Hot Rod Magazine and The Automotive Aftermarket's Insiders Choose M&H Racemaster Drag Tires as One of The 10 Most Significant Speed Parts Of All Time
In 2007, the M&H Racemaster Drag Tire was honored by Hot Rod Magazine and the Automotive Aftermarket's Insiders as one of the 10 most significant speed parts of all time. Early drag racing tires weren't very good, or safe, or consistent, but M&H Racemaster changed all that when we invented the first Drag Tire. With racer friendly service, quality technical support, and the amazing tire compounding, the M&H Racemaster tire was the rubber of choice for quarter mile drag racing, and helped propel the sport to new heights and great speeds. The article was written by Jeremy Pitt and published by Hot Rod Magazine in December 2007.
Hot Rod And The Automotive Aftermarket's Insiders Choose The 10 Most Significant Speed Parts Of All Time.
Hot Rod Magazine has spotted a void within the aftermarket: the lack of a formal, permanent Hall of Fame that recognizes the impact that specific car parts have had on our industry’s success, on its culture, and on its hobbyists. Therefore, in conjunction with the magazine’s 60th anniversary year that starts next month, we present the Hot Rod Speed Parts Hall of Fame.
The Hot Rod staff compiled a list of 30 products that we feel have had significant roles in shaping the aftermarket, then we sent it out to every SEMA member and industry insider and asked them to vote on the top 10 products that they believe are most worthy of the Hall of Fame. They were also allowed to write in their own candidates. The response was overwhelming, and the following 10 charter inductees are what the industry voted for.
The Hot Rod Speed Parts Hall of Fame will be an annual deal, with five more speed parts added to the Hall every year, again as voted by the industry. Here are the first 10 and why they deserve to be the HOT ROD Speed Parts Hall of Fame’s inaugural inductees.
Ed Iskenderian earned his “Camfather” nickname honestly, by being a pioneer in the camshaft and valvetrain field. Chet Herbert brought solid roller cams to widespread use in racing, but in 1956 Isky patented the first self-guided roller lifters, which made it easy for the masses to run a roller cam. Isky and his competitor Harvey Crane dominated the racing and hot rodding world with a bunch of innovations in cam and valvetrain technology, but it was Isky cams that everyone seemed to be running. Searching through the HOT ROD magazine archives for photos for this story, we spent a lot of time poring over photography from all the significant races back in the ’50s and ’60s, from the drags to Indy to Baja, and it seems like there was at least one guy in every shot wearing a white Isky T-shirt; in fact, Isky himself is credited with popularizing the speed T-shirt.
With Don Garlits’ help, Isky also introduced the first corporate sponsorship of a drag racing operation, and by paying racers who won with his parts he introduced the concept of contingency that sportsman racers live and die by today. -Rob Kinnan
American Racing Torq-Thrust Wheels
In the ’50s, Romeo Palamides was a well-known car builder specializing in drag race chassis. The need for lightweight wheels led him to team up with machinist Jim Ellison, and together they formed American Racing Equipment and started making magnesium racing wheels. That was in 1956, and in 1963 the company released what became one of the most popular, iconic wheels of all time, the Torq-Thrust. The wheel looks at home on everything from a Fuel dragster to a stone-stock ’07 Mustang, making it truly a timeless design that is referred to even today by the simple, generic terms “Americans” and “Five Spokes.” It has had some design revisions over the years, namely the Torq-Thrust D with arched spokes (to clear the front disc brakes that were beginning to show up on new cars) in 1965 and the two-piece polished Torq-Thrust II later on. But a few years back American Racing rereleased the original Torq-Thrust design-as Matt King said in HOT ROD three years ago, “Cementing Palamides’ timeless design forever in hot rodding history.” -Rob Kinnan
The M stands for Marvin and the H stands for Harry. In 1942, Harry Rifchin and his son Marv started a tire recapping business in Watertown, Massachusetts. They were racing enthusiasts, and soon their M&H Tire Co. was supplying tires all over the New England oval-track community. In 1957, Marv was invited to a drag meet in Chester, South Carolina, by his friend Bob Osiecki, an early strip promoter. Marv brought six pairs of tires with him, and a young Fuel racer from Florida named Don Garlits got hold of a set. With them, the Swamp Rat was the first to go 170 mph and the legend of the M&H Racemaster was born.
Early drag racing tires weren’t very good, or safe, or consistent, but Marv changed that with his Racemasters. With racer-friendly service and support he made M&H the rubber of choice for the quarter-mile, while Marv himself became known as the drag racer’s best friend. On Racemasters, Don was the first to go 200, and Funny Cars dipped into the 7s. The big Akron tire makers entered the quarter-mile market in the mid-’60s, but little M&H more than held its own against the world-class challenge for several decades. Marv retired and sold the business in 2001, while the M&H brand continues to this day with a complete line of drag tires, including a slick engineered just for the nostalgia drags. -Bill McGuire
Until advances like the Bell helmet came to racing, the term “safety equipment” was largely a cruel hoax. The state of the art in racing helmets was the trusty Cromwell, originally designed for motorcyclists and made of leather. After losing several close friends in racing accidents, Roy Richter of Bell Auto Parts decided enough was enough and developed the Bell 500 helmet. The earliest examples were hand-laid in fiberglass in a garage behind his speed shop on East Gage Avenue and were first used in the Carrera Panamericana by members of the Lincoln factory team, including Bill Vukovich.
In 1955 Cal Niday was the first driver to crash-test a Bell helmet at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and he credited it with saving his skull. Eventually all 33 starting drivers in the Indy 500 would wear Bell. In 1959 the Bell became the first racing helmet to comply with the new and rigorous Snell Foundation standards, and the U.S. Ski Team adopted Bell helmets as the product line expanded from racing into all kinds of sports applications. And in 1961, the Bell 500-TX helmet was selected by the Museum of Modern Art in New York for excellence in design. Sometimes the most useful ideas are the most beautiful. -Bill McGuire
Hurst Four-Speed Shifters
As a kid George Hurst was eaten up by drag racing and fast cars, and he had his mind set on making a mark on the world. In the ’50s, George and his engineer friend Bill Campbell joined Ed Almquist and Jonas Anchel at Anco Industries, a company that made a bunch of speed parts. George and Bill helped Anco to develop new ideas and turn them into marketable parts, and at George’s prodding they decided to build a performance floor shifter. George built his shifter with its signature flat, chromed stick and cue-ball knob, and he and Ed Almquist made an arrangement to start a new company to build and market it: Hurst Performance. Their big break came when Pontiac selected a four-speed Hurst shifter for its ’61 Catalina with the 421 Super Duty engine. Hurst was now associated with performance, and its OE ties led to the development of a bunch of stuff that included the ’68 Chrysler factory lightweight cars and several exhibition cars like the Hemi Under Glass wheelstander. George Hurst was a marketing madman and hit the road promoting Hurst shifters in unique ways. Employee Jack “Doc” Watson went to drag races with a portable machine shop and display to help racers (which earned him the nickname “The Shifty Doctor”), and there was of course Miss Hurst, Linda Vaughn, hugging the huge Hurst shifter mounted on top of a convertible at every significant racing event of the ’60s. Hurst shifters quickly became synonymous with high performance and, now owned by B&M Racing, are still big sellers today.-Rob Kinnan
Hilborn Fuel Injection
Brilliant in its simplicity, the Hilborn was the first practical fuel injection engineered for racing use. A constant-flow system that did away with the need for a complex and usually troublesome metering unit, the setup was first conceived by a young hot rodder named Stuart Hilborn while he was serving in the Army Air Corps in WWII. After the war Stu returned to Southern California, where he perfected his fuel-injection system on the dry lakes, running his flathead Ford-powered Class B streamliner over 150 mph at El Mirage in 1948. It was the first hot rod ever to run 150 mph, a feat that instantly gave credibility to Stu’s fuel injection. In fact, Ford’s in-house magazine, Ford Times, described the run as the equivalent of Chuck Yeager’s airplane breaking the sound barrier.
Hilborns seem almost too simple to work: The basic fuel-delivery system consists of an engine-driven, constant-displacement fuel pump, a throttle-operated barrel valve, a fixed nozzle for each cylinder, and a metered bypass circuit. That’s it. But work they do, and without the airflow-restricting venturi boosters of traditional carburetors. If top-end power was the goal, Hilborns soon became known as the way to get there. Hilborn injection swept through the midget and Champ car worlds, winning the Indy 500 for the first time in 1952. Hilborn-injected cars would win the Indy 500 34 times in all, and quickly dominated drag racing and Sprint cars as well. To this day, nothing says you are truly serious like a set of Hilborn stacks poking through the hood. -Bill McGuire
Cragar S/S Wheels
You’ve already read about Roy Richter of Bell Auto Parts in this story as the man behind the groundbreaking Bell helmet. It’s a true testament to him and his infamous speed shop that there is another Bell Auto Parts item inducted into the inaugural Speed Parts Hall of Fame-the Cragar S/S wheel. The name Cragar is a portmanteau word for Crane Gartz, who started the company in the ’20s to build overhead-valve heads for Ford flatheads, among other parts. George Wight, who founded Bell Auto Parts, bought the Cragar name, and when George died, Roy Richter bought the whole shootin’ match. After huge success with Bell helmets, Roy looked at the wheel market and realized that there was an opportunity. The only street wheels available had been stock steel wheels with reversed centers and chrome plating. Ted Halibrand and Romeo Palamides were building magnesium wheels for racing only, and a few small companies began making copies with cast-aluminum centers riveted to chrome steel rims, but Roy felt they had a “strength and style deficiency.” An engineer with a strong sense of aesthetics, Roy spent a couple of years creating his wheel, eventually to be named the Cragar S/S. It was not only reportedly stronger than anything else on the market, but it was also a really good-looking wheel. HOT ROD publisher Ray Brock, who was a close friend of Roy’s, got the very first production set, and demand was so high that the company ended up having three plants. -Rob Kinnan
The Holley 3310
Since its introduction in 1965 as the production carburetor on the 375-horse 396ci in the Z-16 Chevelle, the #3310 model 4150’s reputation is one of ease of use and easy tuning thanks to the vast availability of hop-up parts and loads of technical how-to assistance. It has been the go-to carburetor for anyone building a performance engine and ranks as one of Holley’s best-sellers even today.
In 1966, the 3310 was dropped as an OE carb and introduced into the aftermarket. It was still a model 4150 carburetor and was still rated at 780 cfm, but it had a “-1” following the 3310. The primary differences were that a 3310-1 was stamped into the air horn, the secondary metering block ID number was changed to 7003, and there was no longer a GM number on the carburetor. The 3310-1 remained the same into the ’70s when Holley introduced a second production change: 3310-2. In the mid ’70s the Holley 3310 model 4150, became a 3310 model 4160 with a primary metering block and a secondary metering plate. The carburetor received a manual choke, straight-leg boosters, a half-round throttle shaft, and a reduced flow rating of 750 cfm. This started the 3310’s life as the universal-fit carburetor for all makes of street engines, not just GM.
Today, the current production number for the 3310 model 4160 is 3310-11. It is offered in the original dichromate finish or in a shiny finish. While Holley has no official records of how many 3310s have been sold over the 40-plus years, it conservatively estimates the number at around 2.5 million. Wow. -Jerry Pitt
Ray Flugger loved racing, especially circle track stuff. When he heard rumors of the California state legislature putting harsh noise limits on roundy-round cars, he got concerned that it would kill the sport. Ray had an exhaust company named Hush Power, and he set out to develop a muffler to save the racing market. His goal was to build a muffler that would allow an 800hp race engine to meet the noise restrictions and not lose any power while doing so. After some research Ray realized that there had been virtually no new technology applied to the exhaust world since the ’40s-most performance mufflers were essentially remakes of OE passenger-car mufflers, or they were glasspacks whose selling point was the sound. Through lots of trial and error, Ray developed a chambered muffler that showed promise. He installed it on a few race cars and it worked really well, and Flowmaster became a company in 1983.
Richard Small joined Flowmaster soon afterward and helped Ray sell mufflers. “I was thrown out of muffler shops all day long,” Richard tells us. “Super Shops gave us our big break. They gave me 20 stores and a 30-day test period, and it worked. Their first order was for 1,500 mufflers, which was more than a month’s production back then! It’s hardly a day’s production today. “What really cemented Flowmaster’s reputation among the hot rodding world was its key involvement in the early days of heads-up street car racing, particularly as the title sponsor of HOT ROD’s Fastest Street Car shootouts in the ’90s. As the “face guy” for Flowmaster at those events and drag races everywhere, Richard says, “That put us on the map.”
There were performance mufflers before Flowmaster and new ones hit the market every month (including Chinese ripoffs of Flowmasters), but for many people Flowmaster has been the must-have hot rod muffler for the past two decades. Development continues with a variety of new Flowmaster mufflers, always chasing the goal of low noise with maximum power. For this year, the company’s 25th anniversary, they are expanding with a whole new division that brings back Ray’s original company name, Hush Power. Stay tuned for more. -Rob Kinnan
Auto Meter Monster Tachs
In 1957, Vern Westberg would pour sand castings in his backyard, and at night his sons John and Ralph would help assemble products in their Arlington Heights, Illinois, basement. Today, Auto Meter is a state-of-the-art manufacturing operation with an advanced engineering team headed by Todd Westberg, Vern’s grandson. But it was under Auto Meter’s longest-tenured employee and current vice president of sales, Jeep Worthan, that the company introduced the now-famous Monster Tach in 1977 after many racers expressed frustration with the limitations of mechanical tachs. The benefit of a mechanical tach was its quick response, but its lengthy drive cable was a pain to route and, theoretically anyway, created a tiny bit of drag on the engine. It also had a lot of moving parts that were susceptible to wear and a bouncing, vibrating needle that was extremely difficult to read.
Jeep Worthan notes, “We took what the racers liked about mechanical tachs and what they didn’t like and developed the Monster Tach. It was the world’s first 5-inch electrical racing tachometer. When I would hook up our tach to somebody’s race car and they compared the speed, smooth pointer movement, size, visibility, and accuracy of the Monster Tach, the sale was closed . . . racers had to have a Monster Tach.”
Auto Meter had invented a 270-degree-sweep electric tachometer that could keep up with a quick-revving engine. The tach was easy to install with no troublesome cable and a smooth needle throughout the entire rpm range.
Auto Meter has produced over 1.5 million Monster Tachs since their introduction 30 years ago, and today it offers over 50 versions. -Jerry Pitt