As soon as Walt Arfons got back to Akron, work began on Wingfoot. Green had a full-time job he wanted to keep, but Arfons was now making his living building, selling and racing cars. His avocation was his vocation.
The two "built" Wingfoot via correspondence. Arfons worked on the steel frame and the engine at his garage in Akron. "There isn't a part in that crate that isn't handmade—axles, ducts, everything," says Arfons. By mail, Green was exacting in his requests: the rear wheels must be farther apart than the front ones; the weight must be toward the rear; above all, keep it low, low, low. Green had decided that the trouble with Donald Campbell's $4 million Bluebird was its huge wheels. "I knew enough aerodynamics to know you want a small car for land-speed record runs," he says. "We had an arrow in mind," says Arfons. "Weight and fin feathers in the rear, tapering almost to a point in front."
Green built the body of steel and aluminum and "a bit of a Volkswagen fender." When he trucked it to Akron, it did not fit the frame Arfons had completed. But this was no problem for Arfons, his welding torch, hammer and wrenches. Soon everything fitted, and in the spring of 1963 the Arfons-Green dream car, really a glorified hot rod with a jet engine, was ready to roll.
Wingfoot's first roll was a near disaster. When it was tested near Detroit, it went faster than the builders had expected, swerved off course, across U.S. Highway 75, through a fence and into the woods. The test driver was uninjured but the wreck literally produced Arfons' heart attack. Green, with no race-driving experience, agreed to pilot the jet after that.
That summer Wingfoot was taken to the Salt Flats, where trouble of a different sort plagued it. The huge engine ingested salt. The faster it went, the more salt it swallowed. Its top speed was 315 mph, but Goodyear was game to try again in 1964.
When the elongated blue speedster was unloaded on the flats a week ago Sunday, it still did not impress anyone. Walt Arfons had been on the salt too many times before, and he had acquired an image as one of the shoestring boys who clutter up the place between runs by such better-heeled types as Campbell, Breedlove and Mickey Thompson. Since his brother, Art, had also dealt in Salt Flats frustration, the name Arfons was doubly discounted.
After trial runs Sunday, Arfons and Green pronounced the car ready. On Monday, it ran well but slowly. "The motor didn't have it," said Green. "We'll put a new one in," promised Walt.
On Tuesday there was no new motor, and in trial runs Wingfoot never got near 300. It was the same Wednesday.
By Thursday the new motor was installed, but crosswinds swept the flats. All day the timers waited. And waited. Nobody did anything at all, except that Green wiped the dust and salt off Wingfoot's blue body now and again, and Arfons picked up a wrench and moved in on it, only to back away sheepishly, as if everyone knew he really had no bolts in need of tightening.