Friday, June 15, 2012

Dale Wilch's Man Cave is Kansas City's dark underground secret

If you look around at some of Kansas City’s vintage architecture, you’re probably noticed that many of the buildings, walls, and structures are constructed of limestone. That’s because there are tons of limestone deposits around here, and it makes a cheap, durable, and beautiful construction material.

Obviously, to get to the limestone, they had to mine for it underground. And an interesting side effect of that mining is that Kansas City now has a huge underground cave system. Most of these caves were carved out in such a way that now retail businesses are able to set-up shop in the strangely comforting, almost surreal lair that limestone mining left behind.

I know, get to the car stuff, Craig. Well here it is. Every Wednesday night, an automotive swap meet takes place in the Downtown Underground business park near the Fox 4 Television studios. Traverse the eerily painted white walls and you will be greeted with 15,000-sq/ft of vendor space at the end of the maze. Known as Dale Wilch’s Man Cave, this weekly event is one of the best-kept secrets in Kansas City.

I honestly wasn’t expecting much when we went there Wednesday night. I mean, who even knows about this? But things were surprisingly lively at the Man Cave, and there was good number of vendors with a wide variety of automotive parts, toys, and literature.

One guy had a big collection of Hot Wheels cars for sale. Another was loaded up with late-model grilles. And another was stocked-up on race car parts. You never really knew what you were going to see from one aisle to the next. There were even a few cars there waiting for new owners to whisk them away.

From talking to some of the vendors, the crowd is hit-or-miss. As I understand it, winter is the biggest season for activity here. That makes sense, because it is always about 68-degrees in these underground caves, and guys are always looking for things to do once the car show and racing season comes to a close. Our experience was in the middle of June, so I’d say the crowd was brisk, but not overwhelming.

You never know what you might run across. There were lots of hubcaps and wheels, license plates, and old Cushman three-wheeled service truck, some pretty yellow leather Cadillac seats, a Corvette, a GTO, and a ’57 Chevy. And even if you can’t find exactly the parts you’re looking for for your vehicle, it’s still fun to just look around.

I had the opportunity to meet Dale Wilch while I was there, standing guard over his own large space filled with parts and accessories. He seemed to be enjoying himself, and appeared to be happy with the way things were going. And you’ve got to hand it to him. This is a pretty neat idea that most people never would have thought of. It’s always nice to be responsible for something that not only brings like-minded people together, but hopefully makes you a few bucks in the process.

I went through and took a few pictures of things that I thought were interesting Wednesday night. See something in the background that you wish I would have focused on more closely? No problem. Just head on out to the Man Cave next Wednesday, and maybe you can see it for yourself.

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And for a nicer version of the slideshow below, click this link.


  1. Wow Craig, I've had people send me the link to your story/ article. It was great meeting you Wednesday evening and thank you for this. Please come see us anytime. We're getting ready to start a "Bid what you'll pay" auctions every Wednesday and that will generate some super deals and lots of fun at the "Cave. Thanks again Dale Wilch

  2. <3 mmmm Dale Wilch ... I remember you from the 70s drag racing. Stole a piece of my heart back then <3