"After we'd made up and all, he just turned right around and did me some real dirty tricks right after we'd left Bonneville, and I thought, 'Well, I've made up with you for the last time.' I'll tell you one little dirty thing he done. I'd been buying fill dirt to build up a low spot by my garage, and when I come home from the salt I discovered he'd been having a basement dug for his new house and he had dumped about 50 loads of dirt across the street from me. And I would have paid him, paid him for the dirt and the hauling! Yet he hates me that much, that he would take and haul it over to a neighbor. And I tell you, it's something small, but it's the principle of the thing, and it just burnt me no end."
Walter's explanation is simple: "I didn't even know he wanted dirt."
Within a few days of his return to Akron, Arthur's attention was diverted back to the salt flats. Craig Breedlove, a 27-year-old California hot rodder sponsored by Goodyear and Shell, had driven his three-wheeled Spirit of America
through the official clocks at 468.72 to break Arthur's record. Then the gritty Breedlove, who drives in boxer-type athletic shoes and an oxygen mask and runs his operation like a Cecil B. DeMille production, upped his own record to 526.28 mph, wrecking his racer but becoming the first person ever to be timed over 500 in a wheeled vehicle on land.
Back to the salt came Arthur Arfons and his crazy mixed-up, red-nosed Green Monster, described by some as the ugliest land-speed car in the world, for one last crack before the snows set in. "The night before my runs," Arfons says, "I got really shook. There was this guy standing in front of the Wendover Cafe with his big dog, and I overheard him say something about 'that guy that really got splattered on the salt last year, and my dog helped clean him up!' He almost turned my stomach.'''
On the second of his two speed runs the next day, Arthur Arfons blew a tire again, this time at a speed estimated at 600-plus. Explained Harold (Humpy) Wheeler of the sponsoring Firestone team: "The Green Monster's engine has a tremendous torque [twist] when Art cuts in that afterburner, and it throws more than half the weight of the car on that right rear tire. There isn't a tire made that can stand that kind of a load at 600 miles an hour, and to make things worse he hasn't got any suspension back there to cushion the load. But blowouts don't bother Art. He knew exactly what to do because for the last 10 years this guy's been running up and down drag strips faster than anybody and accelerating to more total G forces than anybody else. So he didn't panic. He hit the 'kill' button on his steering wheel; this shut down the engine and he coasted to about 500 miles an hour. Then he popped his first chute, and it went all to pieces and jerked the car real bad. He just held onto the steering till the car straightened out, and then he popped the other chute at about 400 and it tore in two, but it slowed him down and at 350 he hit the brakes and burned them out, and he just rode it down on three wheels."
While Arfons and his crew members were standing around mourning the damage to the Green Monster, a timer announced that the car had averaged 536.71 for another new land-speed record, the fifth within a month. With the first storm clouds of winter already marching across the western skies, Walter Arfons hurried back to the salt from Akron with his jet-powered Wingfoot Express, now augmented by three JATO (jet-assist takeoff) rockets, to regain the record for Goodyear. But heavy rains shut him down, and he returned to the little shop on Pickle Road in Akron to build a wholly new car for the 1965 attempts. Brother Arthur, richer by a $25,000 reward from Firestone, went to work patching up the Green Monster in his own garage a few feet away from Walter's. Firestone took full-page ads proclaiming: "Art Arfons Sets New Land Speed Record. 536.71 M.P.H. Again Proving the Superiority of FIRESTONE THE GREATEST TIRE NAME IN RACING." The text observed, "Riding on Firestone Tires, Art Arfons broke the world's land speed record for the second time in a month.... Again, the superiority of Firestone Tires was proved in this torturing test of tire safety and endurance just as it was in this year's Indianapolis 500-mile Sweepstakes...."
A documentary movie, Challenge, full of menacing music and a high-powered narration punched out by the late Everett Sloane, reinforced the legends about Arthur Arfons and enlisted a Hollywood bit player to dub for Arthur's Peeperish voice. ("The pitch of his voice didn't lend itself to the dramatic situation," said one of the film-makers.) While Firestone logotypes danced across the movie like snakes in a Fellini fantasy, the narrator intoned such passages as:
Just about everything had gone into [the Green Monster's] making.... But most of all, pure sweat. For she was built with pure determination and ingenuity. But mostly she was a labor of love and faith. And now finally she was ready to go. And go fast. But would she?
The Green Monster went fast, and she did not blow any more tires in the movie than she had in the newspaper ads.
All through last winter and spring, while Firestone's publicity campaign continued, there were rumors about the cars the two brothers were readying for the new year. Goodyear was said to be in a state of corporate apoplexy over the land-speed record and wanted it back whatever the cost. One could understand the annoyance. As a Goodyear spokesman reviewed the 1964 racing season at Bonneville: "Every time we scheduled a press conference to exploit a new land-speed record on Goodyears, Art Arfons'd go out and break our record for Firestone. Every time we'd run a big ad about a record, Art'd break our record while the ad was still on the streets. It made us look silly and it made us mad, especially when you consider that Art blew tires twice and we never had a trace of tire trouble on our own runs. They had the trouble and as a reward they get one year of good publicity. We had no tire trouble at all and we get one year of zip, nothing."