As Paul Harvey says, "And Now The Rest Of The Story".
Tom Green is full of &!#? He may claim it was his car,
but he wishes. I saw the same program on TLC. Tom's comments were
directed at your Dad, they never did get along.
Here is what happened.
Art went to Bonneville with his Cyclop's Jet Dragster. He went 342 mph.
That got him the fever for Land Speed Racing. He had tried before with an Allison
powered car but had too many mechanical problems.
Just about the same time Arthur went to Bonneville with the Cyclops, Walt got salt
fever also. Doug had been driving for Walt just a short time. Tom Greens
claim to fame was that he had the final design for the Wingfoot Express. Tom wanted to
call it "The Mouse". We built the car and sent it to Tom in Chicago for the body.
Walt wanted to test the car so he had decided to matchrace it against Doug and the Green
Monster. Really the car was way to heavy to be competitive in the 1/4 mile. Walt
hired a young man named Chuck Thatcher to drive the car.
Chuck turned out to be a "hot dog". He was the one
driving it at Detroit Dragway against Doug when it went off the end of the track. Although
he wasn't hurt, the car was almost totaled. That ended his driving career with
We got the body repaired but were without a driver. Doug did not want to drive the
car. He was in love with the Monster, and said if he did break the record he would
have to tour with the car at car shows and such and didn't want to do that.
He wanted to continue driving the Green Monster.
Deep down Walt wanted to drive the Wingfoot. But after his
heart attack the doctor and Gertie said No. Then while we
were building the trailer for the Wingfoot, he slipped and cut his left hand and
damaged one of the muscles in his hand which just about made it impossible for
him to move the throttles, afterburner and parachute levers. I walked into
the shop just after he climbed out of the cockpit. He looked like
he had just lost his best friend, and said he couldn't do it.
Since Tom was so familiar with the car and time was running out, Walt asked Tom
to drive it. This would turn out to be Walt's only flaw with the car. Tom
was really scared of the car. And for being an engineer he really didn't know
anything about Land Speed Racing and Jet Car design. The first year
on the salt Tom could only get the car up to 252 mph. But if you
notice on some of the original photos, the intake was wide open. The front
wheels were throwing salt into the intake which ruined an engine. After a year
of waiting and making modifications Walt, Tom and crew returned to Bonneville.
Things went from bad to worse Car wasn't performing, could not get any speed out of the car.
Time was running out and after some modifications suggested by Art, they opened up the front
of the intake to allow more air in, and did some rework of the exhaust pipe. The car
started performing better, but in order to get the record Tom would have to stay in the
"burner", but kept going in and out of it during the mile. He thought it
would get more speed that way. Walt tried to convince him it would be better
to leave the burner on. But he didn't do it.
They did get the record (Tom was afraid of the car). If they would
have done it like it should have, we still wouldn't have been able to stop Art who was
next on the salt, but we could have moved the speed up higher than the 413 average.
Tom has quite a bit of memory problems. The car was Walter's, and he just did
a bad job of driving.
Next year we were going back to Bonneville with jato bottles attached. But the FIA
made rulings disallowing the car having the three jato bottles attached to the car. A ruling of
percentage of main power vs add on power. This was done
after Donald Campbells Bluebird hit the salt. The car had a turboprop engine. It was wheel
driven, but did have thrust. The FIA made a
ruling that a certain percentage of power must come from the main engine. With the
addition of the jato bottles we would have exceeded the percentage. We had the car
done, but couldn't run it for the record officially.
As you know the record went back and forth from Art to Craig Breedlove. Walt wanted to
make it back to Bonneville this time with your dad driving.
He had made a good impression with Walt. Knew how to take care of the car, was good
looking and made a good impression with Goodyear and Cornwall Tools. Your Dad had
the personality that you couldn't help but like him. When it was
decided to build the rocket Wingfoot, Walt knew that the best person for the job was
your Dad. He had proved himself with the Avenger and was willing to take it on.
We all worked very hard on that car. The majority
of the money spent on the car was Walters. Goodyear didn't give him that much for
construction (they were banking on Craig Breedlove), we
got some from Cornwall, but mainly in the line of tools. The original
design was for 15 jato bottles. Your dad did
all the wiring for the jato bottles for the car, took him a couple of days to do this. Many long
hours on this car. Goodyear did send out some engineers to build the nose section,
canopy, and fins They also built the wash tub that they called rear wheel housings.
When it was all ready we took the car to Akron Canton airport. We had just
two jato bottles in the car. When your dad fired them off, everything went great,
except the ride was so hard and rough your dad couldn't wait to get out of it.
He really didn't like the ride. At the salt it was found out to be under powered.
So Walt wanted to add 5 more jatos to each side. This may have
done it, but after one of them misfired, making your dad into a driving fireball, we
were all done. There was talk about taking the car and cutting it behind the front wheels and
adding a J79 jet engine, but just was talk.
Sadly both Wingfoots were stripped down and placed outside behind the shop. The days for
Bonneville for Walt and your Dad were over. Tom had his 15 minutes of fame, but your
Dad had a lifetime. Can't believe all the memories that are coming back. Like driving
at nights and just for the hell of it throw some firecrackers out in tunnels, really made
quite a bit of noise. He used to have a fireproof glove with the index finger painted gold.
Announcers would always tell Bobby to show them the glove while he was in the car, and your dad
was proud to give everyone the "finger" !
Well looks like I took up quite a bit of your time. As I remember
more about him or you want to know anything let me know. See what I can do. Take care, its
nice to be able to know his son.