"Know why Goodyear has more public-relations men than Firestone? 'Cause they've got more stories to tell!"
Executives of each company's racing divisions run around predicting disaster for the other company's racers. "You wouldn't get me near Walt Arfons' rocket car," said a Firestone man. "It's unstable."
" Firestone hasn't done a damned thing about Art's tire problem this year," said a Goodyear man. "He'll blow that tire sure and he's in mortal danger."
Each fall the competition peaks at Bonneville. As Firestone's Wheeler explains: "The world land-speed record is probably the most sophisticated thing a man can do in motor sports. Winning the driving championship in Europe is prestigious, but breaking the LSR in the past has been something out of the realm of just racing, more in the realm of climbing Mount Everest or a Jacques Cousteau-type thing. Now to build a tire for Bonneville is the ultimate thing a tire company can do. And after you build it, you've got to do one more thing: you've got to win with it. Public relations is what the land-speed record is all about." To that end, the Arfons brothers, still working in adjacent hauteur, suddenly found themselves the beneficiaries of tens of thousands of dollars' worth of technical help, equipment and just plain money, Walter from Goodyear and Arthur from Firestone. It did not take Arthur long to get into the spirit of industrial competition. The Bonneville Speedway Association assigns weeks on the speed course to specified racers and companies, and in the middle of one of Walter's weeks for Goodyear last season, Arthur drove into town at the wheel of his Firestone-emblazoned bus. "He parked that thing right under my motel-room window," Walter says astonishedly, "and he flew a Firestone flag about 20 feet in the air, a flag that musta been 15 feet long, and it was all Goodyear here then, it was my week here! He come in on a Wednesday of my week! Can you imagine? Why, when I'm out here during one of Firestone's weeks, I won't even wear my Goodyear jacket. But he had the nerve to fly a great big Firestone flag 20 feet in the air!"
"Yeh," says Arthur, "and somebody had the nerve to bend it down to the ground during the night. I didn't fly it after that."
A few days later, all was forgotten in the excitement of a new world land-speed record. Tom Green of Wheaton, Ill., in a jet car designed and built by Walter Arfons and sponsored by Goodyear, roared to a two-way average speed of 413.2 mph over the measured mile at Bonneville, breaking Donald Campbell's record of 403.1 and Breedlove's three-wheeler mark of 407.45. When the record time was announced Green sat in the cockpit, tears streaming down his face. Walter Arfons maintained his self-control, except for a little whooping and hollering, until he sighted the figure of his brother hurrying out of the crowd toward him. Arthur held out his hand, and the two feuding brothers embraced. "I damn near had tears in my eyes myself," Arthur recalls. That night he phoned his mother in Florida and told her, "Mom, I made up with Walter. We're buddies again, and everything's fine."