About 20 years ago, Slow Strokes Auto Club founder Terry "Red" Tower came up with the idea of having a classic car night at the Minnetonka Drive-In on Thursday nights. The tradition continues today.
“He asked me if he could come in on Thursday nights,” Minnetonka Drive-In owner Dave Bennyhoff said. “The first Thursday there were seven cars, the next week there were 14. Fourteen turned into 30 and now it’s this,” he said gesturing to the 50 or so classic cars on the drive-in lot and in the parking lot across the street.
The line for food spilled out of the side doors of the building onto the sidewalks. For orders placed on foot, names were called out over the loud speaker for pick up at the drive-in window.
Scores of people strolled the parking lot looking inside cars and sometimes under their hoods. A DJ played music from the 50s and 60s on large speakers in the corner of the lot.
People show up early to get a good spot on the lawn to watch all the classic cars arrive and leave. Some of them even bring their own chairs. Most people have to park their cars across the street because the lot is full of classic cars.
The menu hasn’t changed since Bennyhoff’s parents opened the Minnetonka Drive-In in 1961. Many of the recipes were developed by Bennyhoff’s dad. Car hops deliver car-side meals and provide change from their coin belt around their waist.
One of eight children, Bennyhoff said he started in the restaurant basement washing gallon jugs when he was nine years old. He said he wishes he would have taken more photos and written down some of the stories over the years.
Bennyhoff took over the Minnetonka Drive-In in 1975. He said if he hadn’t taken it over, his dad probably would have sold it.
“I went to college and I came back after a semester and said ‘I can’t do this college stuff’,” Bennyhoff said. “I was trying to run this for my dad at the time.”
Marcia and Jim Aamodt of Minnetonka came to the Minnetonka Drive-In on Thursday night in their 1956 Ford Victoria four-door hard top. Ford only manufactured the model for five months.
Aamodt’s dad was a Ford salesman. When he was 13 years old, his family went on a trip to the Ford plant in Michigan.
“We had a one-week tour with a personal guide from the Ford motor company who picked us up each morning,” Aamodt said. “The last day we were there was the second day of production for the four-door hard top ’56 Ford.”
When Aamodt saw one for sale, he said he knew he had to have it. They have owned the car for about six years. It only has 500 miles on it.
The Minnetonka Drive-In, located at 4658 Shoreline Drive in Spring Park, is open daily from March through October. Classic Car nights are on Thursdays.