Date Location Driver Driver Country Vehicle Power Speed over
1 Km
Speed over
1 Mile
1962   Art Arfons USA Cyclops jet car F104 J79 Starfighter jet engine   342.88 MPH  
1965 Bonneville Betty Skelton USA Cyclops jet car F104 J79 Starfighter jet engine   277.52 MPH Womens Land Speed Record

In 1962 Art Arfons built this jet powered car in an attempt to break the world land speed record. Although he didn't break the record in this particular car, he did set the record for open wheel/open cockpit cars at 342.88 MPH. That record is still in the books today. Art Arfons was once described as the "junk yard genius of the jet set". His cars were often crude, but they were extremely fast and were built for a fraction of the cost of his better financed rivals. His talent was in crafting scrap parts into race cars. The powerplant for this car is an U.S. Government scrap F104 J79 Starfighter jet engine that produced 17,500 HP.

After Art moved on to other Green Monsters for Bonneville he used this car for drag racing exhibition runs. The car was a crowd favorite for its spectacular nature. Upon opening the drag chutes the front wheels would often lift a foot off the ground! Drag racing fans in Detroit still remember the time Art's chutes didn't open and they found him five miles past the end of the drag strip. Amazingly he was unhurt and the car was repaired.

Art removed the wheels from the car and attached pontoons to see how fast it would go on water. Only Art Arfons would attempt to break both the land and water speed records with the same vehicle.


Some photos are when the car was part of the Bob Jones Collection from Akron Ohio.


Art Arfons' second land speed car, the J-47 jet-powered Cyclops, Bonneville, 1962. (courtesy Ron Christensen)
Cyclops' front end with its off-the-rack tires. (courtesy Ron Christensen)
Cyclops again, Bonneville, 1962. (courtesy Ron Christensen)
Here's a nice shot of Art Arfons' Cyclops jet dragster at Bonneville, 1962, that was taken by Mel Ellis. The guy without the shirt is possibly Charlie Mayenschein, judging from the flat-top crew cut. (courtesy Mel Ellis)
This shot of Cyclops at Bonneville in '62 was sent along by Burly Burlile of Mendon, Utah. Note the headlight installed in the nose, useful in the shut-down area at drag strips, which were typically unlit after sundown. You can also see clearly here how Art sat in an open cockpit right in the air intake duct of the J-47 engine--between a rock and a hard place, you might say, at 300+ mph. And here's an interesting note for you photography buffs: Burly took this photo with his mother's 1913 Kodak expandable camera! (courtesy Burly Burlile)
Here's another shot of Art Arfons' Cyclops at Bonneville in August 1962. This and the four photos that follow were taken and sent to me by Dennis Jones of Jones Custom Lettering & Pin Striping in Whittier, California. Dennis has been around land speed racing and cool cars for over half a century. He started out doing the lettering on Dr. Nathan Ostich's Flying Caduceus--twice!--first on the original tailless version of the jet car in 1960, then again after a tail was added in 1963. (courtesy Dennis Jones)
A rear view of Art Arfons' Cyclops, showing the J-47 jet engine's exhaust. Photo taken during Speed at the Bonneville Salt Flats, August 1962. (courtesy Dennis Jones)
Front view of Cyclops, August 1962. The racing tires--provided by Firestone--haven't been installed yet. (courtesy Dennis Jones)
Front view of Cyclops, August 1962. The racing tires--provided by Firestone--haven't been installed yet. (courtesy Dennis Jones)
Another Cyclops shot, spectators standing around (courtesy Dennis Jones)
Three years after NHRA banned aircraft engines to eliminate Art and Walt Arfons’ successful V-12 dragsters, Art got revenge by adapting new LSR technology to the standing-start quarter-mile. He and another veteran drag racer, Romeo Palamides, were building jet dragsters simultaneously during the winter of 1961-’62. Art’s Cyclops (shown) hit the strips ahead of Romeo’s Untouchable, as evidenced by a February sequence we found in Motor Trend’s archive, of all places. Editor Bob Greene blasted “weenie roasters” in an Oct. ’62 editorial proclaiming jets OK for Bonneville but unsafe for drag racing. (Tex Smith took another swing in Aug.’63: “The Jet—A Short-Fused Bomb?”) Ironically and tragically, the same month that Greene’s column appeared, Glenn Leasure became the jet age’s first fatality, not in the Untouchable, but in Romeo’s LSR car, Infinity (courtsey Hot Rod magazine)
Photo Source : Samuel Hawley