The M&H Legend
In the late ‘40s, there was an influx of gear heads, fresh out of the military with an intense need for speed. From modified street cars to home-built machines, racers quickly gained knowledge about making their hot rods quicker and faster. Not long after the nation’s first few drag strips opened to the public, racers began experimenting with tires. At the time, a purpose-built racing tire was something that only existed in Indy car or other forms of round-track racing.
In the 1930’s Harry Rifchin opened a tire sales and recap business for passenger cars and trucks. His son, Marvin, worked with him and had a passion for midget and stock car racing. This passion would lead Marvin to develop a special rubber compound designed to work much better for racing than the standard recap rubber that was currently being used (which was meant for regular highway service use, and not racing). He reached out to their recap rubber supplier, Denman Rubber Mfg. Co. of Warren, OH, to produce a new racing recap rubber using his compounds. It was around this time that the M&H Tire Company was formed (Named for Marvin and his father Harry).
His recap rubber was a hit. Marvin and is dad continued to run their mall family owned business tire operation out of Watertown, Mass. Although the passenger car and truck tires still paid the bills, it was the circle track tires that took up the majority of Marvin’s time and energy. By the early 1950’s race cars had become more powerful and faster. Marvin realized that the recapped tires in use were simply getting overstressed and failing far too often and it was time to change the game again. Marvin convinced Harry Webster, Denman’s President, to take an existing old tire passenger mold, with the tread pattern mostly machined out, and create a tire using Marvin’s race rubber compound. This mold and compound were used to make the first M&H Tires for modified stock car racing. That’s right. In the 1950’s M&H Race Tires were the tires to run on your modified stock car – if you wanted to finish the race and have a chance of winning.
It didn’t take long for Marvin and his M&H Race tires to get a firm grasp on the round track market, so when the mid 1950’s ushered in a new sport called drag racing it’s no wonder it grabbed Marvin’s attention. His new goal was to develop a tire, specifically a rear tire, with acceleration and traction in mind. By 1957, Marvin had created his first drag racing tire – the Drag Racing Slick (we know it today as just a “Drag Slick”.
Marvin was still building recaps for modified and midgets and yet to even attend a drag race. In late ‘57 Marvin got a call to go down to Chester, SC. to attend some drag races, so he went and carried along a few sets of his crash course slicks with him. Setto, Gar and Sullivan were there and Setto had blown a tire. Marvin gave him a set of his slicks, allowing Setto to be the lucky guy to first run them. His pass resulted in a run 10MPH faster than he had ever run before. Shortly after Gar talked Marvin out of a set and started outrunning both Sullivan and Setto.
In 1968 Marvin got the attention of a young racer named Don Garlits (yeh, Big Daddy Don Garlits) and in no time M&H was in the winner’s circle. Don decided to take a gamble and tried one of Marvin’s new purpose-built M&H drag racing slicks – and he blistered the competition on his first event using these new M&H Racemaster tires. The original M&H slicks offered less than seven inches of tread width, but it was the structure and compound of the tire that made such a huge difference in performance. Don Garlits’ victory meant a lot to the company, as it sparked an incredible tidal wave of business, which continually increased as the years rolled on.
Initially, drag racing was a tough market to enter, as racers generally didn’t make much money, and spent every dime they had to make more horsepower. Tires were a mystery to most folks, so they ran recaps until the undeniable performance of Marvin’s race tires made them a believer. Of course, all this success encouraged other tire manufacturers to enter the drag racing market, and by the mid-60s, M&H went head-to-head with giant companies like Firestone and Goodyear. Marvin and his M&H Tire Company openly accepted the challenge, and the brand wars of the ‘60s led to some of the greatest advancements in tire technology.
Many will say the heyday of drag racing lasted throughout the 1960’s and into the early ‘70s, but tire technology never stopped evolving, even with a poor economy and lessening interest in drag racing. By the end of the 1970’s, M&H had developed tires for many applications, and had succeeded in many ways, but Marvin decided to branch out to create his own tire factory, instead of relying on an outside manufacturer to produce the tires.
Marvin Rifchin worked tirelessly through the 80s and 90s to keep advancing the M&H line of tires, and in doing so developed some of the best DOT approved Radial Race Tires for muscle and sports cars still available on the market today. Upon reaching his late 80’s Marvin decided to turn his beloved company over to the one man he trusted to keep its spirit alive. So, in 2001 he sold the company to Warren Guidry, owner of Interco Tire Corporation and genius behind the first purpose built, specialty off-road tire for light trucks. Marvin remained with the company as a consultant right up until the very end.
We lost Marvin on June 2009 at the age of 94. He was a great friend and colleague. Interco Tire Corporation is proud to carry on the legacy that Marvin had instated so many years ago. With a wide variety of racing and street tires, M&H offers its products to a broad range of customers, from all out drag racers to street machines. M&H is a major player in nostalgia drag racing, but it also has a firm grasp on modern muscle cars with its extensive lineup of drag radials designed for large-diameter wheels.
The legendary status of M&H hasn’t gone unnoticed, as it was one of the first inductees into Hot Rod Magazine’s “Speed Parts Hall of Fame”. With nearly 60 years of experience, M&H Racemaster lives on as the world’s first purpose-built drag racing tire, producing track-proven products at a price you can afford!
NOTE: The above is a compilation taken from several memorials posted by multiple people about Marvin. If you are one of those people and would like to get credit for your contribution, please contact us and we will be happy to oblige.