Oldies and Oddities: The Bonneville Jet Wars
A California hot-rodder took on the feuding Arfons brothers in the 1960s.
- By Preston Lerner
- Air & Space magazine, March 2009
Courtesy Franklin Ratliff
(Page 2 of 2)
In 1965, Breedlove was back, this time with a J79 in a new Spirit of America, dubbed Sonic I. Walt Arfons was back too, his Wingfoot Express now fitted with 25 jet-assisted-takeoff rockets. Although they propelled Arfons’ car to more than 400 mph, they couldn’t sustain that speed long enough for Arfons to challenge the record. But Breedlove clicked off a run of 555 mph to become the fastest man on wheels.
A week later, Art Arfons strapped himself back in Green Monster. During his second pass, a tire shred, but he emerged from the cockpit of his dented and smoking car with another record: 576 mph. A few days later, Breedlove went 600.601 mph, and he was immortalized in the Beach Boys song “Spirit of America” as “a daring young man [who] played a dangerous game.”
Cars have gone faster: In 1997, a British team broke the sound barrier with a speed of 763 mph, powered by two Rolls-Royce Spey turbofans, which powered F-4M Phantom IIs. But land-speed racing has never been hotter than when cold war turbines were the coolest things at Bonneville.
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