The Holiday Season is upon us, and just like the rest of us, you're undoubtedly running around finding the perfect gifts for everyone on your shopping list, naughty or nice. But short of a Porsche, Ferrari or Bugatti race car with a red ribbon tied around it, what kind of gift would you get for a car nut? Especially when Autoblog already gives the automotive enthusiast all the octane he or she can burn.
Well, for what we can't give you, we give you this: the Autoblog Holiday Gift Guide. In it you'll find an assortment of gift ideas for the car nut on your list, everything from jackets to racing schools, toy cars to laptop computers and a whole lot in between.
So, from all of us at Autoblog: Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Kool Kwanzaa (and Festivus for the Rest of Us)!
CLOTHING & ACCESSORIES
Few items give the car nut the chance to express him or herself like automotive apparel. Rat Fink hotrod t-shirts and Mack Truck baseball caps are one thing – but the market is flush with a wide variety of classy, tasteful items that are sure to make a great gift.
- McQueen LeMans jacket – Dakota offers a range of jackets and accessories modeled after the racing suit worn by the legendary Steve McQueen in the high-octane classic Le Mans (see "Movies" below). Porschephiles and movie buffs are sure to love the classic look, decked out in classic Gulf livery. Available in a variety of styles and materials, shipping from Germany starting at €139. Check out grandprix-originals.com
- Piloti driving shoes – Lots of companies, including mainstream brands like Puma and Adidas, make driving shoes and racing boots, but none can rival the unique footwear from Piloti. The shoes are worn by professional race drivers and casual enthusiasts alike, offered in a variety of styles, colors and materials – with or without the flame-retardant Nomex. Available directly from the manufacturer at piloti.com, starting at $75.
- Challenge Stradale shirt & cap – The Ferrari 360 Challenge Stradale may be out of production, pending the debut of its successor F430 CS, but the Italian racing stripes remain iconic. FerrariStore.com still has the 360 Challenge Stradale long-sleeve t-shirt for $53 and the matching cap for $27. Even the most dedicated red-headed tifosi are bound to be missing these items.
Collecting Diecast scale car models is a popular hobby for automotive enthusiasts. Not to be mistaken for children's toys, scale models are miniaturized versions of automobiles you can display at home or in the office. They're available in a wide variety of scales (i.e., sizes) at a range of prices. At ten inches long, 1:18-scale is the most popular. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- 2006 Ferrari 575M SuperAmerica by HotWheels – This Ferrari model, reasonably priced at around $30, is a collectible replica of the limited-edition SuperAmerica and even features the car's folding hard-top. HotWheels' more detailed "Elite" version sells for twice the price.
- 1970 Lamborghini Jota by Kyosho – Made in Japan, Kyosho models feature impeccable detail, including carpeting in the cabin, braided wires in the engine bay...the works. If it's on the real car, it's on this model, only smaller. Priced around $70.
- 1977 Porsche 935 by Exoto – Exoto makes mind-bogglingly detailed replicas of specific racing cars, as they appeared at specific races. This model replicates the Porsche driven by Stommelen, Hezemans and Gregg to victory at Daytona in 1978. Priced around $200.
TOY CARS FOR KIDS
The Holidays are nothing if not for the children, so with that in mind we couldn't leave out a few sample gift ideas for the kids (in case the video games and DVDs didn't do the trick). For most of us, our automotive enthusiasm was inspired at a young age by playing with toy cars, and we hope these could do the same for the budding car nut on your shopping list.
- Among our all-time favorites are the unique creations from Automoblox. The high-quality wooden block toy cars come in a variety of bodystyles from sportscar to sport-ute. Each car is based on three-block wooden bodies that are interchangeable so your kid can play chop-shop without the Grand Theft Auto. Each sells for a very reasonable $35. (Also very much worth checking out are award-winning Scandinavian-designed Playsam wooden toys.)
- How many of us owe our creativity to playing with Lego when we were kids? The famous Danish toy company has come a long way since (literally) basic building blocks. Now they've teamed up with Ferrari to offer a collection of specially-built sets, including the F430, the Enzo, an F1 car and even itty-bitty little fuel stop scenes. Starting as low as $20. Check out the online Lego shop for the full range.
- This pedal car from Restoration Hardware is an instant classic. It's made of heavy-gauge steel with solid rubber tires and genuine chrome accents, styled after 1950's-era Ferrari Formula 2 race cars. It's the kind of thing that makes us wish we were kids again. $500, only via catalog or online from RestorationHardware.com
What could possibly make a better gift for an automotive enthusiast than high-performance driving lessons at a renowned racing school? Programs are offered in sports cars, rally cars, even formula race cars, at circuits across the country and around the world. For the kids there are karting programs and defensive driving courses for teens. RacingSchools.com is an authoritative site for finding the best course near you. (Insider's Tip: Cash can be saved if you use your own car.) Here are a few of our favorites:
- Skip Barber offers programs at five "base-location" tracks (Laguna Seca, Daytona, Road America, Sebring and Lime Rock) plus dozens more circuits across the country, with over 130 racecars and 70 road vehicles offered by over 150 instructors. Skip Barber offers high-performance driving, advanced driving skills and racing courses. Check out skipbarber.com for more info.
- Team O'Neil Rally School offers driving programs for those with a penchant for driving in the dirt. O'Neil's courses include rally driving techniques, off-road driving, winter driving and more. Unfortunately they've only got one location in New Hampshire (but the European Rally and Performance Driving School in Northern Florida offers a smilar experience). Head over to teamoneil.com for further details.
- If nothing short of Formula One will do, LRS Formula racing school is your place. Their only US location is at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, plus two European locations at Magny-Cours in France and Catalunya in Spain. The programs get you started in Formula 2000 before hitting the track in an authentic, retired Prost, Arrows or Benetton F1 racer (a Williams is soon to join the paddock). There's also a ride-along program in a purpose-built three-seat F1 car for those slightly more timid. Interested? Visit lrsformula-usa.com.
Precision engineering, artful styling and meticulous craftsmanship are hallmarks that the finest automobiles and timepieces share in common. No big surprise, then, that more and more automotive-inspired wristwatches are hitting the market. For someone who appreciates both watches and cars, you couldn't pick a better gift. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Breitling for Bentley Flying B – Both Breitling and Bentley blend classic styling with the finest craftsmanship, represented by Flying B logos, so their partnership for a line of timepieces seem as natural as can be. Their first rectangular watch features a unique movement, displaying the hours in a large numerical window, the minutes on a large dial and the seconds on a separate smaller dial below. With a knurled metal finish on the face, the result is one of the most striking wristwatches on the market. Priced at around $10,000. More info at breitlingforbentley.com.
- Chanel J12 Superleggera – High-tech ceramics is the latest innovation in racing car construction materials, and together with lightweight aluminum, Chanel has applied it beautifully to make a striking variation on the classic sports chronograph, evocative of classic 1950's racing cars. (The J12 is also available in a number of women's styles in black or white ceramics.) Prices hover around the $5000 range. Head over to Chanel.com for further details.
- Pirelli PZero – Pirelli's stylish wristwatch is made by Italian watchmakers Sector, and features a sleek case made of aluminum and titanium. The most intriguing part, though, is the vulcanized-rubber strap with tire-tread pattern. Available in a number of varieties with different movements, in quartz or mechanical, with dual-mode digital displays and chronographs. Sleek and avant-garde, suitable for men or women, with prices starting around $800. See the whole range at PZeroWeb.com.
DVDs are always make for a great gift, and there are a couple new releases that would be perfect for the car buff on your shopping list. With prices in the $10-20 range, these DVDs are sure to please.
- Disney/Pixar's animated blockbuster Cars just hit DVD. As hard as it might be to imagine if you haven't seen the movie, thanks to cutting-edge computer animation and a host of celebrity voices, Cars actually manages to turn automobiles into fully relatable characters. Whether you like computer animation or not, Cars is a great movie that brings automobiles to life, perfect for racing enthusiasts young and old.
- Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby had its DVD release on December 12, just in time for the holiday season. Starring comedy heavyweights Will Ferrell and Sacha Baron Cohen, Talladega Nights is rated as one of the year's funniest movies...lucky for us, it happens to be about racing.
- If you're shopping for a fan of the classics, McQueen films Bullitt and Le Mans are all-time hits, as is the epic Parisian road rampage C'était un Rendezvous. Nicholas Cage in Gone in 60 Seconds is another favorite.
After putting a bow on a racing car or a Ferrari, video games might very well be the next best thing. The technology's always getting better, and they've come a long way since MarioKart. Some of these games have gotten so realistic that F1 drivers will practice on a PlayStation before a race. With internet connection, players can even play against other gamers from the comfort of their living room. Here are some of our top picks for different platforms:
- PlayStation2: Gran Turismo 4 – GT4 is the latest version of the most popular racing game. With the most realistic graphics and gameplay, GT4 offers a selection of over 500 cars you can drive on up to 100 of the world's best tracks. (The new PS3 just recently hit the shelves, but they're hard to find, and Sony's delayed the release of the latest GT game, Gran Turismo HD.)
- Xbox360: Project Gotham Racing 3 – Some gamers will argue that PS2's GT4 (see above) is the best driving game out there, but PGR3 is undoubtedly one of the most fun. Instead of driving on tracks, players get to design their own routes through city streets in New York, Las Vegas, Tokyo and London. PGR3 also offers the best selection of supercars.
- PC: Need for Speed Carbon – The Need for Speed franchise is one of the most popular in video game racing, sending you on an adventure to outrun the police as they try to crack down on street racing. Carbon is the latest release in the series, and includes racing through desert canyons. In addition to the computer version, NFS Carbon is available for most gaming platforms.
An emerging trend in mobile computing has car manufacturers teaming up with computer companies to produce co-branded laptops. Some call it a marketing gimmick, while others see it as a positive synergy that injects some excitement into the market. Here are a few examples:
- Ferrari by Acer – Acer sponsors and provides the Ferrari F1 team with computers, and a line of laptops has grown out of the partnership. The latest generation includes two varieties: the ultra-portable 1000 ($1900) and the widescreen 5000 ($2300). Both boast extensive features lists (including 64-bit AMD processors) plus head-turning looks (with carbon fiber trim and bright red accents) at competitive prices.
- Lamborghini by Asus – The latest Asus-Lamborghini VX1 comes in a slender 1.2"-thin package in either yellow or mirror-black finish, packed with a 160GB hard drive, 2GB RAM and an Intel dual-core processor. At nearly $3000, the Lambo laptop is harder to justify against a comparable unit without the Raging Bull badge.
- HUMMER by Itronix – Naturally, the Hummer of laptops is a rugged notebook, with a magnesium alloy case, shock-mounted components and spill-resistant keyboard. This puppy can be dropped from thirty inches above the ground and still keeps working. The upgradable wireless connections include wi-fi, EDGE mobile broadband and even available GPS, with prices range from $2000 to $4500.
While most mobile phones available look the same as any other, a few premium handsets inject some high-octane excitement into the market...for a price.
- Vertu Ascent Racetrack Legends Series. From super-premium mobile phone maker Vertu comes the Racetrack Legends, a series of six limited-edition phones, each in a different color and honoring an iconic international race circuit: Monza (red), Silverstore (green), Le Mans (blue), Indianapolis (black), Nurburgring (silver) and Monaco (yellow). Only 1000 units of each were produced – at $6400 a piece, exclusivity has its price.
- Nokia 8800 Lamborghini. This limited-edition version of the Nokia 8800 Sirocco "Inspired by the luxurious and prestigious car manufacturer based in Italy" features Lamborghini branding front and back, a host of Lambo digital multimedia and a sliding mechanism with Lamborghini's own ball bearings. Only 500 will be made, available only from Lamborghini dealers and the online Lamborghini Store for €1350.
If you're wondering what skateboards are doing in a gift guide on a car blog, you haven't seen these planks. These are no ordinary boards: produced by innovative carmakers, these boards feature the latest in construction technology and would make for a truly unique gift.
- Venturi Black Feather – From the French builder of innovative electric cars comes the Black Feather, which Venturi claims to be the lightest and fastest longboard on the market. Constructed entirely of carbon fiber, only 200 will be made, selling at $650. Available directly from the manufacturer.
- BMW Street Carver – A few years back, BMW made a longboard called the Street Carver. Calling on their vast suspension know-how, the Bavarians made a fiberglass and wood board with cast-aluminum suspension trucks. It sold for $500, and although they're no longer available direct from BMW, local and online skate shops should still have a few kickin' around. For a full review, click here.