Thursday, February 28, 2013

Own a piece of Kansas City's automotive history at Dale Wilch's Man Cave

I admit, I haven’t been writing as much as I probably should here lately.  My excuse is that there aren’t enough car shows and other automotive-related activities to cover this time of year.

But then my excuse gets blown out of the water when you consider that Dale Wilch’s Man Cave is open for business every Wednesday night, snow or shine.  15,000-sq/ft of vendor space is crammed full of car stuff.  And since it actually takes place in an underground cave, the thermometer always hangs in at 68-degrees no matter what’s going on in your neighborhood.

I like trolling around antique malls, estate sales, auctions, and thrift stores.  But my radar is only set to find automotive treasures.  The Man Cave sets the old radar into hyper-mode, because everything in there is an automotive treasure.  Car models, car parts, old magazines, promotional items, and even whole vehicles are present in every nook and cranny.  If you can’t find what you needed when you went in, you’ll probably find something else you can’t live without before you leave.

There are some very cool vintage pieces that show up here.  Kansas City has a strong automotive past.  Drag strips, stock car tracks, and show cars are a significant part of this town’s heritage, so it is not unusual to see a pair of ‘60s era drag slicks or a random Hemi engine.  There were even some great old trophies in the mix.  I know I would love to be transported back to the events where these guys received these trophies, if only for a few hours.  Some of these trinkets may not be useful or valuable anymore, but they do take you back.

One vendor had a big, panoramic photograph of the wooden racetrack that was located at 95th and Troost in the 1920s.  I used to hear a lot about this when I worked for I-70 Speedway, and its history is absolutely fascinating.  More than a million feet of lumber went into creating the surface for the 1.25-mile oval.  50,000 spectators showed up for the first race in 1922.  The track was fast and dangerous, and some drivers reported seeing kids heads pop up through the boards as they hurtled around at more than 100-mph.  The track cost more than $500,000 to build, but it only held four races before it closed completely in 1924.  The harsh Kansas City climate deteriorated the wooden surface faster than it could be maintained.

Of course, I like toy and model cars, and there were quite a few of them at the Man Cave.  Several vendors had things like Hot Wheels cars, slot car tracks, pedal cars, die casts, and other interesting vintage scale models.  One guy even let my son pick a Hot Wheels car out of a tub for free.  Which brings up another point about this venue—the laid-back, social atmosphere.  You don’t feel like people are there to give you the hard sell.  It’s more of a place to go hang out and have fun with other car people.

I didn’t attempt to take pictures of everything that was for sale last Wednesday night, but I did create a slideshow of things that I thought were interesting to look at.  You can see those pictures below, or head over to the cave at 1501 West 31st Street next Wednesday night.  Check out for more.

And for a better version of this slideshow, click this link.

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