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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This was posted on the internet and I found it a superb read! M&H was the first company to make new drag slicks, after years of everyone making them as recaps. (including M&H)
It's a well worth the time to note such a legend as the founders of M&H were; especially the "M" in the name! Marvin Rifchin!


Everyone forgets Marvin Rifchin's M&H was an oval track tire manufacturer, and applied what he learned about rubber compounds in oval tracking to drag 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”.



Biography
Marvin’s connection with midgets blossomed soon after the end of WW II. Upon his return home, he went to work with his father, Harry, who was involved in a tire sales and retreading business in Watertown, Mass. His Dad had started the business during the 1930’s in the back of a Jenny Gas station on Main Street, but it was Marvin who became interested in making better recaps for race cars, specifically midgets and stock cars. Together they formed the M&H Tire Company (named for Marvin & Harry) and bought their tread stocks from Denhan Rubber in Warren, Ohio.

Marvin realized he needed a tire that can control the heat, so he convinced Harry Webster, who was the president of Denhan Rubber, to manufacture a new tire tread and compound that was more suited for racing. This time after the War, rubber products were in short supply and tubes for 12" midget tires were impossible to find, and considered gold. Marvin was working at retreading tires for the popular racers, but the lack of tubes made for a hard sell. He devised a way to cut down 16" passenger tubes to make 12 inch tubes. That made it possible to sell more midget tire recaps and helped the business flourish. That is the time when he met the racers of the day, supplying tires to racers and services garages all across the Bay State, including Simmonetti's garage, which was a short distance away, and of course the famous Kelley Brother’s garage, which was the social hub for many local midget racers. Many of those guys became dear friends in addition to business associates. Marvin’s reputation and success expanded out across New England and the East Coast, supplying tires to popular racers at the time, including Joe Barzda and his “California Speed Shop” located in New Jersey. M&H became thee tire to have on your circle track race car in the 1950’s.

By the mid to late 1950’s, Marvin had made a name for himself in the midget and stock car industry, but the need for a better tire in drag racing sparked Marvin’s attention. Up until that time, drag racers were using smooth-tread recapped passenger tires, which did not offer much traction. His new goal was to develop a new purpose-built rear tire that could endure the incredible forces of acceleration. In 1958, he convinced a well-known drag racer named “Big Daddy” Don Garlits to try a set of his “drag slicks” for the next race in South Carolina. Garlits blistered the competition and won Top Eliminator that day. As they say…the rest is history.

"I knew about this man who was into stock car races," said Garlits in a 2003 interview. "He said that I needed a tire that’s not recapped. Marv had these tires that had the same mold but softer rubber. They were narrow, about 6 1/2 inches wide, but he said that wouldn’t matter. I didn’t know that much about tires back then and listened to what he had to say."

That victory meant a lot to the company, as it sparked a tidal wave of business and continually increased as the years rolled on. Garlits was also the first to break the 8-second barrier on this innovative new tire, and later on, he recorded the first officially recognized 200-mph run in Great Meadows using M&H tires. Legendary racer, Don “The Snake” Prudhomme described Marvin as the “Godfather of drag racing slicks.

Tires were a mystery to most racers in both circle track and drag racing, so they ran recaps until the undeniable performance of Marvin’s tires made them a believer. But of course all this success with both his new drag racing slick and his improved oval track tires encouraged other tire manufacturers to enter the drag and circle track racing market.
By the mid-60s, M&H went head-to-head with giant companies like Firestone and Goodyear. In the 1970’s, M&H faced more competition with a younger grass-roots tire company, named “Hoosier”, that was quickly finding success on the racing circuit. But like the others, Marvin found all this competition stimulating and a lot of fun, and the M&H continued to thrive. It was this brand wars of the 1960’s and 70’s that led to some of the greatest advancements in tire technology.

“I think the greatest accomplishment that any of us could have were the tire wars that we went through with Goodyear,” recalled Marvin years later. “The competition lead to us being instrumental in securing some of the most fantastic advances that have taken place in mechanical and scientific business.”
In addition to making tires for racers all over the country, Marvin tried his hand at car ownership. In the 1970's, he successfully raced modifieds at the Thompson International Speedway and the Waterford Speedbowl. At the tail end of the ownership stint, he purchased the Bill Hood #7 modified and found even more success. The most notable driver for Marvin was an up and coming young man named Ronnie Bouchard, who of course later left to pursue his professional stock car racing career as a then Winston Cup driver. Marvin assembled a team that included Bob Judkins who spun the wrenches, Steve Kalkowski who handled tires, and Chuck Grime who made sure the whole operation ran smoothly. In typical Marvin fashion, he tried to stay behind the scenes. Together, they went on to win championships at Seekonk and Stafford Motor Speedways.

It was the midgets and people of NEMA however that Marvin always truly adored. He was around when NEMA took its first green flag in 1953, though in his usual fashion working through others who provided track service. Undoubtedly, most of the midgets that day were on M&H rubber. Marvin's partnership with Kelley Brothers garage was key to M&H's success and growth in the world of Northeast midget racing. Ray and Wen Kelley sold Marvin’s tires for more than the first four decades of the club’s history. You could always count on Ray, his M&H tire truck, and his personalized - and colorful, service to be at each and every race. Through these years, even when business demands pulled Marvin away from NEMA, he always worked to insure there were tires available for those little cars he liked so much. It was this great service and quality that made it easy for many racers to select M&H for their NEMA midget over the many years.

Throughout the 60's, 70's, 80's, and into the 90's, Marvin's tires helped deliver countless NEMA victories and championships with guys like Bill Eldridge, Al Pillion, Dave Humphrey, Lee Smith, Joey Coy, and Drew Fornoro just to name a few. M&H sponsored all of Bobby White's midget efforts that helped earn him championships in 1975 and 1979. Marvin also developed a close friendship over many years with NEMA Legends, Bruce Bean and Russ Stoehr, who together earned two driving championships and an owner's championship in the 90's. However, it might have been Marvin's reverence to the low-buck racer that some consider most noble. In his typical quite fashion, Marvin often did whatever he could to help the "little guys", even if it meant giving them a free tire or two to try out for the night. Dedicated races like Jim O'Brien, Mike Luggelle, Pete Pernisiglio, Glen Cabral and many others all benefited from his kindness. For years, especially late in his life when his schedule allowed, he was a fixture at the NEMA races and often helped support the club with sponsorship and his invaluable wisdom behind the scenes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
cont.-


By the late 1970’s, Marvin had developed tires for almost every form of racing over the years, which were produced exclusively for M&H at the Denhan tire factory in Warren, OH. However, his insatiable desire to make all M&H tires better and faster than the competition lead him to establish and operate his own tire factory in the early 1980’s. So at the ripe young age of 65, he moved his business from Watertown to Gardner, just of Route 2, where he continued to grow his business and make his own tires until his retirement almost twenty years later. When he retired, he was well into his eighties and doing the mental and physical work most 20 year olds could not and would not do today. He was also tired with the inability to attract employees who shared his passion, which was not so much the tires, but his relentless pursuit of a better recipe and the results. This was the same passion he had inherited from his Dad, Harry. Therefore in 1996, he made the difficult decision to sell M&H to the Interco Tire Company but remained involved with the company as a consultant until his final days.

Marvin himself once told the story "I was working with my Dad for years, as I watched him slow down to the point I said to him one day - Dad it's time." His dad retired immediately. Marvin never slowed down himself, but knew it was time.

Marvin's contributions to the industry has been nationally recognized. In 1999, he was inducted into the NEAR Hall of Fame. In 2003, he was inducted into the SEMA Hall of Fame. In 2006, NEMA ran a special race at Thompson to Honor Marvin (see below) and to this day, they annually hold an annual memorial race in his name.

Even after the tire plant moved to the midwest, he stayed loyal to friends in both the world of drag racing and circle track, offering his advice and mentor-ship on or off the track. Everywhere Marvin went, no matter what type of racing it was - whether it was NEMA, NASCAR, IHRA, NHRA, CART, USAC, WOO....and the list goes on - Marvin was an ambassador to motorsports. The long corridor inside his Gardner, MA factory, which connected his front door to his office, was wall papered with photos of well-known racers from all over the world thanking him for his tires and advice. That's just the kind of guy he was...a great family man, an amazing chemist, and a wonderful friend...the world of motorsports, and NEMA especially, is lucky to have known him.

"Marvin was a very special man... a sportsman, engineer, chemist, Racer, and a self-made man"... recalls fellow Hall of Famer and dear friend Bruce Beane..."The week before he passed, He received word in the nursing home, from the company that he sold his business to, that his latest compound cured a problem they had been fighting in a front wheel drive drag car application. He was really pleased that he had once more solved a tire problem for the company... Marvin's most valued things, next to his family and many friends, were his books of tire compound formulas that he had developed over the many years that he built racing tires. Hopefully these books are tucked away safe somewhere... Marvin's generosity to many will never be fully understood ... he was truly special."
 

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That was definitely worth the read! Somehow, that adds a little personal connection and a different light on owning M&H tires. Have owned several pairs but never quite had the appreciation I'll have for them going forward.Thanks, Vall.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I felt the same way Robert! My first pair of cheater slicks were M&H recaps in 1967. Have M&H on my Austin now, and have always considered them just traditional, as they've been around forever. But after reading that biography elsewhere, I really learned so much more about Marvin and his part in race tire history! Sounds like automobile racing owes much to him for his developments in tires!
 

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Great story.

Three of us were partners on a Top Gas dragster in the late 60's. We had M&H tires but we really needed a bit more. The process was to launch with the tires spinning for 100 feet or so to keep from pulling the motor down too far. I worked in a hotrod shop at the time and my boss was on the cutting edge of the slipper clutch.

I put together a slipper then got new M&H tires right from the man. They were at least an inch and a half wider than our old tires. My partners really got down on me for bungling the new tire purchase. I was also the tuner on the car so I really hopped up the motor and added the home made slipper clutch.

I told the driver to really get after it on the line.

He really did. The car launched hard and made a heck of a run. I think I burned all eight but it was by far the best we had run.
We still were not competitive with the twins but moved up to the " feared" of the singles. The guys were reluctantly happy. It started a trail of burned Pistons left me wondering if I should start manufacturing my own Pistons. My home made slipper only lasted a weekend too. The sintered discs were still top fuel only at that time.

I ran M&H tires from then on to my last days at the track in the funny cars.
 

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Great story. I always like the simple lettering on the tires for M&H. I haven't bought any slicks in years! I haven't been racing since 2009.
 

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All good stuff. thanks for posting the story and the experiences.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
We used to keep a bright colored tire crayon handy so we could fill in the M&H logo occasionally. Just because we thought it was cool, and looked good!
 
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