The Top 25 Holiday Gift Ideas of 2011
Unless you’re participating in a medical study involving sensory deprivation (And who doesn't love those?), we're quite certain you’re aware that the Holiday Season (known in simpler, allegedly more insensitive times as Christmastime) is upon us. And whether you’re proclivities during this time of year lean towards hanging tinsel and trinkets on an indoor conifer, symbolically lighting one candle in a stylish candle holder every night, or standing on your roof in the nude while banging a tambourine against your belly and whispering your prayers to the Cantaloupe King and his Magic Curling Iron (We don’t judge.), chances are there will be at least some gift-giving going on, if there hasn’t been any already.
With that in mind, we’ve concocted the following list of 25 great gearhead gift ideas. They fall into many categories, and into a wide range of price brackets, but they all have one unifying trait: An ability to bring a smile to the face of all but the most jaded car geeks. We’re pretty sure you’ll find at least one item that’s a perfect fit for the recipient you have in mind.
Forza Motorsport 4
With each successive iteration, Microsoft and its wholly-owned studio Turn 10 have honed the Forza Motorsport franchise into an increasingly more immersive and engaging gaming experience. The latest bar-raiser, Forza Motorsport 4, is no exception. In addition to the improved graphics and a vehicle roster ranging from the Toyota Prius to the Bugatti Veyron Super Sports, Forza 4 also adds the insanely addictive Rivals Mode and Autovista, the former letting you try to beat your friends' best lap times, drift scores and such even when they aren't online, and the latter being more-or-less CG-rendered XXX porn for petrolheads. About the only thing the game doesn't give you is grease under your fingernails.
TAG Heuer 300 SLR Calibre 1887 Limited Edition
While it’s perfectly easy to check the time by glancing at your cell phone, it doesn’t make much of a style statement. No, if you want to announce that you’re a man of wealth and taste, you look at a fancy watch on your wrist. And they don’t get much fancier than TAG Heuer’s 300 SLR Calibre 1887 Limited Edition. The mostly brown color scheme oozes Old World classiness, but this 41mm automatic chronograph is also durable, with scratch-resistant curved crystal enclosing the face and hands and water resistant to a depth of 100 meters (330 feet). Plus, the back features an engraving of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR sports racing car of 1955, a car driven by noted Heuer-wearer (and five-time world driving champion) Juan Manuel Fangio.
If you've got an older car or a budget-minded newer car but want such fancy tech features as GPS navigation system and Bluetooth, has Kenwood got news for you. Its DDX418 unit features a big touchscreen with customizable illumination colors, plus Bluetooth and USB connectivity. Add the KNA-G610 navigation module (sold separately) and you get Garmin-powered guidance to any destination in the U.S. and Canada. Who says you can't teach an old car new tricks?
Need for Speed: The Run
After looking like they had finally gotten their groove back with Hot Pursuit and Shift 2: Unleashed, Electronic Arts and its long serving (and, many will argue, suffering) Need for Speed series has wandered back off the reservation with Need for Speed: The Run. However, rather than trying to go after the tuner crowd once more, The Run revolves around a cross-country race and a storyline of intrigue and suspense. For the first time in NFS history, you'll be venturing out of the car on occasion, fighting baddies and performing actions using timed button presses (Calling it "Shenmue with driving" wouldn't be too wide of the mark.) This is certainly off-putting for many racing game veterans, but you gotta admit it's an interesting concept. Plus, there's an ecclectic mix of high performance cars and a handful of digital doppelgangers of real life megababes, including Christina Hendricks. That should win at least a couple converts.
The sky blue and orange colors of Gulf Oil are perhaps the most recognizable in motorsports history, so it’s not exactly a shocker that French watchmaker BRM (as in Bernard Richards Manufacture, not British Racing Motors) would offer a line Gulf-themed timepieces and accessories. The most striking item in this collection is, without question, the R-50-Gulf, with its colorful band and lack of a traditional face, exposing the Precitime/A07161 movement and other internals for all to see. This 50mm stunner is sure to please racing geeks and watch nerds alike.
Blaupunkt New York 800 (World)
Ask the average automotive audiophile to name a German car stereo manufacturer, and there's a good chance they'll say Blaupunkt. And Blaupunkt is bound to be on more and more people's lips as word of the New York 800 spreads. It packs a 6.2" touchscreen, an SDHC memory card slot, two USB plugs, a CD/DVD drive, navigation and Bluetooth. It'll also accept input from a rearview camera, plus you get a wireless remote. About the only thing it can't do is make holiday family meals less awkward, though we can't be sure the Blaupunkt engineers didn't at least try to find a solution.
Sparco has been in the racing safety gear business since 1977, and its stuff is worn by many of the world's top drivers. But Sparco shoes can be worn by anyone, and the Race – designed exclusively for the U.S. market – is priced at a rather-attainable $99 a pair. They come in your choice of black, red or blue, and feature wide toeboxes, extra sole cushioning, and an additional comfort cell for the ball of the foot. In short, unlike many other driving shoes, making someone wear these for an extended period might (and we do stress might) not violate the Geneva Conventions.
Escort Passport 9500ix
Radar detectors are the most trusted tools of drivers who habitually, ah, question the merits of posted speed limits. And one of the biggest names in fuzzbusters, Escort, has a humdinger in the form of the Passport 9500ix. In addition to picking up a huge spectrum of police radar and laser bands, it can also be ordered with Escort Live!, which uses your iPhone or Android smartphone to collect speedtrap data from other Escort Live! users and help you stay on the right side of the law (when the law is watching, of course). Plus, the special White Pearl Edition will help you counteract some of the bad karma you might get for speeding: Escort donates a portion of the sales receipts for that model to Susan G. Komen for The Cure. Save yourself from a ticket and save the ta-tas? We call that a win-win.
Gearhead Work Wear “Save the Stick” T-shirt
In case you haven't noticed, manual transmissions are comprising a smaller and smaller share of the U.S. new vehicle market. The staff of Car and Driver magazine has taken a stand against stickshift apathy with its "Save the Manuals" campaign, and the car-crazed clothiers at Gearhead Work Wear are doing their part with a line of "Save the Stick" gear. This particular shirt, featuring a clever riff on a 5-speed manual shift pattern, gets the point across. And at only $13, it's attractively priced.
AutoArt 1:12 Scale Nissan GT-R
The Nissan GT-R may deliver supercar performance at a price that makes it a bargain relative to most of the European brands, but at a price of $90k+, it's not all that cheap. Luckily, the ace model makers at AutoArt offer a GT-R that's 12 times smaller than the real deal, but retails for under $500. And while the 3.8L twin-turbo V6 under the hood doesn't run, it (along with the rest of the car) features incredible detailing, and it's available with a black, silver or pearl white body. Just be sure the giftee has a parking spot suitable for this 11 lb. beast.
International Aero Products Immaculate
International Aero Products is one of the leading manufactuer of cleaners and polishes for business jets, and considering how affluent the clientele that uses those vehicles is, you know this stuff has to work well. Take Immaculate, for example. This spray-on solution spruces up just about any type of interior surface you can name: Carpet, leather, fabric, plastic, rubber, vinyl and more. It's even safe for audio equipment. If you consider how much time you spend inside your vehicle, shouldn't it be a nice and tidy place?
Rolex Cosmograph Daytona
No watch says “you’ve arrived” as a racing driver (or that “you’ve arrived,” period) quite like a Rolex Cosmograph Daytona. Introduced way back in 1963 and still in production, this 40 millimeter beauty is offered in a variety of materials and finishes. It’s also as functional as it is sexy, thanks to a tachymetric scale on the bezel that allows its wearer to easily and accurately calculate things like time driven and average speed. Who says art should only exist for art’s sake?
CMC 1:18 Scale 1957 Ferrari Racing Car Transporter
Plenty of 1:18 scale vintage race car replicas are available, but when was the last time you saw a 1:18 scale vintage race car transporter replica? It was probably CMC's rendition of the Mercedes-Benz works team truck from the mid-1950s, and now that same company has unleashed this jaw-dislodging model of Scuderia Ferrari's 1957 Fiat car hauler. Hand assembled from 3,115 parts and measuring about nineteen-and-a-half inches long, this iconic truck has a dizzying array of fully functional details like the working vehicle hoist and opening radiator cap. Granted, the roughly $829 MSRP is on the dear side, but good luck finding a better way to display your 1:18 scale classic Ferrari Formula 1 and sports car models (sold separately, of course).
Sony Digital Link Sound System XDP-MU110
Want to make the stock stereo in your older car sound better and allow it to play tunes from your iPod Touch or iPhone without slicing up the dashboard? Sony has a possible solution in the form of of its Digital Link Sound System. The XDP-MU110 is the more moderately-priced of the two systems being offered (retailing for about $400), and it includes a cradle for your Apple mobile device, a wireless remote control, and a DSP processing module that allows for adjustmet of such parameters as time alignment, equalization and crossover points. It's like upgrading to a modern high-end head unit without announcing it to car stereo thieves.
Hubolt Big Bang All Carbon 44mm
We don't think it's said often enough that carbon fiber is a truly miraculous material. Yes, it's pricey, but it's also stronger than steel while weighing much less. And we can think of few objects that do a better job of exhibiting carbon fiber's wondrous properties (and killer looks) than Hubolt's Big Bang All Carbon 44mm watch. The case, bezel and the dial are all manufactured from woven carbon, and the HUB 4100 chronograph movement is self-winding. Flyweight, fashionable and user friendly? Who wouldn't love to find this in his stocking?
Lego Volkswagen T1 Camper Van
At the risk of sounding old and crotchety, Lego didn't make stuff this cool back in our day. Sure, the Danish purveyor of interlocking injection molded bricks made some way cool sets when we were tykes, but never model kits for real-life automobiles. Granted, the VW Microbus doesn't exactly mesh with our "Celebrating the Fast Life" creed, but how can you front on the level of detail and working features (including the immortal "pop top" sleeping quarters)? That's right, you can't.
Piloti Leather Tifosi
One of the keys to getting the most out of your car and yourself is improving the way the two of you interface, and wearing a good pair of driving shoes is a great way to accomplish this. Piloti is one of the top brands on the market, and one of its most stylish offerings is the Leather Tifosi. The black with white trim and laces make these shoes look ready for a night on the town (and at $125, they are priced like dress shoes), but the curved heels and grippy soles make heel-and-toe shifting a breeze. Nomex tuxedo sold separately.
Gearhead Work Wear “Stig Family” Stickers
Some say they’re made out of unicorn eyelids, and that Finnish cheerleaders like to decorate the inside of their locker doors with them. All we know is these “Stig Family” stickers are the shiznit. Show trailing motorists that you love your family (and Top Gear) without settling for the conventional, beyond-played-out ones that festoon many a minivan and SUV backlight. And if other people assume both of the things you and your brood think you know about ducks are wrong, then so be it.
TW Steel TW608 Dario Franchitti Edition
Picture this: You’re a Scottish racecar driver of Italian ancestry. You’re super handsome and married to famed Hollywood actress. You’ve also won two Indianapolis 500s and four Izod IndyCar Series championships, including the last three in a row. Oh, and TW Steel makes your own signature edition watch. Yep, it definitely doesn’t suck to be Dario Franchitti, nor, we’re guessing, does it suck to own his eponymous timepiece. And while it’s also available in 45mm form, the 48mm TW608 better showcases the Allen-bolted stainless steel case and the color scheme that evokes that of Dario’s helmet. Plus it’s easier to read, which is nice even for folks with great eyesight.
OMP Carrera High Top Racing Boot
Brown leather boots go with a lot of outfits, and the Carrera High Top Racing Boots from OMP are offered in two, yes TWO shades of brown. But they aren't just stylish. They're also fire resistant (conforming to FIA Standard 8856-2000), and have printed rubber soles that resist decay due to exposure to hydrocarbons. What's not to love? Well, maybe the $319 price tag, but the plan is that you'll be asking someone for them, right?
Pioneer AppRadio SPH-DA01
Most iPhone owners love their phones. Part of the reason for that is because they can be loaded with lots of handy apps, but you can't really use them while driving. Enter Pioneer's AppRadio system. In addition to allowing your iPhone to pipe stuff like GPS navigation and internet radio streams into the double-DIN touchscreen-equipped head unit, it also does some spectacularly awesome stuff that your iPhone can't do by itself. Dig: If you connect a cable from your vehicle's OBD-II port to the head unit and plug in your iPhone, you can use a telemetry app that uses the iPhone's accelerometers to calculate things like horsepower, torque and accelerating and braking Gs. Cool, no?
Autoglym Bodywork Shampoo Conditioner
For most of its existence, noted British car care product maker Autoglym chose not to market its wares in the U.S. That all changed a couple years ago, and needless to say, American car washers and detailers have discovered what all the fuss is about. Of course, to get a squeaky clean car, you have to start with a good car wash soap. Autoglym offers the self-explanitorially-titled Bodywork Shampoo Conditioner. It not only removes dirt and grime, but also forms a water-repelling film over the paint and wax (assuming the vehicle already has some wax on it). Nice!
As you might have heard by now, Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing pretty much curbstomped the rest of the Formula 1 field on the way to their second straight world championships this year. But that doesn't mean you can't go back and change history…at least in the digital world. Following the success of last year's F1 2010, Codemasters now cranks out F1 2011, featuring all the car, team and driver lineups from this past season. It also has every track from the 2011 schedule (including the new circuit in India), plus DRS and KERS on the cars to make the racing even more exciting. Any more authentic and Bernie Ecclestone would be walking through your living room with a gaggle of celebrities and/or heads of state in tow.
Enthusiast Apparel “Save the Ring” T-shirt
Over the last decade or so, the fame of the Nürburgring has grown exponentially. To capitalize on this, the German state in which it is located built a leisure park on the grounds of the modern Grand Prix circuit, running up a massive debt. Park attendance figures are far lower than forecast, and the two guys to which the state is renting the park want the historic Nordschleife to help pay for their losses. Save the Ring seeks to divorce the racetrack from the money pit theme park, and Enthusiast Apparel is helping get the word out with this Save the Ring T-shirt. This $15 shirt is not only stylish, but it also spreads the word about an issue that should be on the minds of all auto enthusiasts.
Aftermarket head units that offer Bluetooth and video playback are swell, but what if your ride's dashboard only has a single DIN opening? What do you do then? Well, a good course of action would be to purchase and install JVC's KD-AVX77. The wide touchscreen is highly customizable, letting you load your own wallpaper and change icon locations. Plus, with the separate KS-U30 iPhone/iPod video playback module, you can watch movies. Though please refrain from doing so while the vehicle is in motion, because the police will do more than leave a lump of coal in your stocking if you get on their naughty list.