The Dumont Telecruiser - History
1949 DuMont Telecruiser, Model B, Number 101
The restored DuMont Telecruiser is currently on display at the Texas Broadcast Museum. As far as we know, we believe it is the oldest restored TV Remote Vehicle anywhere. It was a very long (10+) year adventure getting it the way it is today. The pictures shown are from a timeline that happened many years ago. They are posted to document the process of its restoration. In the future we plan to add more pictures of the restoration process.
Here is what it looked like when I found 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.
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.
The paint and body work was done by our friends at Fishburn Auto Body in White Oak, Texas. Hand lettered signs were done by Bella Mia, Longview, Texas.
Decked out in its original color scheme and lettering as it was delivered by DuMont Labs to Channel 8
WFAA was originally called “KBTV.”
Ready to roll! At least sort of…. It is a real “exercise” to drive in the 100 degree Texas heat, but it starts right up and runs fine.
The ladder allows access to the roof deck. Elsewhere on this web site, you’ll find pictures with cameras and a microwave dish on the top. The ladder is how you got that very heavy stuff up there!
This picture was scanned from original DuMont literature. It is the same unit we are restoring.
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). It was featured in DuMont’s 1949 Broadcast Equipment catalog.
The audio engineer sat on the left. The remote supervisor (engineer) sat in front of the equipment racks. The director sat on the right. since this picture was taken, a video switcher has been installed in the director’s desk.
The video control area. The pictures on the Program monitor is actual footage that was shot by this vehicle during WFAA’s coverage of the Kennedy Assassination. Shown is the funeral of Dallas Police Officer J. D Tippet, who was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald, shortly after the President had died.
The Audio Control area.
The DuMont Camera is actually making a picture!
A pair of Conrac Monitors are resurrected for use in the Telecruiser. There will be seven monitors when I’m finished.
Here is a Dumont Camera actually making a picture. When we removed the multiple coats of paint, it said “KBTV” in the side. That is what Channel 8 was originally called. As far as we can tell, the station signed on with five of these cameras, three in the Telecruiser and two in the studio. This is one of them. Because early TV equipment was prone to occasional failure, it was common practice to swap out a working a camera from the Telecruiser for one in the studio. When the brokwen camera was repaired, it was usually put back in the bus, so it is quite likely that this camera actually saw duty on the Telecruiser.
It is hard to see in this shot, but the is a picture on the viewfinder.
It doesn’t look like much in this picture, but here is the interior before equipment was installed. The audio console sat on the left while the video switcher sat on the right. The green and gray panel on the right is the power distribution panel.
Driving the Telecruiser takes a lot of muscle power. There is no power anything…. Steering is the brute force “Armstrong Method,” with a huge steering wheel that Ralph Kramden would have been familiar with. The four speed manual transmission has no synchronizers, so double clutching is a necessity. In fact, just figuring out what gear you are in is somewhat of a leap of faith. With more than 25 feet of linkage, between your hand and the transmission, you tend to revert to “The Biblical Method” of shifting. Seek, and ye shall find. If you don’t find it, you get to listen to gears gnashing against each other. The bus has air brakes, which does make it stop fairly well. The down side of that plan is early air brakes stopped working if you lost air pressure. Break the belt that runs the air compressor, and you have no brakes. That isn’t very convenient at highway speeds…. Not that this bus can really keep up on the highway. 50-55 mph is about it.
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.
Credit Where Credit is Due…
This hasn’t been a single handed project.
- A great deal of the restoration work on the bus has been done by my good friend and neighbor, Matt Matthis
Paint & Body work was done by Bill Fishburn and his crew at Fishburn Auto Body in White Oak, TX.
- Hand lettering was done by Darlene Rouse at Bella Mia, Longview, TX. 903-234-1448
- Chrome by Eagle Plating, Jacksonville, TX. (903-589-0858
- My Brother In Law, Charles, “Larry” Price, who first got it running.
- Countless other people have contributed time, advice, parts, equipment and support. My thanks to all!
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 nine 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.
I hope to post new pictures shortly.