Vehicles for Giving

Gift ideas for the car lover

By Novella Carpenter

It’s coming. Can you feel it? The dizzying drumbeat of shopping mania. Maybe it has already landed at your door, and you find yourself thumbing madly through the Sur la Table or REI catalogues. You wonder if Grandma Jeannie needs a sock drier or a child-safe chef’s torch.

Because I haven’t left the states, as I usually try to do this season, I’ve been swept up into the frenzy myself. I almost get into car accidents window-shopping in traffic (who has time to actually shop?); I write lists and envision my relatives and friends’ faces when they open the perfect gift. I’ve lost my mind. Keeping with this trend, I offer these strange and wondrous car-related gift possibilities.

Besides the JCPenney catalog, we also get one from another JC: JC Whitney. Although Bill is invariably disappointed with my boring decision to give him socks and underwear, something from the boys at JC Whitney gets him excited. I’m trying to decide between the Garage-Pro air compressor ($49.95) that runs for five hours without needing a cool-down and the heavy-duty 1,170-piece nuts and bolts set ($94.99), which comes with mounting racks that will make everything more orderly.

There are some odd things offered, too, like the Car Chip for paranoid parents. Car Chip pledges that “your kids may not tell you what they did with the car last night, but the Car Chip will!” The device clips below the steering wheel and logs data such as average speed, hard breaking and fast-acceleration events. Sneak that under the tree of a paranoid parent!

I just had to shake my head at the Wolf Whistle horn: “Wolf Whistle–when you like what you see,” the description reads. “This touch of nostalgia is sure to get smiles . . . and maybe a few slaps!” And possibly some broken windows, too!

They make LEDs for cheap now, and Whitney sells them for odd places on your car, like on brake lights that rotate and flash every two seconds but aren’t street legal ($15). Or there’s an LED that runs along the bottom of a license-plate frame, so you can change your frame message to fit your mood ($99).

Who says motorheads aren’t bookish? There’s plenty of reading material out on the shelves for these people. Sunday Money: Speed! Lust! Madness! Death! A Hot Lap Around America with NASCAR (HarperCollins; $25.95), by Jeff MacGregor, tells the story of NASCAR in a way that might appeal even to nonracing fans. The book details the hilarious story of a year on tour with NASCAR–the parking lots, the sunscreen, the 75 million screaming fans.

Only for total cheesemeisters, American Chopper: Orange County Choppers–The Fine Art of the Custom Motorcycle (Hugh Lauter Levin Associates; $50) attempts to cash in on the extremely popular television show of the same name. Set in Orange County, the book tells the story of a family of custom-motorcycle makers. It is, predictably enormous, black and faux leather.

Finally, I would recommend Hot Rod Pin-ups (Motorbooks International; $34.95) to a few select gentlemen and women. Photographer David Perry captures a Bettie-Page-meets-junkyard-meets-R.-Crumb aesthetic through his shots. The book manages to celebrate both the cars and the women with equal interest–gorgeous cars and women (check out those heels!).

Toy cars are the gateway to a lifetime of squandered resources and lead to a life of quiet traffic rage, but that won’t stop parents from stuffing these into their dear ones stockings. If you have to, buy Chub City toys ($10 and up). They have that Homies vibe that I find appealing–if anything, at least their cars have appeal across ethnic lines.

Remote-controlled car choices include Chrysler 300C, Scion Xb, Hummer, Dodge Magnum and a no-name tow truck and a fire truck. All of the cars feature outlandishly enormous tires (and, of course, Spinner hubcaps) and pimped-out paint jobs. Jada toys make the line of remote-control cars, and it includes die-cast cars, too.

The list could go on and on, but this will get you started.

Have you finished your holiday shopping? I hate you. Send your lists to [email protected]

From the December 14-20, 2005 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

© 2005 Metro Publishing Inc.

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