It's that time of year again. Yes, time to begin untangling that giant rat's nest of holiday lights and unboxing Aunt Bethany's accidental gift cat. Being an auto enthusiast, of course, you're a far more discriminating gift-giver (and getter) than most. So, to inspire your holiday shopping (or to jumpstart the thinking of your friends and family -- hint hint), we're proud to present our 2009 Motor Trend Holiday Gift Guide.
Oh, by the way, no need to buy us a thing (but thanks for asking). We're fine with cash or checks.
Like its high-end competition, Blue Tiger's racing simulator -- built for maximizing the realism of PC-based driving games -- has standard features like a bucket racing seat, a force-feedback steering wheel, controls for manual or paddle shifting, and realistic brake, gas, and clutch pedals. What separates Blue Tiger from the rest, though, is an articulating base that provides a full 40-degree range of motion. Slam on the gas and the entire setup instantly tilts backward, sending your stomach and inner ear for a whirl. Go too hot into a tight corner and the racing bucket will give you that rearward slipping sensation as you slide off the track and straight into the guardrail. It doesn't get much better than this. Currently, the system only works with a limited number of PC flight and racing simulators, but Blue Tiger is working to broaden compatibility.
MSRP: $7495 (basic seat only); $13,995 (including triple monitors and computer)
Look Like A Champ
You might not be able to drive like former F1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen, but at least now you can wear his sunglasses. Known best for its Swiss-made luxury watches, Tag Heuer has worked with Raikkonen on a series of sunglasses designed for both fashion and function. The most recent line of shades is dubbed Squadra and is designed specifically to be worn underneath a helmet. With a slim profile and lightweight construction, the Squadra shades lack the bulk that makes conventional sunglasses awkward when you're on the track. The Squadras are tough, too, with hingeless rubber-coated titanium arms and a shatter-proof one-piece lens that's designed to deflect wind away from a driver's face.
One Good Turn
When "Forza Motorsport 3" hit Motor Trend HQ, productivity dropped slightly. Then the Fanatec 911 Turbo S Wheel arrived, and productivity took a freefall. Boasting Porsche licensing and hand-stitched leather, the Fanatec is simply too good to be dubbed a mere videogame controller. It uses three force-feedback motors to communicate the nuances of the car and road. Further pushing the simulation envelope, the wheel comes with a gated six-speed shifter (paddles are included, too) and a clutch pedal. Check the LED display top center -- that's where you can adjust the force feedback, sensitivity, and degrees of rotation. The LEDs also double as a data readout in compatible games. Best part? The wheel is near-silent in operation. The Fanatec is compatible with the PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 (hey, "Gran Turismo 5" is looming). When you want the very best.
If you last owned a remote-control car, say, 20 years ago, you owe it to yourself to take a look at today's crop of serious oof-road remote-control models. Most are anything but kids' toys -- and many are capable of serious speed and style. Case in point: The all-new Savage Flux HP power by a high tech Flux Tork 2200 motor matted with a Flux Blur ESC and twin battery packs. The Savage Flux HP uses their built tough Savage X chassis and features a low-mounted Flux Tork 2200Kv motor in place of the big-block nitro engine, XL Tough Suspension , Big Bore Nylon Shocks , with an all-metal gear transmission, steel spur gear, super heavy-duty dogbones, machine cut diff gears, 2.5mm TVP chassis plates, 3mm 7075 motor plate and dual 8mm billet motor clamps. Comes fully assembled with Flux Tork 2200 motor, Flux Blur electronic speed control, HPI TF-3 radio system, SF-5 high torque metal gear steering servo, and painted & trimmed body. You just add the dirt.
MSRP: $325 (street price often $200 or less)
Art Fitzpatrick's long, wide Pontiacs set against Van Kaufman's mid-century backgrounds. Walter Gotscke's minimalist illustration of the 1952 Mercedes-Benz 300S. A woman dressed in a Vogue-worthy outfit behind the wheel of the 1954 Buick Roadmaster, in glorious black-and-white photography. David Hall likes mid-century automotive advertising art as much as we do. He launched the Web site ephemeranow.com in 1999 while working his day-job as Style section editor for The Washington Post. Hall later changed the name to the easier plan59.com, posting digitized, post-production samples of magazine ads and brochure art. Most of the artwork is from the '50s, although Hall posts some pre-war, immediate post-war, and early '60s work. Since 2005, Hall has offered high-quality prints of the ad art for sale. We can't think of a better way to dress-up your favorite auto enthusiast's garage or study.
MSRP: $16 to $250, depending on size and paper quality
Given that your feet are the only parts of your body to interact with the gas, brake, and clutch pedals, it's important, to say the least, that what lies between them -- your footwear -- is up to task. Enter Oakley's Race Low and Race Low 2 driving shoes. Designed for the track yet chic enough for the street, these speedy sneakers feature self-extinguishing fire-retardant suede and high-stick rubber outsoles. The Low 2's outsole mimics the tread of high-performance race tires while the Low's is made of NBS vulcanized rubber -- both are designed for optimal pedal feel and heel-toe downshifting. Further, each shoe boasts a lightweight design (heavy shoes dull feel and impede quick movement) and the Low 2 even offers an Ortholite polyurethane insole for improved comfort and tactility. Both versions are available in multiple colors.
MSRP: $67.50 (Race Low), $90 (Race Low 2)
What better way to navigate MotorTrend.com than with a car-shaped mouse? Road Mice offers nine different models licensed from Chevrolet, Ford, Dodge, and Chrysler -- including the Camaro, Mustang, and Challenger (you can have your own muscle-car shootout right on your desk). Each model comes in multiple colors, uses a precise laser system rather than a ball, and is offered in wired or wireless editions. Better yet, both the headlights and scroll wheel light up when you use them.
MSRP: $34.95 (wired), $44.95 (wireless)
A Jump Ahead
Maybe you're an expert in using jumper cables, but is that special someone in your life? Michelin's new Smart Jumper Cables take all the guesswork -- and the potential risk -- out of jump-starting a car. Boasting patented technology, the Michelin cables automatically adjust each cable's polarity, eliminating the confusion of figuring out which connection goes where. Built-in LEDs confirm when the connections are correct, and a surge protector safeguards each car's electrical system. The cables are specially designed to remain flexible even in cold weather, and include textured grips for easy handling. Toss a set in the trunk of that special someone (a neat travel case is available), and know that they'll be traveling safe.
Give the gift of stealth. This Christmas, Escort offers a range of products to help the speed demon on your Christmas list fly under the local radar (and laser) -- with no fussy pigtail cords, windshield suction-cup hickies, or theft-prone detectors to mount and dismount when parking in public. Want all the bells and whistles and 360-degree protection? Check out the Passport 9500ci, with triple laser detection -- two sensors in front, one in back -- plus built-in GPS. Knowing where the car is and how fast it's going allows the unit to tailor its sensitivity with speed (low in parking lots, maximum at highway speeds), and to learn the location of stationary radar units -- helps keep the 9500ci from crying wolf. A USB port allows for uploading of speed and red-light camera locations from the Escort Web site, and the unit is undetectable to all radar-detector detectors. It's mighty pricey, but worth it for moneyed maniacs whose driver's license might otherwise be imperiled.
MSRP: $1599 ($1999 installed)
Time For Reflection
For the gadget fiend who's in love with an aging car but covets 21st Century conveniences, Escort's easily installed SmartMirror brings navigation, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, and even a backup camera to any car. The GPS antenna is integrated in the unit, so it only requires a 12-volt lead and a ground (most modern cars have a 12-volt supply in the headliner). The backup camera requires its own cable routed to the rear. SmartMirror is over an inch wider and a bit taller than a standard mirror to accommodate the four-inch (diagonal) navigation touchscreen. Also included are two expandable video inputs (one for the optional backup camera) and an SD Card slot for the 2GB card (preloaded with an updatable map database).
MSRP: $799, plus $49 for installation (backup camera: $75)
Commercials You Won't Skip
Remember (or heard about) the Jordan Playboy's classic "West of Laramie" campaign? Or the Volkswagen Beetle ads from the 1960s and 1970s? Writer Phil Patton's "20th Century Classic Cars: 100 Years of Automotive Ads," a beautiful, 480-page color hardcover coffee-table book, includes them -- and many more of the most iconic automotive print advertisements from the last century. You'll also find vintage ads from oil and tire companies, plus a few gems for cars not sold in the U.S. Inside are celebrity sightings, too: Marlene Dietrich! Bing Crosby! Clark Gable! Wilt Chamberlain! Hall and Oates! Ricardo Montalban! A must for any auto-fan's bookshelf.
In the words of Mario Andretti, "Paul Newman was one of us." Everyone knows Newman the actor, director, philanthropist, and salad-dressing king. But car people know him as a passionate sports-car racer and racing team owner. Through the words and remembrances of those who raced with him, for him, and against him, "Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman," penned by our own Matt Stone with Preston Lerner, chronicles the star's legendary life behind the wheel. The book's great stories are highlighted by more than 200 photos and illustrations, many of which have never been published. Insights into Newman's two racing-related movies -- Winning, released in 1969, and Pixar's Cars, of 2006, are also included. Available at most bookstores.
New Blocks For The Kid
We're fans of the Automoblox lines of kids' toys -- they're solid, well-made (wood and high-quality polycarbonate), safe, and cool-looking. Plus, they radiate a good, old-fashioned honesty that's lacking in most toys today. New for this year's holidays is a T900 truck model and the HR2 hot rod, both available exclusively from the Automoblox Web site (and fully interchangeable with other models in the maker's lineup). Give the kid in your life a toy he can pass on to his kids one day.
A Step Up
Can't decide between wearing a pair of driving shoes or something a tad more formal? Now there's no need to decide at all. Piloti, maker of some of our favorite purpose-built driving and racing shoes, now offers new casual footwear with a racing edge. The Muroc is a midcut boot crafted with a full-grain leather upper and Piloti's renowned Evolution bottom -- perfect for slip-free contact with the throttle of your classic Ferrari Dino. A low-cut version, the Laguna, is also available. Each comes in your choice of three colors.
MSRP: $150 (Laguna), $160 (Muroc)
Right Hear, Right Now
Illinois-based Etymotic Research is famous for its in-ear headphones, and with iPhone mania spreading faster than the swine flu, the company decided to get in on the action with a specialized iPhone headset. The hf2 can control the music as well as the phone functions of the iPhone via the inline send/end button (though, unfortunately, there's no inline volume control). Just click once to pause/play, twice to skip forward, or three times to skip back. (The hf2 also works with other smartphones, provided they use the same 3.5-mm 4-contact connector.) What really makes the hf2 worth its considerable price tag, though, is its noise-isolating capability, which, according to Etymotic, blocks out from 35 to 42 decibels of sound, depending on the eartip used. The hf2 earbuds are also more compact than noise-cancelling headphones and don't require a battery (thus you can leave them in during take-off and landing).
For the auto nut who's also an interior-design aficionado, custom graphic art producer Surface View will print a variety automobile cutaways -- pulled from the legendary Haynes Manual series of repair handbooks -- on everything from canvas to window blinds and even tiles. The selection of technical drawings is limited and British-flavored (Surface View is based in the UK) but includes such iconic vehicles as the Ford Capri and Cortina, Jaguar E-type, Land Rover MkII, Mini Cooper, Morris Minor, Porsche 911, and the VW Beetle, GTI ,and microbus. Non-automotive cutaways include a Spitfire warplane, BSA vintage motorcycle, and various circuit diagrams. Prints are available in black and white, neutral, primary, and vivid tones -- which means appealingly appalling combinations like a fluorescent pink VW bus on a field of lime. Custom orders are welcome, too.
View With A Vroom
Luxury eyewear designer Patty Perreira has a deep-seated love for sports cars. So much so, her latest limited edition piece, the Barton Perreira Stirling, has been greatly influenced in both form and function by expensive go-fast rides. These aren't another pair of generic aviators. Take a closer look, and you'll notice custom-colored carbon fiber imbedded in a 100% titanium frame. Lightweight and strong, these handcrafted sunglasses incorporate top-tier CR-39 Optical-Grade Plastic and Mineral Glass lenses as well as anti-slip bridges. They're polarized, too. Each pair is finely handcrafted in Japan and can be ordered in seven distinct colors. Like any precisely designed and built exotic car, the Stirlings don't come cheap. But given their quality and uniqueness, it's money well spent.
Brighten up your road trips with the new line of Icon LED flashlights. Two compact models are available; each features an aerospace-aluminum body for exceptional toughness and waterproof O-ring seals to keep the lights on whether it's raining hard or you drop the flashlight into water. The Rogue 1 design is smaller (4.5 inches) and uses one AA battery, while Rogue 2 is longer (6.5 inches) and requires two AA batteries. Both come in three stylish colors: silver, green and black.
The Can-Am Film Festival
Fans of classic auto racing will love this new DVD. "Can Am: The Speed Odyssey" captures all the sights and sounds of the Can-Am Challenge Cup from 1966 through 1973 -- a largely unrestricted series that showcased some of the fastest road-racing cars ever built. The film, created by Robert Nevision and narrated by racing legends Jim Hall and Sam Posey, includes rare footage gathered from old 16mm canisters, TV broadcasts, and even Super 8 movies filmed by the teams themselves. The top drivers are here, too: Andretti, Stewart, Gurney, Revson, McLaren, and many more. All in all, a magnificent, must-have tribute to one of racing's greatest-ever spectacles.