ART ARFONS / GREEN
MONSTER: TIM ARFONS
Arfons is the second of Art Arfons' two sons. He was about ten years
Art was locked in the LSR jet car battle with Craig Breedlove back in
the mid-1960s and he went on to work with jets himself. I had my first interview with him over the
phone at his Pickle Road shop in Akron, Ohio (his dad's old shop with
some of Art's stuff still in it) on June 12, 2009. Tim was on speaker
phone and was working while we talked--kind of like how
I imagine Art would have been.
know your grandfather Tom Arfons had a
feed mill, but I’ve also seen reference to him working at the Firestone
Did he do both those things?
bought the mill...I think he might have worked at the plant earlier,
mill was his number one job.
he also have a hardware store at the
ask about the layout of the houses on Pickle
Road. There was the mill and Tom’s house, then Art built a house and
but they weren’t near the shop. Walter’s was up the street from the
dad’s was about a mile away. Walter’s wasn’t that far away.
than a mile?
they had their respective shops there at
the mill site?
worked together out of the mill. Then they split the property up and my
built a building adjacent to the mill.
he and Walt were in two separate
buildings working on their cars. How far apart were they?
[I mention that someone told me Art
Actually, he’s one of the few Arfons. Walter’s father was not named
They were step-brothers.
they had the same mother, but different
Tom Arfons was dad’s dad.
next ask about the Green Monster having
two seats. Was it ever the plan for Ed Snyder to ride along with Art?]
it was never designed for that. He was never supposed to ride. Charlie
Mayenschein sneaked in though.
read that story. So you’ll verify that?
second cockpit, was it just a seat, or
was it fixed up with steering?
there was nothing over there.
there was never any intention to drive
from over there?
additional weight added to the second
seat to counter the weight of your dad on the other side?
When you start figuring the torque of the engine and all that, there’s
to figure out all that. So two hundred pounds would be minuscule on a
weighed sixty-five hundred.
ask if Tim remembers anything about hanging around in the shop,
watching his dad work. He doesn’t
recall anything that sticks out. “Just the same thing every day.” I ask
when Art test fired the J-79.]
remember my aunt passing out.
She thought it was a monster coming after her. I don’t know if you’ve
heard a 79 when the doors start...the exhaust pipe goes in and out
goes into burner. And it gets to a certain point, at about 95 percent,
makes a distinctive sound that sounds like Godzilla or something from
this world. It’s the neatest sound in the world. If you ever get on You
and get a 104, if you keep listening, I’ve heard it on there a couple
but it gets to a certain rpm, it makes a howling sound. And if you
watch any of
dad’s old movies you’ll hear it. The first couple of records he set, he
used the afterburner, so the exhaust was doing what it was supposed to
ask about Tim's memories of being a kid at
school, with a drag racer for a father, and then the world’s fastest
man as a
dad. I suggest that he must have been the coolest kid in school.]
wasn’t like that, honestly. Everyone just kind of...He [Art] was
here. Everybody thought it was cool and everything, but no, there was
where you were treated...my brother [Ron], maybe, when he was in high
school. But I
was in grade school; a lot of kids didn’t understand it.
mention the story told by Tim's older brother Ron in
Harvey Shapiro’s book, about the shock of hearing about Art’s accident
in 1966.] Do you
remember that? What was it like for you?
they called me to the office.
they say your dad was dead?
knew it was an accident and he was
And if my brother said anything different...WAKR came on and I think
one of my cousins heard
that he got killed. All the rest of us, Firestone let us know.
ask about the “four stages” on the
afterburner of the J-79, saying Breedlove’s GE expert told me there
stages on the thing, it just kicked in.]
who am I to argue with a GE guy who doesn’t know what he's talking
nozzles had four separate rings, and when it went into burner they came
stages. One ring would fire, then another. It was a smooth transition.
almost...I’m trying to think...If you can image the fuel pressure
pushing on a
piston, now there are four ports in that slide, and the more fuel
get, it keeps opening up more ports...There were like steps in the
nozzle had four lines going to it. Not really rings. They were bars
throttle on the Green Monster was a foot
pedal, right, not a hand lever?
correct. And there was no button for the afterburner. Once you pushed
down so far, it would automatically go into afterburner mode.
mention Breedlove describing in his book
about slamming the pedal to the floor to start a run, just like a
that how Art did it?]
he always had a theory. He wanted to come in the mile slow and come out
that he was at the highest speed for the shortest amount of time. He
like [on] a drag strip.
it was dangerous?
ask after Walt Arfons. Is he still alive?]
he still live in Florida?
he’s moved back to Akron. His son [Terry] is taking care of him. He’s
not doing too
good. They got tired of having to fly to Florida every time he was
ask about the tattoo on Walt’s forearm.]
don’t know what it is. Dad’s was just the standard navy anchor. [It was
Art’s forearm, same as Walt's.]
mention that everyone I’ve talked to so
far were in what seems to have been in Art’s outer circle; that his
circle, especially Ed Snyder, Charlie Mayenschein and Bud Groff have
all passed away.] Do you know
anyone else in the inner circle who might still be alive?
because he kept the circle pretty tight. Not as tight as most people
a day goes by when you don’t run into somebody in Akron whose dad
the Green Monster. I think there’s twenty thousand people here.
ask about Art’s different approach to land
speed racing, taking fewer runs that Breedlove, and taking only a
speed build-up rather than five miles.]
Breedlove didn’t have near the horsepower on the first car.
the short speed build-up distance was a
matter of horsepower.
also he [Art] didn’t like to spend too much time at speed. He ran it
just like a drag
it had to do with minimizing risk.
That’s why...because he was always reaching his peak speed coming out
ask about Tim's other uncle, Dale Arfons.]
know he worked for the division of water craft. I don’t know if he was
Walt, but I know he went with my dad every time.
passed away now, I guess.
he committed suicide when I was twenty-something.
mention a reference from 1956 about Dale
having been injured when a stick of dynamite that he was holding
wasn’t going to go into that, but yeah, he was showing off. That’s when
with the fish and the watercraft.
that a serious injury?
yeah. It burned him bad and he didn’t have many fingers on that hand,
call it pretty serious.
your dad’s crash in the Baloney
Slicer, I’ve read that the only permanent damage he suffered was his
index finger was crooked.
couldn’t straighten it out?
Actually, when I was a little kid he’d offer me ten bucks if I could
it out and I’d sit in his lap and do all I could to straighten it, but
wasn’t going to move. [Laughs]
say that Art and Breedlove had a
professional rivalry, but on a personal level they were quite
friendly.] Is that
your take too?
would be the word I would use.
your dad ever talk about Craig in later
years? Did he ever express any feelings about him?
dad harbored ill feelings toward no one.
didn’t mean ill feelings really...
treated everyone the same. He had no more or less [feelings] for
know he liked Andy Green and the other Brit a lot better, though.
your dad have a certain scorn for
I mean, if it hadn’t been for degreed engineers he wouldn’t have had
did your dad think of Firestone tires?
I know after the LSR business he went to Goodyear tires.
only went to Goodyear tires one time.
he have confidence in Firestone tires?
God yes. The only thing...Firestone was giving him any money, Goodyear
him money, because that was when he was getting ready to break three
What people don’t know is, that was when the accident occurred. They
tires that hadn’t been tested. And that’s when that car crashed in
on Goodyear tires.
you referring to the time that the guy
got killed riding along with your dad?
That was the first time on Goodyear tires. The only time.
mention the comment I got from someone in
the Breedlove camp that Craig’s Goodyear tires were much better than
Firestone tires; that Art’s Firestones were in fact “crap.”]
Breedlove never lost a tire and Dad did, so I can’t argue that point.
know Firestone treated our family real well for ever. He never had
to say about them. See, their tires were a lot bigger. That makes it a
understanding is that Firestone did not
front your dad any money to build the car; that they only paid him if
the record, a sum of $50,000. Is that right?
it if he broke the record and kept it over
the winter, or just if he broke the record?
he broke the record. So they paid him twice the one year. [Laughs] And
held the record, they took care of him on stuff also, as he was
country with Firestone and everything. I mean, even in the tractor
maintained a relationship.
ask Tim about the comment from others that
“nobody makes money from the land speed record.”]
don’t believe that. I mean, it gives you endorsements, it opens up a
opportunities in addition to what you get from your sponsors.
ask about the Art Arfons museum he is
planning on opening up.]
Eventually. I’ve got a couple of the cars...actually I’ve got a letter
from NASCAR, they have one of the cars. I do a lot of work with them so
an in on that. I may have [Green Monster] Number 6, Number 11, the last
was Baloney Slicer, right?
no no. Eleven was his last Allison car. That was the one that set all
speeds at the events in the late Fifties, before they outlawed Allison
No, there was nothing left of the Baloney Slicer.
Baloney Slicer Number 10 then?
would guess it was either nine or ten.
ask after the Green Monster that crashed
in 1966. What is left of it today?
wheel bearing that failed, and the tail fin.
the tail just sitting in the back of your
It’s sitting in the back of the shop.
it still scratched up and stuff?
yeah, still got salt on it.
about the wheel bearing, if it pretty
sure that that’s what happened, the wheel bearing seized up and the