The Ultimate Man Cave

By+Carly Squadroni

Photography by David Hubler

If you ask Jay Wilkinson about his car collection hobby, he might demur with the wave of a hand and tell you he’s not sure that he would call it a hobby. “I’m not looking to have a hundred cars or anything. But I always had one ‘fun car,’ and when we moved out here, I had room for more…” he trails off with a grin and a shrug.

He’s referring to the home that he and his late wife, Nancy, built on several acres of wooded property not far from their former Shamrock Hills home in Granger, Indiana. Completed in 2012 by Rans Custom Builders, we featured that home in our Spring 2013 issue with an emphasis on its unique blend of elegance and coziness. At the time, what would become the “ultimate man cave” was still just an unfinished four-stall garage.

Wilkinson enlisted the help of Bruce Bostic, a local contractor who specializes in custom cabinetry and antique restoration, to convert the garage into a dual-purpose space: a guest house on the upper level, and a place to store a few extra cars below. As Wilkinson and Bostic worked out the details, more and more ideas for adding both function and flair to the space came to life.

It was a collaborative creative process; Bostic has worked with Wilkinson for over 12 years on various projects, including an elaborate antique bar restoration that he completed for the basement of the main house. “I’ve been doing this for 35 years, and had already done a few of these [garages], so I think he trusted my opinions,” says Bostic. It was Bostic, for instance, who suggested including a car wash bay with a retractable waterproof curtain, which he originally saw on a TV show. As a personal touch, the curtain is emblazoned with the cream and crimson logo of Indiana University—the alma mater of both Jay and Nancy. A swiveling ceiling-mounted high-pressure sprayer, waterproof polyurethane floor, and built-in drains complete the car wash bay.

The back wall of the garage is made up entirely of floor-to-ceiling, custom-built maple cabinets, which provide not only practical storage space but also the sleek aesthetic that Bostic knew they wanted. Rather than allowing the garage to eventually become cluttered with the odds and ends that always seem to find their way onto overcrowded garage shelves, he built dedicated cabinet spaces for a Shop-Vac, air compressor, power washer, car covers, chargers, accessories, golf clubs, and plenty of extra storage space with adjustable shelves for anything else they might need to tuck away over the years.

Bostic’s expertise with antiques was called into service yet again when it came time to work on the décor. They tracked down a reproduction of an antique Sinclair gas pump that sits in one corner of the garage. Bostic also knew a local neon specialist who was able to customize five antique car shop signs—one for each member of the family. A Mobil gas neon sign, now reading “Jay’s Garage and Speedshop,” hangs centered over this man cave’s version of a bar: a workbench adorned with auto memorabilia and hanging sets of wrenches and screwdrivers, complemented by LED track lighting and barstools featuring a checkered racing flag pattern on the seats. “It’s a fun place to come tinker around, hang out, drink coffee,” says Wilkinson. Between the unique atmosphere, the entertainment center with a wall-mounted flat screen TV and surround sound, and the luxury car collection to admire, there are plenty of reasons to consider this spot a prime hangout.

As for the cars themselves, it’s a lineup that would make any car lover swoon. Wilkinson’s fleet includes a Porsche 911 Turbo S, a Ferrari F12 Berlinetta, a bright orange McLaren 650S Spider, and a Toyota Land Cruiser—the same make and model of the first car Wilkinson owned, restored to original condition. “German, Italian, British, and American,” he says, ticking off the countries of origin that are represented in his garage. Two other vehicles that are driven more frequently, a Porsche Cayenne SUV and a Mercedes S63 coupe, are parked in the garage attached to the home, but a hydraulic cantilever lift also provides an additional parking spot in the carriage house should Wilkinson find himself adding to his collection.

On the upper level of the carriage house is a furnished studio apartment at the ready for out-of-town visitors and friends, outfitted with a full bathroom, kitchen, living room, dining area, cable, and Wi-Fi. Between all of the power equipment in the garage downstairs and the amenities needed upstairs, there was a bit of a hurdle to clear early on in the project: electricity. “Most garages are only built with 100-amp service,” Wilkinson explains, so they had to upgrade to 200-amp service, run a new circuit, and bury new lines. “There were some sleepless nights trying to get it to all work!” says Bostic. In the end, of course, it did.

The “man cave” has become not just a space to store cars, but a surprisingly warm extension of the family home. All of their names are hanging in neon on the walls, but they’ve also added a few personal touches since then, including a memorial to one of their earliest memories made in the garage. Jay and his son Alex laugh recounting that the first day that Wilkinson owned the McLaren, he ran over a stray screw and popped one of the tires. Luckily, he was able to find a replacement locally, but the old tire now hangs on the wall near one of the overhead doors, with the screw still lodged deep in the treads. Hopefully the other personal mementos that will collect in the man cave over the years won’t have quite the same groan-worthy origin stories. 

“It’s not a Tony Stark laboratory, where I clap my hands and 3D holograms appear or anything,” Wilkinson says with a laugh. “But it’s a fun place to hang out.” We can’t imagine any car lover disagreeing.