The DuMont Telecruiser
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Originally I thought this project might take two or three years to complete. I should have known better. As of this writing, we are now almost seven years into it. A lot has been done, but there remains quite a bit more to do. There is, however, light at the end of the tunnel.
Elsewhere on these pages you will see some of the adventures we've had.
It is now back from Fishburn's Auto Body in White Oak, TX. Bill and his crew did an incredible job. The paint and Bodywork are better than new.
This was no easy feat. I'd originally taken it to another shop in Longview. After six months of very little progress they quietly went bankrupt. The Telecruiser was locked up inside their building, but I couldn't get it out. This turn of events had all the makings of a huge disaster. Luckily, their landlord turned out to be a nice guy and drove up from Houston one Saturday morning to allow me to drive the bus out of his building. Whew! I had it flat-bedded back to my garage and searched for a new body shop.
My friend, Bill Fishburn came to the rescue. Bill is an "Old Car Guy," so he understood the importance of the project. At first, he was a bit reluctant to take on the job, but he quickly became very enthusiastic about the project.
In mid March of 2012, we got the Telecruiser back in my shop. A great deal has been done since its return. All the lights are in place, it has been hand lettered, chrome has been installed, a new roof deck is now in place and we are currently working on the interior. Equipment racks are in place, and the Directors desk and Audio Engineer's desk are in the process of being installed. It won't be long before I start to install some vintage TV and audio equipment.
I hope to post new pictures shortly.
1949 DuMont Telecruiser, Model B, Number 101
March 14, 2012, The Telecruiser returns from its stay at Fishburn Auto Body in White Oak, TX
The paint scheme closely mirrors original pictures of the Telecruiser. As it worked out, this bus was somewhat of a chameleon over its life. We stripped of at least ten coats of paint in a variety of colors. The final coats, before hitting primer, were dark green on the bottom and gold on the top with a black trim line. The green makes sense because DuMont equipment was always painted green. I suspect Mr. Potter did not appreciate the three color presentation and promptly had the lower section painted gold to match the top. Several pictures support that. In fact, around Dallas, it became known as "The Golden Telecruiser." I can't help feeling that the name also had something to do with what it cost to purchase the bus: Over $90,000 in 1949. That was a lot of money back then, the equivalent of $890,000.00 in 2014. Maybe it was made of gold! Later pictures show it once again with a darker color on the bottom. No color pictures have surfaced; it may have been green, but we also found evidence of brown paint on the lower section. Later in life, it was painted a medium blue, which was similar to the color GE painted most of their broadcast equipment in the early 1960's.
It's a big canvas.
Have you seen this plug?
It goes to a DuMont camera, and we need the cable mount female version for our restoration. Actually, we need cables and connectors. Any leads would be appreciated. Email Me
This Picture Just In!
Courtesy SMECC - Please do not reproduce.
February 15, 2011, The Telecruiser drives (under it's own power) onto a giant truck to be transported to the body shop for some dent removal and a paint job! It went to Fishburn Autobody in White Oak, Texas where it was sanded down to bare metal before dent removal and painting. Bill Fishburn, the shop owner, is an "old car guy" who appreciates the historical significance of this job. He and his crew did a great job.
Down to shiny bare metal.
Epoxy Primer is Applied
This is the way we got it. It had been sitting in a vacant lot in Dallas for years. The Telecruiser was originally purchased by Kilgore oilman, Tom Potter, who put Dallas' original Channel 8 on the air in 1949. At the time it was called KBTV and had studios and transmitter located at 3000 Harry Hines Blvd. in Dallas. The story goes that Potter spent over a million and a half 1949 dollars getting the station on the air. A year later, he sold it to the Dallas Morning News (A. H. Belo) for a mere $100,000. I guess he thought this "radio with pictures" stuff would never amount to anything.
The original KBTV building still exists today. It is occupied by KERA-TV, the PBS station in Dallas.
This is the way we found it parked in a lot near downtown Dallas. The folks at Dallas's Sixth Floor Museum let us know about its presence. It is thought to have been used during part of the ABC TV/WFAA coverage of the Kennedy Assassination. we know for sure that it was used to cover teh funeral of Dallas Police officer J. D. Tippett, who was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald. We have video of the event that was shot by the Telecruiser. There is a lot of Dallas history to it.
It was used by WFAA-TV well into the early 1970's. We purchased it from the estate of Edward Terry, of Dallas, who purchased it at auction from A.H. Belo Corp, parent company of WFAA. That makes us the third owner. (Perhaps the fourth owner, since Belo purchased the bus when they acquired Channel 8 in 1950). Mr. Terry intended to make a motor home out of it, but never got that far. It seems he used it as a traveling store, visiting numerous flea markets with it. To his credit, Mr. Terry saved most of the electronics that came with the bus. We are still missing quite a lot, but the equipment we got from Mrs. Terry was certainly a good start to restoring this to a working black and white TV Mobile Unit. Today, it actually makes pictures!
This TV Mobile unit was originally built for Channel 8 in Dallas, Texas by Allen B. DuMont Labs in Passaic, New Jersey. (Parent company of The DuMont Network).
Channel 8 was originally called KBTV, before it was purchased by A. H. Belo Corp. (The Dallas Morning News) in 1950. The coach originally said KBTV on it. KBTV was originally owned by Tom Potter, an East Texas oil man who lived in Kilgore. The funny thing is, is our mailing address is Kilgore, so in a way, the Flx has "come home."
Part of the KBTV crew outside the door of the bus. If you can identify any of the people, let us know.
Master Control inside the bus, Manning Truett at the controls. Since the bus was not originally air conditioned. it must have been quite hot inside during the summer. All those tubes give off a lot of heat!
I've always wondered....
How did they get the cameras on top of the Telecruiser?
I think this picture answers the question!
Photo Courtesy SMECC - Do not reproduce. - www.smecc.org
Some stations built their own mobile unit, frequently using a Flxible bus to house it in. This one belonged to WSFA in Montgomery, Alabama. They outfitted it with RCA equipment.