EDITOR’S NOTE: What are the top high performance automotive parts of all time? Or in this case, what are the Top 20 most iconic parts that changed hot rodding? We’re talking total game-changers in the annals of our hobby.
We asked a panel of OnAllCylinders staffers, longtime automotive journalists, and veteran members of the Summit Racing technical and marketing departments for their input. The countdown continues with number 5 (you can see numbers 20 through 6 here).
#5. M&H Racemaster Drag Slicks
Understatement of the year, right? But prior to the mid-1950s, traction was kind of an afterthought for racers, who would settle for street tires or tires that had been recapped with a slick tread. “Because of the poor traction quality of available tires, racers were forced to use all sorts of creative and sometimes unorthodox methods to help get the most traction from their tires as horsepower levels continued to climb,” said Patrick Hill, OnAllCylinders contributor and “Top 20 Aftermarket Parts” panelist.
Then came M&H Racemasters.
Developed by Marvin Rifchin (the M in M&H Tire Co.) and his father Harry in 1957, M&H Racemasters were the first purpose-built drag racing tire. Although the original Racemasters had just seven inches of tread width, the structure and special compound of the slicks made a huge difference in performance.
Still, drag racers were skeptical.
While the Rifchins and their M&H Tire Co. had already made a name for themselves in the New England oval track community, the duo was relatively unknown in drag racing circles. Budget-minded drag racers opted to run with recapped tires and spend most of their money on horsepower until a young drag racer made them all take notice. Using a set of M&H Racemasters, Don Garlits was the first to go 170 miles-per-hour… and then 200 miles-per-hour!
The rest is history.
The success of Garlits, along with all the attention, sparked a massive amount of business for M&H Tire Co. And it only increased as more and more people experienced the traction of the Racemasters.
“The M&H Racemaster slicks gave racers a tire that could still hook with high horsepower, causing ETs to drop rapidly through the ’60s,” Hill said.
The popularity of M&H Racemasters not only made a huge impact in the world of drag racing, it also changed the entire tire industry. Giant tire companies like Goodyear and Firestone entered the drag racing market and went head-to-head with M&H.
The competition, stoked by the success of the original Racemasters, led to some incredible advancements in performance and racing tire technology.
“This includes not only dragstrip tires like those from M&H, but also the proliferation of high-quality 200 tread wear, DOT-approved, street-legal autocross and road race tires,” said longtime automotive journalist Jeff Smith. “Without them, we’d be going a lot slower!”
It’s safe to say that M&H Racemasters made a drastic impact on the performance, speed, consistency, and most importantly, safety of drag racing.
“Years later, a design engineer for one of those major tire companies told me that Marvin (Rifchin) was instrumental in the breakthroughs in race technology which were years before their time and lead to what we have today,” said Mike Crutchfield, VP Performance Brands at Coker Tires.
Today, the M&H brand continues to offer a wide range of tires, including Cheater Slicks for high-horsepower street vehicles and Nostalgia Drag Slicks. And it all started with Rifchin and his ground-breaking M&H Racemasters.
“Marvin Rifchin’s M&H tires were probably the most relevant and significant part ever developed for racing,” Crutchfield said. “Without his innovations in tire technology we would have been years behind in racing and the domino effect with other racing parts would have never happened until later.”
For that reason, M&H Racemaster drag tires land easily in our Top 5 of all-time great performance parts.