Friday, August 19, 2016

Built for Speed: The Arfons Brothers

Walt (left) and Art (right) Arfons.
It figures. Only a guy from Akron would have the ‘nads to strap a jet engine onto four wheels and go racing. But in this case, there were two guys, Art Arfons and his half-brother, Walt.

Their father, a Greek immigrant, came to America at the age of 14 and settled in Akron, where he operated a feed mill. The brothers’ natural ingenuity and mechanical skills found an outlet in working on cars, and though Walt was ten years older than Art, they forged a common bond in their desire to go fast.

One of the Arfons Brothers' first Green Monster Drag Racers
In 1952, they built their first dragster, a three-wheeler with an Olds 6-cylinder engine, pained a hideous green shade that matched their old Oliver farm tractor. Dubbed “The Green Monster” by the track PA announcer, the name stuck for all of the brothers’ joint projects.

Using surplus aircraft piston engines at first, the brothers raced throughout the 1950’s. They were the first drag racers to hit 150 mph in a quarter mile, and continued to do so using subsequent versions of The Green Monster.

Around 1960, the brothers parted amicably and followed their separate paths, although they continued to compete with each other on a friendly basis. Art headed to Bonneville with an Allison aircraft engine powered car that hit over 313 mph in 1961.

Being no slouch, brother Walt became the first to introduce a jet-engine dragster in 1960, utilizing a parachute to slow the car down at the end of the run. In 1967, Chrysler Corporation gave Walt a Dodge Dart, Plymouth Barracuda and Dodge Charger to convert into dragsters. Walt simply strapped jet engines onto all three stock cars and went racing.

Need more speed? Just find a jet engine and strap it to the back of the family car.
During the 1960’s, both brothers returned to the Bonneville salt flats many times with new and innovative jet-powered cars they designed. During 1964 they went back-and-forth against record-holder Craig Breedlove and his Spirit of America, Art in a new Green Monster and Walt in the Wingfoot Express. Hitting record speeds of over 400mph (Walt) and 500mph (Art) the brothers battled across the salt flats with all comers for speed record supremacy.

Art Arfons with his 1966 edition of The Green Monster.
In later years, the brothers drove less and spent their time mostly designing cars, with Art enjoying great success in jet turbine powered tractor pulling competitions, and being named to the Motor Sports Hall of Fame in 1991. Art passed in 2007, and older brother Walt passed in 2013. Today, you can still see their Green Monster sign out on Pickle Road, north of Killian.

A little bit crazy? Maybe. What we can say for sure is that when it comes to “life in the fast lane” — no one showed the way better than the two brothers from Akron.


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