Wingfoot Express II



Date Location Driver Driver Country Vehicle Power Speed over
1 Km
Speed over
1 Mile
Oct 22, 1964 Bonneville Salt Flats, USA Bobby Tatroe   Wingfoot Express II
25 Jato Rockets
    Walt Arfons vehicle Wingfoot Express II reached speeds in excess of 580 mph but the rockets ran out of thrust before the driver could finish thru the measured mile or kilo

Another contender during the jet-car battle between Craig Breedlove and Art Arfons in 1965 was the innovative Wingfoot Express II, the new creation of Art Arfons' brother Walt.

Walt Arfons Wingfoot Express II was the first real rocket-powered contender for the outright Land Speed Record. Others had tried this kind of propulsion before him: Fritz von Opel had powered vehicles from cars to train-sleds with solid fuel rockets, albeit without any serious LSR ambitions.

Even Mickey Thompson is known to have experimented with additional power from rockets on his Challenger 1. But until Arfons' creation, none had ever seriously engineered an Land Speed Record contender around that concept of propulsion.

Walt Arfons designed a car often described as looking like an Atlas rocket lying on its side. The car sure looked like it would go faster than anyone before, even a supersonic record seemed to be within reach, but eventually little success would come from the experience.

The JATO rockets ("jet assisted take-off" rockets, designed to help military planes to take-off "more easily") had too short a burn time to last through the entire length of the course: even when fired in sequences (which initially had to be done manually by intrepid driver Bobby Tatroe), the rockets would usually burn out long before exiting the timing trap, the car merely coasting along (at around 400mph!), and slowing down considerably even before the end of the timing trap.

With the initial 15-rockets configuration, the best top speed thus recorded was way below the record which stood at 536.71mph (average).

With the addition of 10 more rockets (protruding from the sides of the "fuselage") success was still not at hand, even thought driver Bobby Tatroe reached a peak speed of 580 mph, on one pass Bobby was lucky to escape unhurt from a spectacular fire when one of the rockets dislodged and caused severe fire damage to the rear of the car at very high speed.

The car, even if not an Land Speed Record holder, is surely one of the most terrific designs that ever hit the Bonneville salt flats in Utah.

After the failed attempt, Walt Arfons and Wingfoot Express II did not return to the salt and it is believed that Arfons cut up the Wingfoot Express II rocket car.

Wingfoot Express II
Wingfoot Express II
Bob Tatroe in Walt Arfons' "Wingfoot Express II" rocket car, 1965
Wingfoot Express II
The J.A.T.O. powered Wingfoot Express II. This car had 25, 1,000 lb thrust JATO bottles and was built by Walt Arfons.
Wingfoot Express II
Wingfoot Express IIBEFORE the 10 extra JATO bottles were added. $50,000 expense just to do the 2 way run. Reached speed of 476.6 mph one way in Oct. 1965
Wingfoot Express II
Loading JATO rocket bottles into the tail of Wingfoot Express, Bonneville Salt Flats, 1965 (courtesy Walt Arfons)
Wingfoot Express II
Bobby Tatroe in the cockpit, getting ready for a run (courtesy Goodyear Tire and Rubber)
Wingfoot Express II
Bobby Tatroe in the cockpit of the Wingfoot rocket car, Walt Arfons looking on (courtesy Goodyear Tire and Rubber)
Wingfoot Express II
Bobby Tatroe, helmet on, ready to go (courtesy Goodyear Tire and Rubber)
Wingfoot Express II
The Wingfoot Express back at Walt Arfons' Pickle Road workshop (courtesy Tom Mayenschein)
Wingfoot Express II
A rear view of the Wingfoot, the scorching very apparent (courtesy Tom Mayenschein)