Garage Love: Please Don't Call It My ManCave

by Per Schroeder

I got a glimpse inside a garage that’s normally closed up tight along my route to work today. What first grabbed my eye was a new looking four-post lift stuffed on one side of a two-car garage.  An early fifties Ford was parked next to the lift, the flat-black paint and contrasting white and red pinstripes indicated that while the owner wasn’t on my sports-car loving team, they certainly played the same game. 

My first thought was, “Nice mancave.”  And I immediately knew that this term was all wrong.

A cave implies that the owner is a primitive who has just barely controlled the use of fire. We are not cavemen whose number one fear is getting eaten by a smilodon. Sure, I’d still run from a sabre-toothed cat if I saw one in the Chipotle line, but I’m no caveman.


This is actually pretty organized for one of my welding sessions.  To me, the smell of melted steel is progress.  

I prefer to liken my garage to something a little more recent in the history of our species, the blacksmith’s forge. With sparks flying and the scorched steel smell permeating the shop, my vision is true. I grind, weld and hammer like a Norseman readying his longship and armaments to take on the North Sea.

Our cars are the trebuchets and catapults from millennia past. We are not in the first bunch of guys running towards a castle with just a hastily made wooden spear. We have evolved, learned and built war machines with purpose—to race and to win or maybe to just look cool.


MotoIQ's Pablo Mazlumian can get a lot done in a suburban two-car garage. It just takes some organization—and tolerance for a mess now and then. 

Forgive me when I bristle on that mancave term. On one hand, it implies both fear and helplessness in the face of the natural world. The modern implication is even worse. If you watch any of the endless parade of real estate reality shows, the term mancave implies a pinball machine, a recliner and big screen TV for soft people to watch other people do the cool shit that they should be doing themselves. Screw that. 

The world is not best experienced while you are straddling a couch and eating cheezy puffs in your basement. Get up, go out to the garage and do something. The cavemen who became modern man weren’t content to just be afraid of the dark. They picked up what they could, made what they couldn’t find and conquered the world. They created tools from wood, then stone and bronze before working out how to make iron and steel. 

That spirit is still alive in what we do with cars.  We take what is broken, slow or ugly and transform it into something else entirely—from 1950s lead sleds to sleek sportsters.  If a cave dweller can walk away from the light and comfort of a warm fire, we can hop off the couch and turn the raw elements of rust and rubber into the pride of our garage.


Autocrosser Chris Harvey shows off his MX-5 getting some new brake pads in his garage. This must have been the before shot, as I don't see a pile of brake dust, dirty finger prints and the detritus of a job well done.  Not a mancave.
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Dusty Duster
Dusty Dusterlink
Thursday, June 12, 2014 5:02 AM
"All of those Lord of the Rings geeks have ruined the Viking and Norse references."

I think the band Manowar ruined it first.
Thursday, June 12, 2014 5:10 AM
Thank you guys for taking the time to write pieces like this.
Per Schroeder
Per Schroederlink
Thursday, June 12, 2014 6:25 AM
@Dusty: For sure, with the added benefit of white supremacist and homoerotic overtones. Good combo.

@the.aprescott: Thanks! and thanks for visiting.
Mike D
Mike Dlink
Thursday, June 12, 2014 6:56 AM
I personally prefer Evil Lair, i enjoy the mad genius connotations.

How else am i supposed to explain the crazy laughter every time i pick up the sawsall?
Thursday, June 12, 2014 7:46 AM
Bat Cave. Oh wait, that's still a cave reference. But at least it doesn't imply primitive man.
Per Schroeder
Per Schroederlink
Thursday, June 12, 2014 7:51 AM
BatCave is cool. Extra points if you have a batmobile.

I like Evil Lair...Muwahahahahahahah!
Thursday, June 12, 2014 8:25 AM
Another vote for lair. My computer room is the electron lair. The garage/shop is the octane lair.
Thursday, June 12, 2014 9:03 AM
A second vote for Octane lair. I really like that one :D
Thursday, June 12, 2014 9:07 AM
Great article. It always bugged me to have someone ask if I had a man cave. Besides the usual Bro connotation that goes with one, I think most car guys would take offense at the idea of ditching the wife and kids to sit in a closed off room just to watch TV. Having a hobby is completely different than trying to escape the family. Hopefully as they grow, the garage is a place I want my kids to hang out with me in, learning and experimenting on cars themselves.

Hmm, learning and experimenting, maybe lair is the right term.

Odd that garage has come to mean "large storage area where cars sometimes get parked". If you take your car to a mechanic, you take it to their "garage", the place where cars get worked on. I think garage is the right term, it has just lost all its meaning.
Thursday, June 12, 2014 10:14 AM
"If you watch any of the endless parade of real estate reality shows, the term mancave implies a pinball machine, a recliner and big screen TV for soft people to watch other people do the cool shit that they should be doing themselves. Screw that."

That sums it up for me. Be it wrenching or racing, I'm the one having the fun not watching it and living vicariously through others like everyone else around me asking if I saw the latest episode of WTFever or who do I want to win "the game" tonight? My answer: I don't care and I hope they both lose.
Per Schroeder
Per Schroederlink
Thursday, June 12, 2014 11:14 AM
Sidenote: After I saw inside that garage several weeks ago--it hasn't been open again since, so I couldn't take a picture of the lift/Merc. Today, the day that the piece is published..the door is open again. Doh.
Thursday, June 12, 2014 12:36 PM
...ninja edit!
Thursday, June 12, 2014 1:01 PM
Go introduce yourself Per, it's time to make a new ManFriend.
Saturday, June 14, 2014 6:57 AM
Another vote for Octane Lair. I have always had a shop. I rarely refer to it as a garage, though it fits the technical description. Nothing is ever parked in it, but filled with works in progress. My grandfather had a shop on his farm, with a sign reading "What we don't got, we make". My grandmother was a school teacher. XD @Protodad, the greatest thing built in my shop is my son, who is now an accomplished professional welder.
Great Article!
Sunday, June 15, 2014 12:32 PM
How about good ol' "workshop" ?

Classic term for a place where you get your hands dirty.
Sunday, June 15, 2014 8:58 PM
I just call it a garage.

Its usually worth a laugh when a person that doesn't know me well sees inside to see various motor powered and man powered toys in differing states of togetherness.

If the average person wants to think of a garage as a storage area, that's their misuse of the term. I agree though, the garage isn't the mancave...the mancave is 80+" of flatscreen and 10,000 watts of ground shaking noise. How else are you going to watch the gopro video you took while being awesome?
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