Green Monster (automobile)

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The Land Speed Record car

The Green Monster was the name of several vehicles built by Art Arfons and his half brother Walt Arfons. These ranged from dragsters to a turbojet-powered car which briefly held the land speed record three times during 1964 and 1965.

The land speed record "Green Monster" won the land speed record three times during the close competition of 1964 and 1965. It was powered by an F-104 Starfighter jet engine with four-stage afterburner.

Early dragsters[edit]

The first "Green Monster", in 1952 was a three-wheeled dragster powered by an Oldsmobile six cylinder engine, and painted with left-over green tractor paint. The name was applied on the car's first outing by the track announcer, Ed Piasczik (Paskey), who laughingly said "Okay folks here it comes; The Green Monster", and it stuck to all Arfons' creations. The car only reached 85 miles per hour (137 km/h), 20 miles per hour (30 km/h) short of the fastest car, but by 1953 the Green Monster Number 2, a 20 foot (6 m) long six wheeled car powered by an Allison V12 aircraft engine, was hitting 100 miles per hour (160 km/h) in the quarter mile.

Green Monster Number 2 was painted by Arfons' mother to resemble the World War II Curtiss P-40 Flying Tigers fighter airplane, with an open mouth showing large teeth. The top speed of the car was estimated at 270 miles per hour (435 km/h), and it could reach 140 miles per hour (225 km/h) in nine to ten seconds from a standing start. Running on passenger car tires, the car required four wheels on the rear drive axle to withstand the power. At the first World Series of Drag Racing at Lawrenceville, Illinois, it clocked the highest top speed at 132.35 miles per hour (213.00 km/h), and eventually a world record of 145.16 mph (233.61 km/h).

The later cars had various paint schemes where green was not necessarily the dominant color. The six-wheeled Green Monster Number 6 became the first dragster to break 150 miles per hour (241 km/h) in the quarter mile. Green Monster Number 11, Art Arfons' favorite, hit 191 miles per hour to beat Don Garlits.

Arfons used an Allison V1710 V12 airplane engine in several of the Green Monsters. The Allison V12 powered the P-40 as well as many other aircraft including the P-51A, P-39 Aircobra, P-38 Lighting, P-63 and others.

Currently the Green Monster Number 5 is touring in the Midwest and California, and will be at the Bakersfield Hot Rod Reunion in October 2011.[needs update]

Land speed racing[edit]

General Electric J79 on display at the USAF museum.

The Arfons brothers then split up, and each became interested in land speed record racing.

The most famous "Green Monster" was powered by an ex-F-104 Starfighter General Electric J79 jet engine, producing 17,500 lbf (78 kN) static thrust with four-stage afterburner, which Arfons purchased from a scrap dealer for $600 and rebuilt himself, over the objections of General Electric and the government, and despite all manuals for the engine being classified top secret.

The engine had been scrapped because of damage caused by ingesting a bolt. Art removed 60 blades out of approximately 1000 in the engine, removing broken blades and ones at 180 degrees, or the pair at +/-120 degrees to maintain balance. He tested it by tying it to trees in his garden, a procedure which drew complaints from his neighbors.

This car, painted in red and blue, won the land speed record three times during the close competition of 1964 and 1965 with averages of 434, 536 and 576 mph (698, 863, and 927 km/h) in the flying mile (despite blowing a tire on the last record run). It competed against Wingfoot Express (built by his brother Walt, who could not pilot the car himself, having suffered a stroke) and Craig Breedlove's Spirit of America - Sonic 1 four-wheeled jet car, which eventually set the record at 600.601 mph (966.574 km/h).

In 1966, Arfons returned once again to Bonneville, but reached an average speed of only 554.017 mph (891.604 km/h). On run number seven at 8:03 a.m. on November 17, Arfons crashed his vehicle travelling 610 mph (982 km/h) when a wheel bearing seized. He subsequently built another Green Monster land speed record car, but sold it to California rancher Slick Gardner without ever driving it.

Later vehicles[edit]

In view of his wife's concern over the risk involved in land speed record racing, Arfons instead turned his talents to turbine powered tractor pulling with great success, fielding a series of Green Monster pull tractors along with his son and daughter.

However, in 1989, Arfons returned to Bonneville with Green Monster Number 27, an 1800 pound (820 kg), 22 foot (7 m) long two-wheeler. The car left the ground at 350 miles per hour (563 km/h), and Arfons rebuilt it into a less radical four-wheeled vehicle for 1990, but could manage only 177, 308 and 338 miles per hour (285, 496, and 544 km/h). In 1991 he tried again, but once again had to give up with handling problems.

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