SEMA eNews Vol. 12, No. 23, June 11, 2009

Legendary Tire Innovator Marvin Rifchin Dies at Age 94

  Marvin Rifchin With Pace Car
  Rifchin and M&H Tires was one of the first tire manufacturers to make slicks specifically for drag racing.

Marvin Rifchin, founder of M&H Tires and a pioneer in drag racing tire development, died June 3. He was 94.

Rifchin went head-to-head with industry giant Goodyear in the mid-1960s and held his own for many years, primarily because he was one of the first tire manufacturers to make slicks specifically for drag racing.

“As with so many of our industry’s pioneers, in the early days Marv was a typical ‘seat-of-the-pants engineer,’” said Dick Wells, NHRA board member.

Wells explains that Rifchin's rule was simple and straightforward: Try it. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, try a different approach, but don't give up. Racers in all parts of the country will not only recognize the M&H tire label, they’ll quickly recall the early days when they used the tires on race cars.

Rifchin’s entry into drag racing came after Top Fuel legend "Big Daddy" Don Garlits tried a set of Rifchin's tires at a race in South Carolina. The early versions of the slicks were very narrow, but they worked. Garlits rode them to victory in the Top Eliminator class.

Rifchin in Jacket  
   

Wells recalls one of his favorite stories about Rifchin after the tire pioneer was presented with an NHRA “Wally,” the famous trophy, as an honoree at the NHRA Hot Rod Reunion.

“The ‘Wally’ trophy was packaged in a box, and when Marv flew home from the event, he put the box in the seat next to him on the airplane and strapped it in with the seat belt,” said Wells. “A flight attendant came by and told him he had to put the box in the overhead. With sad eyes, Marv innocently said to the flight attendant, ‘These are the ashes of my dear departed aunt….’ The attendant was sympathetic and understanding, very apologetic, and ‘Wally’ made the trip to Marv’s home in its own airline seat.”

Read more about Marvin Rifchin.

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