The San Diego Air & Space Museum is bringing “Speed” to San Diego throughout 2018 with its SPEED: Science in Motion special exhibition. Each month features a new theme, with “Land-Speed Record-Holders” kicking off in February. We’ll be featuring a new vehicle each Wednesday, kicking off with the iconic Arfons “Green Monster.”
In November 1965, American driver Art Arfons set his third and final land speed record driving the “Green Monster,” achieving a new speed of 576 mph. Arfons retained that record for only eight days, after which Craig Breedlove reclaimed the title by being the first man to achieve 600 mph, in Spirit of America Sonic 1.
The Green Monster was powered by a Pratt & Whitney J-79 jet engine, which is the same engine that powered the F-4 Phantom jet fighter. The $600 he spent for the engine was the single biggest cost to Arfons. In total he spent less than $10,000 for the entire car, having used scrapped parts such as a rear axle from a 1947 Ford truck, front axle from a 1937 Lincoln, and steering from a 1955 Packard.
This is not the first car to bear the name “Green Monster.” The Arfons brothers' first iteration hit the racing scene in 1952 as a three-wheel drag racer powered by a consumer-grade six-cylinder Oldsmobile engine. It was adorned in the green paint leftover from recent renovations to the family tractor. Its quarter mile speed of only 85 MPH was nothing spectacular but it paved the way for the six-wheeled Green Monster Number 2., an Allison aircraft powered behemoth.
Due to his wife’s concern with the risk involved in land speed record racing, Arfons instead turned his talents to turbine powered tractor pulling, fielding a series of Green Monster pull tractors with his son and daughter.
In 1989, Arfons returned to Bonneville with Green Monster Number 27, an 1800-pound, 22-foot long two-wheeler. The car left the ground at 350 miles per hour and Arfons rebuilt it into a less radical four-wheeled vehicle for 1990, but could manage only 177, 308 and 338 miles per hour. In 1991 he tried again, but once again had to give up with handling problems.