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 from his friend Bob Osiecki, who ran a drag strip in Chester, SC. to attend some drag races.  He was looking for a tire with a “better bite”.  Marvin loaded up drove down to see his friend,  and he 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 20 year old racer named Don Garlits (yeah, Big Daddy Don Garlits).  During their first conversation Marvin told Don “you need a tire that’s not recapped…” and that he had these tires that used the same mold but had a softer rubber. He went on to explain that although they were narrow, about 6.5 inches wide, that wouldn’t matter.  Don has said that he didn’t know that much about tires back then, but listened to what Marvin had to say.  Don decided to take a gamble and Marvin’s new purpose-built M&H drag racing slicks – and he blistered the competition on his first event posting 160 and taking Top Eliminator honors using these new M&H Racemaster tires.  In no time M&H was in the winner’s circle.   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.

Rifchin credits much of his success to the racers, “the fellows who used the product and gave us a report of what the tire does and does not do…. That’s what allowed us to advance our products.”  Uni-Marketing’s Harry Hibler drag raced only on M&H tires. “When his product is on your car, you know it’s the best that can be made. One thing about Marv is when he knew someone was running his parts, especially when trying a new set, he would call the next week and ask how they did,” said Hibler. “He wanted to know if they handled OK.”

Rifchin was hands-on and worked side-by-side with the racers. “I remember one time he had a special new set of tires for the Winter Nationals. The Cleveland Airport got fogged in, and we were all in Pomona waiting for the new tires. We got them on Saturday. Marvin was there mounting the tires himself,” said Garlits. Don Prudhomme, another racer who used M&H Racemaster tires for most of his career once said, “I personally owe a great deal to Marvin… He took care of us.”

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.

When Goodyear entered the drag racing tire market in 1964, many thought that it was the end of M&H. Rifchin, however, found the competition stimulating and a lot of fun, and M&H continued to thrive. “I think the greatest accomplishment that any of us could have were the tire wars that we went through with Goodyear,” said Rifchin. “The competition led to us being instrumental in securing some of the most fantastic advances to take place on the business’ mechanical and scientific side.”

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.  “We made tires for all types of race cars,” said Rifchin, “but my primary interest was drag racing. That was the most fascinating part of my life. That was my primary interest because we had a lot of fun doing it.”

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 “Wrinkle Wall” 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!

Marvin Rifchin was inducted into the SEMA Hall of Fame as part of the 2003 Class.  In his acceptance speech he said “I am flabbergasted… I didn’t do anything that I can think of to warrant an honor like this.” Thousands of racers would disagree.  Never taking any credit for his accomplishments, Marvin gave thanks to those, in his mind, that truly deserved the honor - the racers, the engineers, and the techs who worked side by side with him to constantly push forward, and keep striving to make a better race tire.  Marvin specifically gave a nod to Tom Lorden (Creator of the Legendary Ground Hawg Light Truck Tire and current President of M&H Racemaster), and Don Jones (Tom's Mentor, friend and a superior engineer).  Both Don and Tom were engineers who worked for the Denman Tire Corporation, where the majority of the M&H Tires from the mid-60s until the plant closed around 2010 where produced, and were instramental in workign with Marvin and helped him create the legendary compounds and tire designs that made Marvin and M&H Racemaster legendary.  Marvin always said that without men like this, and the racers that used his tires, the success of M&H would have not been possible. 

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.

Edited 6-14-19