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Walt and Art Arfons with their original "Green Monster" dragsters in front of their mill in the late 50's
Local auto enthusiasts mount historical marker fundraising for the Arfons & Otie Smith

December, 2015 -- The Ohio Historical Society has approved the creation of an official state historical marker to honor innovators in the drag racing industry. The large brass replica of the state of Ohio has been designed to memorialize local drag racing legends Art and Walt Arfons as well as Otis "Otie” Smith. To fund the completion of the memorial plaque, a grassroots group of automotive enthusiasts is seeking to generate financial support from the local community.

The plaque will be installed in a garden area in front of the newly-restored Fulton Airport terminal building, to commemorate the site where the three renowned drag racers began their racing careers in the early 1950s. At that time, the Fulton Airport runway was the first NHRA-sanctioned track east of the Mississippi. “This is where our local drag racing started, and we believe that honoring these racing pioneers is long overdue,” said Randy Lipscomb, one of the organizers of the fundraising effort for the memorial.

Art Arfons and his half-brother Walt both built and raced cars their entire lives, as did Otie Smith, an avowed lifelong “car nut.” By the early 1960s, the Arfons had begun to build cars powered by surplus jet engines. They took these super-powered machines to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah—an ideal surface for extremely fast driving because it is hard, flat and smooth—to try and break the land-speed record (394 miles per hour at the time, set by Briton John Cobb in 1947). In October 1964, a car designed by Walt Arfons called the Wingfoot Express beat the record. Two days after that, Art’s jet-propelled Green Monster took the title for the first time. On November 7, 1965, Art set the world land-speed record—an average 576.553 miles per hour—at Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats. (Record speeds are the average of two runs, one out and one back, across a measured mile.)

Along with Art and Walt Arfons, Smith was another hot rodding hero to come from of Akron, Ohio. An early supporter of NHRA, Smith was running the regional in his hometown before the nationals were even established, and raced all over the Midwest, as well as in Florida, Maine and California. Smith began racing in a 1932 Ford Roadster at the Akron airport track in 1953, and formed a club of local young people who shared his racing passion. By his estimation went on to compete in about 100 NHRA events in his 13-year career, which included being named the 1959 Middle Eliminator winner at the National Hot Rod Association Nationals. Smith also operated Otie’s Automotive Specialties in Akron for 33 years until 1988. Asked once why he liked to drive fast, Smith replied, “You got to be a little nuts. It was just fun. That's all.”

  A car show and dedication ceremony will be held in 2016. Interested supporters can visit akronracelegends on Facebook, or contact Lipscomb at Handyrandy2@yahoo.com, or call 330-608-8029 for more information. Donations can be sent to: Akron Race Legends Fund, P.O. Box 433, Tallmadge, Ohio, 44728.

Art Arfons in his Allison powered Green Monster dragster

Walt Arfons' Wingfoot Express Bonnevile Land speed record jet car

Art Arfons Green Monster land speed record jet car

Otie Smith in his blown altered drag car