Breaking

'88 - Scott Porter named President of Thunderbird/Formula

'88 - Consolidation of Thunderbird/Formula headquarters and production in new 345,000 sq. ft. facility in Decatur, Indiana.

'92 - Falcon lineup of boats added to Thunderbird's powerboat offerings.

'94 - Formula 280 Sun Sport introduced, revolutionizing dayboating.

'96 - Formula FAS³TECH multiplane hull design is created with increased Speed, Stability, and Structural Technology.

'98 - Last year of manufacturing Falcon Models.

'00 - Thunderbird manufacturing facility enlarged by 143,500 sq. ft., with total size now near 500,000 sq. ft.

'00 - F2 Class World & National Champions in Offshore Racing


'01 - Winners of the Mercury Constructor's Cup.

'02 - In November Thunderbird introduced their luxury icon - The Formula 47 Yacht.

'02 - Thunderbird Products manufactured their 10,000th boat.

47 Yacht

'02 - Winners of the Mercury Constructor's Cup.

'03 - World & National Champions of Offshore Racing.

370 Super Sport

'04 - The Formula 370 Super Sport wins Powerboat Sport Cruiser of the Year.

'05 - The Formula 400 Super Sport wins Powerboat Sport Cruiser of the Year.

240 Bowrider

'06 - Thunderbird celebrates 50th Anniversary.

50th Anniversary Logo

'06 - Formula 240 Bowrider earns the Powerboat Magazine "Boat of the Year" Award.

‘06 – Formula expands with an 85,000 square-foot addition to its Decatur, Indiana, plant. The Formula team celebrated the opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony on March 31st, 2006.

'06 - Formula's Unlimited Hydroplane takes first-place in ABRA National High Points.

310 Sun Sport

'06 - Formula introduces the 310 Sun Sport with innovative aft transom lounge/sunpad focusing on in-water activities while at anchor.