Walt Arfons, who with his younger brother, Art, revolutionized the sport in the late 1950s and early 1960s with their line of aircraft-engine Green Monster dragsters and later jet-powered machines, died June 4 of pneumonia at a hospital in Akron, Ohio. He was 96.
The Arfons brothers’ skills were not limited to the dragstrip; they often were front-runners in the battle for the land-speed record in the 1960s. Art, who died in 2007, held three land-speed records and at times overshadowed his brother. Sometimes, their relationship became strained by the competition, leading to years-long estrangements while each carried on in his own efforts.
The first Green Monster name was bestowed upon their first car, a three-wheel, Olds six-cylinder-powered machine, rather derisively by a track announcer. The car had been painted using leftover tractor paint, and track announcer Ed Piasczik laughingly said, "OK, folks, here it comes: the Green Monster," and it stuck to all Arfons' creations.
Green Monster #5 is perhaps their best-remembered drag car. Built early in 1955 at their shop on Pickle Road in Akron, the car appeared at the first NHRA Nationals in Great Bend, Kan., in 1955 powered by a Ranger aircraft engine mounted upside down and backward, which was replaced the next year by a 1,710-cid Allison aircraft engine that ran 157.89 mph in 1957 during the ITA event in Chester, S.C.
Arfons is survived by his wife of 75 years, Gertrude; children, Patricia Stiff and W. Terry Arfons; a sister; eight grandchildren; and 19 great-grandchildren.