The Definitive Top 50 Gearhead Holiday Gifts of 2012
‘Tis the season once again, party peeps. And no matter which holiday you choose to celebrate – Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza, Festivus, Enrique the Magic Crawfish’s Birthday (It is too a thing!), etc. – chances are it involves the giving of gifts. This begs not one but two questions: What to get for other people? And what to request from others for oneself?
We hope to provide answers to both of those questions by way of the following gift guide. Hopefully one of these 50 (which means it’s twice as good as last year’s…right?) items will float the metaphorical boat of you or your Secret Santa (or your belief system’s analogue thereof). If not, we suppose cash and/or gift cards will suffice. *cough*You unimaginative heathens.*cough*
Books, DVDs and Games
Having watched it multiple times, we can confirm that Senna isn’t just a great motorsports documentary, or a great documentary, it’s a great movie. This critically-acclaimed-the-world-over film follows the career and life of three-time Formula 1 World Champion Ayrton Senna from his karting days to his death in a crash during the 1994 Grand Prix of San Marino. The storytelling gets a bit one-sided at times, but it’s absolutely a must-have addition to anyone’s video library (be it on DVD or Blu-ray), even if they aren’t the caliber of car or motorsports geek that you are.
TT3D: Closer to the Edge
The Isle of Man TT is probably the most dangerous, brass-ones-only motor race still being run on the planet. The 2011 documentary TT3D: Closer to the Edge does an exemplary job at capturing the history, the speed, the peril, and the human drama of this 105-year-old motorcycle speed contest. However, neither the DVD nor Blu-ray versions are available in Region Code 1 versions, meaning most North American viewers will have to step up for the Blu-ray version and play it on a region-free player. But trust us, it’s worth the hassle.
Black Air: The Buick Grand National Documentary
For four magical model years, the Buick Regal Grand National existed as motordom’s most magnificent mutant, handing many purebred sports cars domestic and foreign their asses in acceleration contests. Now, a quarter-century after the last Grand National was made, filmmaker Andrew Filippone Jr. explores the story behind these turbocharged terrors and the people who love them. It’s available on DVD for $20 exclusively through .
Racing Words: Motorsports Multi-Lingual Dictionary
Ever wonder what the Japanese word for understeer is? Or what your German crew chief is telling you to do when he shouts “Sprit sparen!” over the radio. Wonder no more thanks to this handy book from Michelin. It contains translations for hundreds and hundreds of racing and racing-related terms in American English, British English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Portuguese and Japanese. Available through, among other places, the official Chevrolet Corvette merchandise website, where it’s currently on sale for $45.
Ducati 1098/1198: The Superbike Redefined
We love getting a behind-the-scenes look at the development of a vehicle, as well as receiving insights from the people involved. Ducati 1098/1198: The Superbike Redefined is just such a tome, as author Marc Cook was given unprecedented access to chronicle the development of Ducati’s seminal 848/1098/1198 series. The 176 pages are bursting with interviews of designers, engineers, fabricators and other central figures, as well scores of color photographs. Definitely a must-have for the Ducati owner or fan. Price: $39.95
The 2012 Formula 1 season was absolutely one for the ages, with the most world champions ever in the field (six, or exactly one quarter of the grid), the most races ever (20, including the return of the U.S. Grand Prix at Austin, Texas), and some incredible racing action. Codemasters’ F1 2012 (MSRP $59.99) lets you alter recent motorsports history on PS3, Xbox 360 or PC by placing you in the middle of the action. Perfect for helping you forget that the start of the 2013 season in Melbourne is about three months away.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
The cartoonish kart racing genre has gotten somewhat stale lately, but Sega has injected a whole heap of new life into it with Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed for the, Wii U,PS3, Xbox 360 and various mobile platforms. There’s a whole cast of characters from other games and a host of power-ups to slow down your opponents and speed yourself up, but there are two big, related twists: One, the tracks change layout and surface every lap and, two, the karts automatically transform into boats or planes in response. Both transformation angles work remarkably well, making for a super entertaining game.
One of the biggest driving game surprises of 2012 was Forza Horizon, the latest installment in the Xbox-exclusive sim franchise. However, instead of being a true sequel to the first four games, Horizon is an offshoot from the main canon in that it trades closed circuits for a singular open, expansive map based on the geography of Colorado, complete with traffic and, for the first time in a Forza game, off-road driving and day-to-night transition. All that the polished-to-a-mirror-finish Forza Motorsport 4 physics engine you know and love. For an MSRP of $59.99, it’s sure to make your giftee’s spirits bright.
Out of the gaming world’s left field comes an upstart Australian developer by the name of Camshaft Games and its first title, Automation. This ambitious digital download, PC-only title (the full version of which is still under development) lets players run their own car companies by designing, testing, building and marketing vehicles in a timeframe spanning from 1946 to 2020. At present, only the engine designer is available as a demo, but if the rest of the game is as in-depth as it is, you (or the person for whom you’re buying it) won’t be disappointed. It’s available for pre-order through for $25 for the basic version, or $35 for the deluxe “Turbocharged” version.
Test Drive: Ferrari Racing Legends
Rare is the single-marque driving sim that isn’t deserving of bargain bin software status. The classic (The fact that anything released in the year 2000 can be considered classic makes us feel 816 kinds of ancient.) Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed is one such exception, and 2012’s Test Drive: Ferrari Racing Legends is another. Developed by the highly-respected Slightly Mad Studios (and built on the Need for Speed: Shift 2 Unleashed engine), this title tracks the evolution of Ferrari from its first self-branded car in 1947 to the present day with virtually all of the nameplate’s most significant road cars, sports and GT racers, and F1 weapons. Throw in legendary tracks (some of which, like Silverstone and Hockenheim, are available in their past and present forms) and gorgeous graphics and you have a winner. Retail price is $29.99 for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC digital download.
Need for Speed Most Wanted
Not to be confused with the eponymous game from 2005, this latest Need for Speed title (MSRP $59.95) is a multiplatform arcade racer chock full of scorching supercars and, for the first time in series history, a handful of trucks and SUVs for playing in the dirt. All cars are available at the start of the game, and each one has challenges and races tailored specially for it. Couple that with a robust online aspect (but, maddeningly, no multiplayer cop chases), and you have an addictive multiplatform thrill ride.
Clever, funny t-shirts are all the rage, but percentage-wise, only a tiny, tiny fraction of these have anything to do with cars. By contrast, Blipshift’s shirts are 100% car-related. They’re just $15 each, but there is a big, honkin’ catch: Each one is only available for exactly one week. After that? No mas (though the Facebook page says a design can get brought back if it receives enough likes). Kinda makes you want to check the website every seven days, huh?
Ford ST Storm Tread Jacket
We lurrrrrrrve the Ford Focus ST (and the upcoming Fiesta ST has us like totally stoked, man), and now the Ford Collection – the Blue Oval’s online branded merchandise store – has a nice, warm jacket to help spread the Yankee Doodle hot hatch love. Breathable, water-repellant material on the outside, microfiber fleece on the inside, and the stylized “ST” logo on the left breast, this $109.95 coat might have you wishing it was jacket-weather all year.
Sniff Petrol Kimi Raikkonen T-shirt
On his way to victory in last month’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Lotus Renault F1 driver (and 2007 World Champion) Kimi Raikkonen responded to a radio transmission from his engineer with the now-immortal line, “Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing!” Britain’s favorite (Only?) automotive satire site, Sniff Petrol, is just one of many businesses that have put the usually marble-mouthed Finn’s zinger on a shirt. Of course, if the traditional quote and radio transmission graphic that’s as close as you can get to the actual FOM TV graphic without being served with a lawsuit from Bernie E doesn’t float your boat, there are three other styles of Iceman soundbite shirts (all of which cost £17.99, or about $29), including the one reading “Kimi says leave me alone” in big, all-caps lettering. Perfect for when you run into that stalker of yours…
BMW “I M Back” T-shirt
This past season of the German Touring Car Masters (DTM) series was the first in 20 years that saw BMW participate (along with returning mainstays Audi and Mercedes-Benz). Remarkably, the Munich marque was able to grab the championship on its return with French-Canadian veteran Bruno Spengler. Most people won’t know this when they see this punny shirt that substitutes the word “am” with the BMW M logo. But for $25 from BMW, Bimmerphiles and DTM fans will dole out knowing nods of approval.
Chevrolet Camaro Women’s Muscle Scoop Neck Sweatshirt
And now something for the ladies: If you love the Chevrolet Camaro, you need this stylish sweatshirt in your closet. The pre-distressed silkscreened design shares the front with a pair of pouch pockets, and the rib knit cuffs and waistband help maintain a form-fitting fit. And at $38, it’s not priced so high that you’ll feel bad about badgering your boyfriend or husband to get one for you (not that we have a problem with badgering or anything…).
Subaru “Est 1958” Hoodie
Whether the intended recipient of this garment drives a shiny new BRZ, a rusty-but-trusty Justy or something else wearing the Pleiades badge, he or she will dig this Subaru hoodie marking the year of the brand’s founding. The half cotton/half polyester fleece composition makes it as durable as it is cozy, the latter being a good thing to have this time of the year. Available through Subaru’s online store (and probably most dealers) for $30.
Electronics, Gadgets and Accessories
iZZi Orbit Case for iPhone 5
Got a friend or loved one with an iPhone 5 and a serious Instagram addiction? Show that person you want to be his or her enabler, er, that you really care, by gifting an Orbit Case from iZZi. Crafted from aircraft-grade aluminum, the retro-chic Orbit Case features what iZZi calls an iDial, a wheel with three lenses – wide angle, telephoto and fisheye – attached. Just rotate the lens you want in front of the camera to open up a whole new world of phone camera possibilities. Available in black, red or polished aluminum finishes for $239.99 (An iPhone 4 and 4S version is also available for $229.99.).
It’s common knowledge that gloves and touchscreens generally don’t get along. AnyGlove allows these two objects to interface without having to make permanent alterations to your gloves. Just spray a few drops on the fingertips of your gloves and let them dry overnight or, if you’re in a hurry, blast them with a hairdryer. The price is $14.95 for a 7.5 mL bottle, and each treatment lasts anywhere from a few days to many months depending on the type of glove and how often it’s used.
KOLOS iPad Racing Wheel
There’s no shortage of racing games available for the iPad, but unless you’re playing a game featuring an Austin Allegro, an early-‘60s Imperial or something else with a square steering wheel, it’s not a terribly realistic experience. This iPad accessory from KOLOS changes that by adding a steering wheel rim around the iPad. For a little more money ($85 rather than $50), KOLOS will throw in a base (complete with a table clamp) onto which the wheel can be attached. Unfortunately, first deliveries will be May, at the earliest. But it’s the thought that counts, right?
iXoost iPhone/iPod Dock
Engine exhaust manifolds often play a sort of mechanical music, while iPods and iPhones are capable of playing “normal” music. So what happens when you put these two melody-delivery mechanisms together? You get an iXoost dock. Available in forms mimicking one header for a V8, V10 or V12 engine, these gorgeous sound systems are handmade in Modena, Italy. Of course, this is reflected in their prices (The V8 version is about $6,500 before options.), but for the true autophile and audiophile, what’s a few grand?
Bentley Car Key 8GB USB Drive
Being able to take your data with you is good. Being able to take your data with you while fooling people into thinking you drive something much pricier than you do is even better. This 8GB USB flash drive from Bentley will do just that. It’s shaped just like a Bentley key fob, and features the Winged-B insignia on the back just like the real thing. Push a button and the USB plug retracts to keep it from harm and enhance the illusion. At £30 ($48), it’s by no means the cheapest thumb drive in the world, but it may well be the best for getting phone numbers at the bar.
Schuberth SRCS for S2 Helmet
Schuberth has come up with a wireless communications system designed to integrate with its S2 motorcycle helmet. The SRCS (Schuberth Rider Communication System) is a collar that snaps onto the bottom of the S2, and it interfaces with the S2’s built-in Bluetooth and FM antennas and transmitters. Thus, the wearer is able to communicate with two other riders within a 2,310 ft radius, and hear Bluetooth devices like GPS units and MP3 players. MSRP: $429.
Ever slept off a large number of adult beverages at a buddy’s place, only to wake up the following morning and wonder where in the Sam Hill you left your car keys, motorcycle gloves or something else? Well if you have, StickNFind might put an end to such episodes. The small stick-on discs are Bluetooth beacons, which the companion iPhone or Android app uses to determine the proximity (provided it’s within 100 feet) and direction of the object to which the disc is attached. Prices start at $35 for a pair of discs and climb all the way to $1,400 for a 100 disc “company pack.”
Toast tastes great, but it’s not the most exciting food under the sun. Does adding a stylized version of the Nürburgring map add to that excitement? Maybe, maybe not. But for about $39, this official Nürburgring toaster is an easy way to prove to your guests that you love broiled bread and the Green Hell.
Caswell Motorsport Shot Glass
Who is Bill Caswell? Just America’s newest blue collar motorsports hero, campaigning a cavalcade of well-worn ‘80s and ‘90s BMWs in events like the 24 Hours of Lemons, the Baja 1000 and even the WRC Rally Mexico. Caswell’s approach to motorsports can be summed up by his three-word credo: Build. Race. Party. The last word of that credo fits right in with this shot glass, which is emblazoned with the credo and the logos that go with it. Granted, the $8 price is a bit dear, but when you consider it will probably help finance Bill’s next epic racing adventure, it starts to look like a pretty good deal.
KTM Speed Bob
KTM is a respected name in the motorcycling world, and its X-Bow lightweight sports car has garnered plenty of fans since its introduction last decade. But what if we told you there’s a KTM vehicle that offers a thrilling riding experience, but doesn’t have any kind of engine? Meet the Speed Bob, a $106 polyethylene sled that features a handle to aid steering. Recommended for riders age 10 and up and 4’11” or taller, but weighing less than 287 lb.
AutoArt V10 Business Card Holder
AutoArt is best probably best known for building and selling high-quality, high-detail models of cars and motorcycles. But it’s also a maker of keychains, pens and other knick-knacks modeled after automotive components. A new addition to this line is this $119.95 business card holder patterned after a V10 engine. Cards are stowed under the intake manifold area (which is topped by 10 velocity stacks), and the two valve covers open up to reveal storage for small items like paper clips and breath mints. Almost too nice to keep in one’s pocket…
Car Care Products
Sanctiond Leather Lotion
In case you missed it this past spring, Mister Cartoon, the renowned tattoo and graphic artist, is now in the car care products business with his company, Sanctiond. (Since the formation of the company, a certain Snoop Dogg has also come on board as a partner.) One of Sanctiond’s signature products is Leather Lotion, a compound that cleans, conditions and moisturizes cowhide upholstery. And when you’re done applying it, it leaves a pleasant, fresh scent! A 16 oz. jar will set you back just $9.99.
Mothers California Gold Clay Bar System
Sometimes, washing and polishing your ride isn’t enough to remove some of the stuck on and embedded in nastiness marring the paint. In cases like these, turn to Mothers’ California Gold Clay Bar System. As the name implies, it utilizes a bar of clay that is abrasive enough to pick up the super-hard-to-get deposits, yet is gentle enough to not chew up the finish. It’s available directly from Mothers for $23.39 or at your favorite local car care products retailer.
Raggtopp Fabric Convertible Top Care Kit
Fabric convertible tops are nice (generally lighter and less complicated than folding hardtops), but how do you keep them from decomposing into frayed, faded messes that roll out the welcome mat for rain and snow? A good place to start is to check out this fabric top care kit from the folks at Raggtopp. Comprised of a 16 oz. bottle of cleaner and a 14 oz. bottle of protectant, this kit will keep your cabriolet, roadster, spyder or whatever’s lid soft, clean and weather-tight for years to come. Available at AutoGeek.net for $39.99.
Timepieces and Accessories
ORIGINTIMES Big Block Winder
What do you get the Bugatti Veyron owner who has everything? A 16-watch winder made from a Bugatti Veyron W16 engine block…obviously. This very-limited-production piece from Weinstadt, Germany’s ORIGINTIMES is available with or without a pedestal, and has a touchscreen interface to individually program each of the sixteen winder mechanisms. The price two years ago was about $115,000(!), and there’s no word if it’s gone up since then.
MB&F Horological Machine No. 5
In the world of high end watches, Maximillian Büsser & Friends (MB&F for short) is one of the most adventurous when it comes to design. The latest brick they’ve lobbed through the windows of the Swiss watchmaking establishment? The Horological Machine No. 5, or HM5 “On the Road Again” to its friends. The mail-slot-skinny face is inspired by muscle car hoodscoops (and the Amida Digitrend quartz watch of the 1970s), and the movable slats to let light inside the body to charge the glow-in-the-dark numbers are inspired by the rear window louvers that were fitted to many performance cars in the 1970s and ‘80s. Only 66 examples will be made, and we’re guessing the price will be immense.
AutoArt Suspension Watch (Advanced Version)
In addition to model cars and motorcycles and automotive-themed knick-knacks, AutoArt also peddles automotive-themed timepieces. As far as we’re concerned, the coolest one of these is the Suspension Watch. The watch itself attaches to the band via a set of A-arms, and the pivoting is cushioned by a spring on either side of the water-resistant, precision-quartz-movement watch. The retail price is $79.95 and comes in an aluminum sleeve-style gift box.
Kahn Vesuvius Edition Watch
In just a few short years, Kahn Design has become one of the most successful tuners in the U.K. This success has led the company to branch out of car modifying and into personal accessories, including this Swiss-made Vesuvius Edition Watch. Priced at £332.50 ($536), the unnumbered inner bezel apes the typical Kahn gauge face, and it has been tried out by Switzerland’s official chronometer testing lab.
Nordschleife 1927 Watch
This past year marked the 85th anniversary of the mighty Nürburgring Nordschleife (North Loop). To celebrate this, a special 24-hour watch was released. Available in diameters of 1.4” ($111) and 1.7” ($137), it features Swiss quartz movement and comes in a polished tin box.
Aftermarket audio/video/navigation (AVN) units are all the rage, but installing one usually means cutting the stock dash, fabricating filler panels to close gaps, or both. Not so with Alpine’s INE-Z928HD AVN unit, provided you’re putting it in a vehicle for which one of Alpine’s clever Perfect F.I.T. kits is available. And in case the prospect of a squeaky clean install isn’t enough, the 8” WVGA touchscreen, built-in HD Radio tuner, Bluetooth, and 3D navigation system with free lifetime live traffic updates should be. Find one at your local Alpine retailer for around $1,499.95 (Perfect F.I.T. kits sold separately.).
If it’s a good all-around AVN you’re after and dashboard fit isn’t a concern, the Kenwood DNX9990HD is about as good as it gets. In addition to the expected hardware features (HD Radio tuner, Bluetooth, and dual rear USB inputs, to name a few), there are also some slick software tricks up its sleeve. The navigation system is powered by Garmin, and a split screen function allows access to the navigation display and A/V controls at the same time. Plus, you can add it to a SYNC-equipped Ford or Lincoln and still retain most of that system’s features.
On a tight budget but still want a head unit with iPod/other MP3 player integration? The DSX-S100 from Sony deserves a look. For just $139.95, you get a unit with a flip-down and detachable faceplate, MP3/WMA/AAC playback, and HD Radio or satellite radio readiness. Oh, and behind that faceplate is a little cubby called a Tune Tray, which keep your portable music player in place and out of sight.
We like the idea of having an aftermarket head unit with HD Radio and Bluetooth, but don’t have much interest in having in-dash video or navigation. It’s for semi-luddites like us that JVC made the KW-HDR81BT, a Double-DIN unit priced at $249.95. It can also control Pandora on your smartphone, and has 2 USB ports and a front Aux-In jack.
Toys and Models
Hot Wheels iNitro Speeders
Hot Wheels has always been the hippest name in toy cars, so it’s not all that surprising that the Mattel brand has created a line of tiny (under 2” long) R/C cars that can be controlled by an iOS device. The iNitro Speeders come in a variety of body styles (Including Mustang, Camaro and Ken Block’s Ford Fiesta), and can be controlled by either the iPhone/iPad app, or by the included controller/charger. Prices start at $22.99.
Robert Gülpen 1:8 Scale Lamborghini Aventador Model
You remember that gold, platinum and diamond Bugatti Veyron model from a couple years ago, right? Well one of its builders, Robert Gülpen, has created this stunning 1:8 scale Lamborghini Aventador. The formula is basically the same as that of the Bugatti (The body is mostly gold, with platinum parts and diamonds scattered throughout.), but the value is considerably higher. How high are we talking? Sotheby’s recently appraised it at approximately $13.7 million, or more than 30 times the cost of a real Aventador. Yeah, not too many gift exchanges have a price cap in that ZIP code…
Autographed 1:24 Scale Ned Jarrett 1965 Ford Galaxie NASCAR Model
NASCAR is making a big deal about how next year’s Sprint Cup Series cars resemble their production counterparts. Wind the clock back to, oh, 1965 or so, and they were pretty much exact copies of their roadgoing brethren. Ford’s merchandise website offers this detailed $109.95 diecast model of Ned Jarrett’s title-winning ’65 Galaxie, complete with a miniature 427 c.i. V8 under the hood. That hood, incidentally, is signed by the beloved two-time champion, race promoter and broadcaster.
AutoArt 1:18 Scale Lexus LFA Nürburgring Package Model
In base form, the Lexus LFA is a rare and expensive supercar. Add on the Nürburgring Package (which includes a carbon fiber front splitter, rear wing and other accessories) and it gets rarer and more expensive. Thankfully, you don’t need a half-mil burning a hole in your pocket to take one home. AutoArt’s 1:18 scale diecast replica of the meanest Lexus ever features all the details of the real thing for a much-easier-to-swallow $189.95 MSRP. It’s also a lot easier to find room to park it.
Norev 1:18 Scale Mercedes-Benz GL Model
The new Mercedes-Benz GL-Class SUV has been racking up awards left and right, so you want to know what all the fuss is about, right? Well, if you can finagle a test drive of one, there’s a chance you might want to buy one. If you can afford one, more power to you; if you don’t, you can always pick up one of Norev’s 1:18 scale diecast models of the new GL for a little over $100. All four doors, the hood and the tailgate open, and exterior color choices include white, silver and black.
American Excellence 1:43 Scale 1972 Ford Ranchero GT Model
In 1972, Ford redesigned its mid-size car line, including the Torino-based Ranchero pickup. American Excellence, maker of resin-bodied 1:43 scale cars and trucks of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s, offers a hand-sized replica of this stylish car/truck mutt. The $79.95 price is a little steep for a 1:43 scale vehicle, but only 500 of each color combo (black-with-orange-side-stripes and a familiar-but-different red-with-white-side-stripes scheme) are being made.
6D ATR-1 Helmet
Riding a motorcycle without a helmet is inviting tragedy, and the more impact protection that’s been baked into a brain bucket, the better. And it doesn’t get much better than 6D’s revolutionary ATR-1. It features omni-directional suspension (ODS) technology, consisting of cone-shaped elastomeric residing between the inner EPS foam shell and carbon-composite outer skin. 6D is accepting pre-orders now with deliveries set to begin in February (but you can certainly tell the recipient about it before then), and an estimated price of $745.
EVS AxisPro Knee Protectors
A good pair of knee protectors goes a long way in protecting a rider when he or she goes down, and the new AxisPro from EVS may well be the best available to consumers. Designed primarily for motocross and other extreme two-wheeled disciplines, the AxisPro features a hinge mechanism that mimics the human knee’s natural movement path, while the articulated pad assures the kneecap is always shielded. It’s an expensive proposition at $377 for one or $679 for a pair, but can you put a price on being able to walk? Exactly.
Convertible Pet Carrier
Bikers! Do you have a cat or small dog but hate having to drive a car to transport them safely? Despair no more, for there is the Convertible Pet Carrier. This 16”x14”x14” satchel features various departments and cutouts, an internal leash, and a washable floor panel. There are also multiple provisions for attaching it to a touring or cruising motorcycle’s seat, luggage rack or sissy bar. Suggested retail price is a steep $174.95, but it sure beats having Princess or Whiskers tied to your lap or zipped up in your jacket.
Sidi Fusion Boots
A pair of good riding boots is good to have whether you do your motorcycling on the road, the track or the trail. And for riding on paved surfaces, Sidi’s Fusion boots are some of the best out there. Priced at about $215 a pair, they feature nylon shin guards and replaceable nylon toe scuff pads for protection. But with removable arch support and dual polymer toe shift pad, they’re as comfortable as they are robust.