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Federal Armored Museum

Bus, RV, Big Rig, Maryland

The Federal Armored Museum is located north of Baltimore near Timonium, MD. This small museum was started by James L. Dunbar Sr., the founder of Dunbar Armored and the author of Bulletproof, a history of the armored transport industry. After Brink’s Inc. bought Dunbar Armored in August 2018, Dunbar devoted his time to creating a museum about the Dunbar family’s armored transport companies near his company’s former headquarters in Hunt Valley. It’s open by appointment only via the website contact form or phone. A friend and I went on a tour in November 2023, guided by two former Dunbar employees who gave us a lot of information and anecdotes about the company and the Dunbar family.

The museum takes its name from the original name of James L. Dunbar Sr.’s business, Federal Armored Express, which he opened in 1956 with a single GMC armored truck. His father, George W. Dunbar Sr., started the first armored transport company in New England in Connecticut, also with a single truck, in 1923 as the partnership of Mercer and Dunbar. Mr. Mercer and Mr. Dunbar worked in a car dealership and one day an armored truck en route for delivery to a buyer in New York was towed to the dealership for repair.

Dunbar convinced the owner to sell the truck needing repair to him and started his business. That meant his son James, who the father didn’t want to see leave the family business to start his own, couldn’t use the Dunbar name as long as other security companies carried it. Purolator bought Mercer and Dunbar in 1971, but it wasn’t until 1996 that James Dunbar was able to rename his company when the rest of the family businesses were sold (some to him). James Dunbar Sr. grew his company to be the fourth-largest money management company in the US and the largest independent armored car company with 1600 trucks at the time it was sold to Brink’s. Several other security businesses still carry the Dunbar name and are led by his son Kevin. James Dunbar Sr. died in 2020, but the museum he began is part of his legacy.

The highlights of the museum are four vintage armored trucks. The largest one is the first armored car owned by George Dunbar’s Mercer and Dunbar Armored Car Service. Only the armored body remains from the first truck; originally it was mounted on a 1923 Federal truck chassis and was switched to the current 1937 International chassis when the original wore out. There’s another Mercer and Dunbar truck from the 1920s with a curious truncated armored body that’s so small it might have been an escort vehicle rather than a money transport. In the early days of the industry, bank couriers actually carried the money and the armored car company merely provided transportation and guards without actually storing the funds in transit, as they did later.

The first truck from James Dunbar’s business, Federal Armored Express, is also on display. It’s a 1956 GMC-badged truck on a Chevrolet 3800 chassis. Finally, there’s a contemporary Dunbar Armored truck from 1996. Some of these red and white trucks can still be seen in the Baltimore area with Brink’s signs over the former Dunbar lettering. James Dunbar’s trucks were painted blue and white until 1976, when he switched to red and white (he had admired Wells Fargo’s red and white trucks as a boy). The US Postal Service complained for years about the similar color scheme of the early trucks, which Dunbar had selected on purpose because he thought his trucks were less likely to be robbed if they were mistaken for Post Office vehicles. According to the museum information, the similarity occasionally led people to attempt to give mail to Federal Armored drivers as they made their rounds!

In addition to the vehicles, memorabilia, news articles, photos and collectibles about the company and its founder are displayed. Several large models of armored trucks and a number of diecast models of Federal Armored, Dunbar and other companies’ trucks are included in the museum. One of the large models is a prototype for four full-size Mercer and Dunbar trucks built in 1947 incorporating all the latest security elements. This was the first year that Dunbar installed two-way radios in his trucks, a first in the industry.

In a public relations move, Robert S. Dunbar, President of Dunbar Guard Security, donated the 1947 model to be used to collect funds to fight cancer. A slot was cut in the roof of the model and it was placed in the lobby of the Hartford (CT) National Bank. After Purolator bought Mercer and Dunbar, James G. Dunbar Sr. began a long search for the model and finally found it after Loomis bought Purolator. He had it restored to its present condition, with the slot covered over and painted in the original green Mercer and Dunbar color.

A large model of a red and white Dunbar truck and another beautifully detailed, large-scale model of the company’s 1000th truck also are in the collection. Other interesting model trucks are a wooden replica of the 1923/37 armored truck on display and a bronze sculpture of a Dunbar truck commissioned as a gift to Mr. Dunbar from his employees. (The sculpture was made by Don Hunt, a well-known sculptor of Western subjects. Dunbar was an avid collector of Western art and a small room in the museum is devoted to that collection.)

P: 443-330-5069

Federal Armored Museum Admission:

Adults $10
Kids (5-18) $5
Under 5 free

Plan: 1hr

Federal Armored Museum Hours:

By Appointment HERE


Federal Armored Museum

Image via Dick Williams


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