From then on Art insisted that his crew give the car a kiss each day. To an outsider it would have seemed strange behavior indeed for grown men. But to Art it was as natural as kissing one's own child.
The car that excited all this osculatory activity is one that, at first study, would not arouse the ordinary person to a peak of wild-animal lust. In essence, the Green Monster is a speedy tube, a J-79 jet engine (the same engine that powers the Hustler bomber and F-104 Starfighter) mounted on four wheels. The high tail fin has the grace and flow of a Curtiss Condor; the hydraulically operated "wing" in the front has the aerodynamic characteristics of a flat rock, and the cockpit controls look like they were assembled by the freshman class in electric shop at the Jones Jr. High in Toledo. The front axle came from a 1937 Lincoln with 1951 Dodge truck kingpins, the rear axle from a 1947 Ford truck. The shocks, brake pedal and instruments were cannibalized from scrapped airplanes. The total cost to Arthur was under $10,000, counting $5,000 for the engine, and Firestone put up $50,000 worth of tires and wheels. "Cardboard and tape's what really holds her together," Arthur explained glibly. At a New York press conference last year after the Monster had broken the land-speed record for the second time, he was asked what kind of steering was in the car.
" '55 Packard," he said.
There was a silence, and then a reporter from a scientific magazine asked: "What process did you go through, what calculations did you make and what data did you compile that led you to use this unusual type of steering?"
Arthur answered, "Well, it's the only thing I had in the backyard."
Someone else asked why the car had less than two inches' clearance under the front. "If I'd made her any higher," Arfons said, "I wouldn't have been able to get her in my bus."
"He is strictly a backyard operation," says Goodyear's Dick Hoskins with mingled admiration and annoyance. "You should see him. They'll take a great big piece of metal and put it against a tree with Art on one end and somebody else on the other end, and they'll bend it to shape."
Says Firestone's Wheeler: "He even tests that jet engine in the backyard. You can't conceive of it unless you've seen him do it. At first, he'd strap it to two big trees. He burned out a 60-foot channel in his woods that way, and he blew a chicken house right off the face of the earth. He's the coolest guy I've ever seen in my life. When he's got that engine going on afterburner in his backyard, and I'm 50 feet away, I'm scared to death that it's gonna blow to pieces—they do sometimes, you know—and he's right up alongside it making adjustments."
While all the noise was going on at Arthur's shop, Walter Arfons was patiently working away in his own garage on a 1965 speed car designed to knock the Green Monster out of the box. "Arthur's smart, he's very, very smart," Walter said to a friend. "He's much smarter than I am. But I think I can fabricate and build as well as he can." He set about proving his point with a Tom Swiftian rocket car designed to hit supersonic speeds with absolute safety. The new baby-blue Wing foot Express was shaped like an arrow, with two front wheels side-by-side and almost touching and the rear wheels spread 13 feet apart to provide drag at the stern, a design aimed at making the car run a straight course without driver correction. Something like a dozen corporations were involved in the car, ranging from Goodyear, which footed most of the bill and designed wheels, tires, chutes and brakes, to Dzus Fasteners, which made some of the snaps holding the skin on the fuselage. Originally the aluminum was to come from Alcoa, but at the last minute the deal fell through and Walter turned to Reynolds for his car's skin. "That was my brother's doing," Walter told friends. "He called Alcoa and told them he wouldn't use their aluminum if they supplied me." The total cost of the new Wingfoot Express, including a 1913 dime inset into the steering wheel for luck, was $100,000. For their money, the sponsors had a car that was engineered to go 750 mph and take the land-speed record away from the so-called "junk operator" next door. Said the "junk operator" himself: "Wingfoot Express? They oughta call it the Clubfoot Express!"
Nevertheless Arthur Arfons stationed himself on the fringes of the crowd when the new car was unveiled to the public at the Akron-Canton Airport this summer. As in all confrontations of the brothers, there are two versions of what happened. Says Walter: