A History of the Drifters Car Club

The year was 1970 when the “Early Years” of the Drifters Car Club began.

In the spring of 1970, two hot rodders, Jim Ashenmacher and Bill Lawler, who knew each other since high school, thought there may be enough interest in SE Minnesota to form a car club, so in early summer of 1970, Jim ran an ad in the local Rochester Post Bulletin newspaper, “Street Rodders, Unite.  New Club forming.  Meet Saturday at 7:00 p.m., 2514 18th Ave NW, Rochester.”  On Saturday, an appropriate sign made of cardboard and Chevy orange engine paint was stuck in Jim’s lawn.

Jim and Bill parked their street rods on Jim’s lawn and waited to see what kind of response the ad would bring.  We had 8 hot rodders that first night, including Jim Ashenmacher (32 Ford), Bill Lawler (40 Ford), Dick Hanson (40 Ford), Jack Applen (37 Ford), Duane Jacobson (40 Chevy) and 3 more names that have been lost to time.

The Car Club formed that summer night was called “Vintage Wheels.”  We had fun that summer, taking the hot rods to local towns for picnics and parades, and in winter, spent our time hunting for early iron. Jim was the first president.  Bill took over a couple years later.  Some of the early members included Jim Stiller and Ed Lawrence from Red Wing, Steve Peterson, Steve Teske, Tom Ashton, Dick Hanson, Don Hyke, Jack Applen, Ray Sutton, Ron Felt, Duane Jacobson, Marty Kirkham, and others.

Years later, Tom Ashton was president and expanded our small club by formalizing it with rules/regulations/charter, etc.  We changed our name to “Hiawathaland Street Scene.”  A couple of years later, we changed the name again.  This time to “Hiawathaland Street Rods” so we didn’t sound like a periodical/car club newsletter.  The mid 70’s were a boom time for Street Rodding with the birth of the Street Rod Nationals, Street Rod magazines, etc.  Interest in the hobby was growing and our club grew with it.

In the 1980’s we had our last name change and became “The Drifters”, however, we’ve never drifted from our original mission, which is to have family fun, with good fellowship, and help local  Southeast Minnesota charities.  Our scope has expanded as we’re no longer a “hot rod” club and today’s members have everything from traditional hot rods, to prewar classics, 50’s and 60’s cars, along with late model muscle cars and imports.

At the time this is being written (2022), we’ve been having fun for over 50 years.  We also have a cherished history of helping others.  Being a non-profit organization, our proceeds have gone to local charities, including Channel One Food Shelf of SE MN, Eagles Cancer Telethon, Hiawatha Children’s Home, Salvation Army, ARC, Rochester Women’s Shelter, and the Boys and Girls Club, to name a few.  This is a proud history for a small club such as ours.  We’ve had many great members over the years and we’ve all made lasting and meaningful friendships.

If you are interested in cars, good times, and good fellowship, give us a try.  Any member will be glad to mail you a copy of last year’s meeting minutes so you can get a “feel” for the club and we’d be happy to see your family join ours.  Don’t be intimidated by trying to remember names/faces.  Our club “Points Book” is passed around at each meeting.  The “Points Book” is used to determine the club “member of the year” who gets a plaque to keep and also gets their name(s) attached to a very impressive traveling trophy that they get to keep and guard for a year.  It’s a real honor to have your name on the trophy and to be recognized by the club for your involvement and contribution to the club, its membership, and our charities.  When you join, we’ll assign a club member to be your mentor, if you feel so inclined.  Your mentor can help you get acquainted with the club and its members.

The Drifters, updated 2022

By Jim Ashenmacher and Bill Lawler