Everyone who loves vehicles and motorsports is familiar with the usual suspects given as holiday gifts. It’s stuff like socks, ties, and car care gift packs, but they probably already have enough of those to last a lifetime. Those are still good ideas if you know that the car lover in your life needs them, but what about if you’re looking for something a bit more original and special? We’ve got you covered with our 2021 holiday gift guide for the automotive enthusiast.
The latest for the gamer in your life is Forza Horizon 5 for the Xbox consoles and PC. This time, the Horizon world is more in-depth than ever, letting you explore a digital homage to Mexico that includes a lava-filled volcano as well as shifting weather patterns and a variety of environments from lush jungle to sprawling city.
More than just a racing game, Forza Horizon lets you cruise around the countryside as if you were going on a nice weekend drive, except with a garage filled with hundreds of cars and no laws on the streets. For gaming on a budget, the previous installment, Forza Horizon 4, lets you tour Great Britain and see loads of iconic landmarks. PlayStation gamers are still waiting for the wheel-to-wheel circuit action of Gran Turismo 7, due out next year, but Gran Turismo Sport can help tide them over.
Lego isn’t just for kids anymore, but if we’re being honest, it never really was. Today, the brick-building brand offers incredibly detailed kits that let you recreate classic and modern vehicles. Take this Volkswagen T2 camper van as pictured, or kits including James Bond’s Aston Martin, Lamborghini Sian, and Ferrari 488 GTE. Lego even offers models that can be remote controlled through an app once you’re done building. You’re not left out if one of the more complicated Technic or Creator Expert kits are beyond your interest, budget, or display space, with the simplified Speed Champions lineup offering kits for the Ford Bronco, Toyota GR Supra, Ferrari F40, and many more.
Automotive art is always an excellent choice because the field is so broad that you can find something for nearly every taste from the “Corvette Parking Only” tin sign to award-winning prints and paintings. Canadian artist Jay Koka offers a wide range of automotive prints, lithographs, and paintings of wonderful vehicles and settings to suit most budgets. Automobilist is a team that creates licenced prints of F1, WRC, and more.
An automotive experience is always an event to remember. You might have read stories from our experts who have experienced driving sports and exotic vehicles on circuits all over the world, but it’s pretty easy to gift this memorable experience to someone you care about, too. Driving experiences are available at tracks nationwide, with NASCAR stock cars, Ferraris and Lamborghinis, and even open-wheel cars offered. Breakaway Experiences partners with drive experiences all over Canada, offering you or your giftee the chance to get behind the wheel at tracks like Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, Mission Raceway Park, and more.
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Go to a Race
Race days are the best way to get up close to the ultimate in fast cars, and a trip to your local track is also a great gift for those who don’t mind a bit of delayed gratification. Tickets to a race weekend are surprisingly affordable, especially for amateur racing or semi-pro at your local oval or road course. Your area might not have one of the big-name events like the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal, IndyCar on the Streets of Toronto, or Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières, but you’re probably within an hour or two of a local track that offers drag racing, dirt track, or short-track oval racing. Every province in the country has a grassroots racetrack where you can watch some of the most intense racing you’ll never see on TV and they do it every weekend, all summer long.
Owning an authentic Shelby race car may be out of reach for most of us, but you can still look the part. Red X Thread, a new Canadian clothing company, is channeling the nostalgia of the legendary brand’s racing heritage with a new clothing collection. Consisting of four different garments from t-shirt to zip-up sweater, each one pays homage to a specific car from Shelby’s past. All products are sustainably sourced and handcrafted in Canada.
Remember slot cars? The 1:32-scale electric-powered remote-controlled cars that zipped around a track as complicated as you could dream up? Some of the brands have changed, but slot cars have gotten high-tech. Scalextric now offers digital slot cars that use digital control technology like model railroaders have been enjoying for decades. Here it lets you drive your cars using your smartphone or tablet for more exciting races and even pre-programmed endurance racing. For even more high-tech, Overdrive from Digital Dream Labs is a Bluetooth-based system that uses completely wireless battery-controlled cars for more flexibility, more steering, and even powerups, missiles, and full racing series.
Racing Suit with Provenance
Art that supports your favourite team and driver and also happens to be functional and useful safety gear? You can actually buy second-hand suits that were worn in competition and at the track by professional drivers and race crew. With your favourite team sponsor logos from NASCAR, F1, and more, used FIA-rated fire suits and SFI suits look great on your wall, especially if you can get it signed by the driver down the road. But what’s even more interesting about these suits is that you can still use them. An FIA- or SFI-approved fire suit can actually be used by amateur racers on track days or in real races. They’re some of the best suits around for comfort and protection and they’re much cheaper than they are when new. For most clubs, suits have long expiration dates or none at all (consult all applicable rules before using any safety equipment).
Parts with History
Used race car parts are also fascinating gifts to put on your desk, in your garage, or even on your keyring. Race teams go through thousands of components each year, replacing them because they’re damaged, they’ve reached a limit of miles or hours, or because something new is faster. Ex-F1 wheels make great coffee tables, race-crinkled fenders from NASCAR Cup Cars make great wall ornaments, and Formula 1 will even sell you a keychain or tablet holder made from a skid plate that ran under a race-run car.
Automotive books are a great gift, spanning nearly every level of reading interest. Car books for kids give you nearly endless choices, though we’re partial to Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go. History books and coffee table books abound with choices like My Dad Had That Car, which takes a nostalgic look at cars from the 1920s through 1990. Explore the rise and fall of Top Gear through the eyes of script writer Richard Porter in And on That Bombshell. Or ride along with Canadian author and world-traveller Garry Sowerby as he relives record-breaking and pioneering drives through some of the world’s least-travelled places in Driven Mind.
Of course, a gift list isn’t complete without some weekend tools and some must-haves to keep in the trunk of your loved one’s vehicle, so here are some of our top picks.
Tire pumps and air inflators that plug into your vehicle’s 12V outlet are handy, but they’re also slow, cumbersome, and, generally, fragile. Tool companies have done a big one-up by developing cordless inflators that work with their families of 18 and 20V cordless power tools. More voltage means quicker inflation while the ability to use the batteries that power your drill, saw, and other home tools make them more affordable as well as more portable. Pump up your truck’s tires after a day off-road, blow up a floating raft at the lake, or give your bike tire a boost with a cordless tire inflator with offerings from Mastercraft, Ryobi, and more.
The hottest trend in cleaning your ride is the foam blaster. Covering your entire vehicle in a layer of foam is fun and it also helps to break up dirt so you don’t have to scrub as much, which means you lower the risk of paint damage. Chemical Guys offers a foam blaster that comes with a home-user-friendly price tag that lets you adjust foam thickness and, importantly, doesn’t require a pressure washer to use.
Last up, the gift that can keep on giving. If you have a dead battery, that is. Lithium-ion-powered car booster packs like the Noco Boost Plus GB40 are extremely compact but can start gas and diesel engines that have a low main battery. It offers up to 1,000 amps for as many as 20 starts on a single charge. That charge should last months of sitting in the trunk and the connections are spark- and mistake-proof for safety. The jump starter has a 100 lumen LED flashlight and can even charge your phone using a built-in USB charger.