In October 1964 Tom Green set a new world land speed record of 413 mph in his jet-powered car Wingfoot Express. Read about the record, the car and the driver.
02 October 1964 – the date Tom Green set a new world land speed record in Wingfoot Express, at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
413.199 mph – the record breaking speed set by Wingfoot Express for the measured mile (664.963 km/h).
406 mph – the speed achieved on the outward run (653 km/h).
420.07 mph – the speed reached on the return run (676.04 km/h). Without time to refuel before the second run, the decision was made to begin the return run just 2 miles (3 km) away from the timing lights.
2% – the incremental improvement on Craig Breedlove’s unofficial record of 400 mph (644 km/h).
3 days – the length of time that Wingfoot Express retained the record, before it was beaten by Arthur ‘Art’ Arfons in Green Monster.
Did You Know?
Walt Arfons was originally going to drive Wingfoot Express for the record attempt, but suffered a heart attack just one month before the scheduled run. During a test run, Arfons witnessed an accident in which the two braking parachutes failed and Wingfoot Express careered through a chain link fence at 200 mph (320 km/h) and ploughed 75 feet (25 m) into trees. It was only the fact that around 300 feet (100 m) of the fence had entangled the rear wheels that prevented a more serious outcome to the accident. Whilst driver Tom Green was unhurt, Arfons suffered a heart attack and was temporarily hospitalised.
130 mph – the fastest speed (210 km/h) that Tom Green had previously experienced before taking over driving-duties following Walt Arfons’ heart attack (see ‘Did You Know?’, above).
236 mph – the speed Green hit on his first timed run (380 km/h). The final speed achieved during this 3 day test period – before the Wingfoot Express team were required to vacate the salt flats for Breedlove – was 335 mph (539 km/h).
$78,000 – the cost to build the first Wingfoot Express (significantly less than the $250,000 budget to build Spirit Of America, and $2,000,000 cost of the Bluebird CN7 project).
7,000 lbf – the amount of thrust generated by the car’s Westinghouse J46 jet engine, measured in pound-force, a standardised value for acceleration (31 kN – kilonewtons).
20 mph – the estimated reduction in speed (30 km/h) caused by the aerodynamic drag of the open-air rear wheels (this was not thought to be a problem due to the sheer power of the car).
Did You Know?
At the time that Tom Green first met Walt Arfons (at a trade fair in Gary, Indiana in 1962) and agreed to get involved in Arfons’ Land Speed Record project, his only racing experience had been a year in stock car racing some 10 years before.
3 – the number of wheels that Green’s design was originally intended to have.
4 – the number of wheels the finished car actually featured, in order to meet FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) rules.
25 feet – the length of the car (7.6m).
42 inches – the car’s height (1.06m) / height including tail = 73in / 1.85m).
51.5 inches – the width of the body (87 inches between the tyres).
4,650 lbs – the weight of the car (2,109kg).
3 inches – the ground clearance.
14 feet – the wheelbase (4.39m).
30 inches – the outside diameter of the wheels (the wheels wore Goodyear-developed, tubeless, low-profile, treadless tyres inflated to 100 psi).
Wingfoot Express 2
In 1965, Walt Arfons built a new Wingfoot Express, a new rocket-powered Land Speed Record car to be driven by Bob Tatroe. Although the car was engineered to go up to 750 mph, and achieved a speed of 605 mph that year, it would never set an official speed record.
$100,000 – the total cost to build Wingfoot Express 2.
15 – the original number of JATO rocket bottles used to power the car, capable of 28,800 hp. On the first test run, however, driver Bob Tatroe could only record a speed of 268 mph for the measured mile, using 8 bottles to blast-off and 2 more at the start of the measured mile. On the second test run, all 15 bottles were used from the off, but the speed was still only between 485 and 520 mph.
25 – the number of JATO rocket bottles eventually used to power the car; the original 15, mounted in the large circular tail of the car, plus another 10 added to the body (5 on either side). 25 bottles were sufficient to generate almost 50,000 hp.
Did You Know?
Wingfoot Express 2 had a 1913 dime inset into the steering wheel as a mark of good luck.
476 mph – the speed recorded for the measured mile during Tatroe’s single run, far short of Art Arfons’ existing 536 mph record. Walt Arfons called off the return run upon hearing of the speed from an official (within a week, Craig Breedlove would set a new record of 555 mph in Spirit of America Sonic 1, breaking the old record by nearly 20 mph).
$60,000 – the total expenditure on JATO bottles for the tests and the single run of the record attempt.
I want to break the record. This is my life; this is what I chose; it’s the only thing I know. If I don’t make the record, down deep I’m glad because I didn’t have to push Arthur (Arfons). I’m afraid for him. He’d throw all precautions to the wind. I wouldn’t want nothing to happen to him. Walter Arfons
13 feet – the width between the two rear wheels.