QotW: What’s the best gift for a car enthusiast?

With the holidays coming it’s time to think about gifts. My wife will be the first one to tell you that car enthusiasts are impossible to shop for. The stuff we want is so specific, whether it’s a particular part or book or Hot Wheels, that she would have to spend days on eBay or some Facebook group full of jackals to find an item, and then it would still probably end up being wrong.

As someone who has recently rekindled an interest in plastic model kits I think they make a pretty good home run present. There’s enough diversity to get the right car or close to it, and attributes like color won’t matter. They’re simple enough for the casual tinkerer but complex enough if you want to get really hard core about it with customization, and they appeal to a variety of age groups.

What’s the best gift for a car enthusiast?

The most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What car will go extinct in the next five years?“.

Rarely has a QotW elicited such a high ratio of answers from the same manufacturer. Sadly, as reader Alan put it, there was a “whoooole lotta Nissans nominated here,” starting with his own pick of the Nissan Cube. Specifically, Infinitis appear to be particularly doomed, with Fruity B. suggeting the Infiniti G35, Jim Klein naming the Infiniti M45, MikeRL411 just throwing all Infiniti models into the ring, and Taylor C. putting forth the Infiniti brand itself. Ouch.

Non-Nissan noms include danny‘s HC Mazda 929, speedie‘s lament for wagons in general, and JJ hilariously hoping for the demise of the Dodge Journey. It’s true, we didn’t specify that it had to be Japanese, and it is a terrible car.  The winner, however, was returning champion Land Ark, whose screed about the second-gen Acura TL made us weep for the once-respected luxury sedan:

Back in September I bought my friend’s 2006 Acura TL. He isn’t an enthusiast but he bought it new and maintained it well enough to keep it in good shape all these years despite moving across the country twice and living in NYC for a few years. After buying it I did a few regular and somewhat neglected maintenance to get it into shape to give to a family member.

I spent the next 2 months looking for parts and visiting junkyards. Seeing the examples that turned up in the yards made me wonder if any TLs had intact seats left. Most were absolutely obliterated with only foam left on seat bottoms. Dashboards were cracked beyond what I thought was possible and arm rests looked more like medieval torture devices for elbows. A quick search through online ads confirmed that most were in similar condition even if a seller was asking actual money for one.

And as you do when buying any car I started noticing more TLs on the road and I notice most are being piloted at Altima levels of speed and carelessness. They are pretty powerful cars and have drive trains that can take some abuse. And since many are now on their 7th or 8th owners and aren’t worth much since they also likely have 200k miles or more, the owners who probably have no insurance are yolo-ing to wherever they are going with no regard for their car, others, or ultimately themselves. It’s a recipe for automotive extinction.

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15 Responses to QotW: What’s the best gift for a car enthusiast?

  1. Taylor C. says:

    As someone who used to be so into Tamiya, I couldn’t agree more on model cars. However, if you get someone the model car, you’ll have to buy the paints and glues and brushes for him / her as well; most of the models aren’t painted. That was my pet peeve, having to clean up the paint brushes after each session. I had oil-based Testors paint (couldn’t find Tamiya water-based paint in my area) and was constantly sniffing thinner when it was time to clean up the brushes. I even focused on going through the entire instructions one color at a time, but the cleanup was just tedious. I’ve built a number of models when I was a kid, up to college. In college I focused a lot on bicycles, and after grad school and buying my first car, my interests changed and the output sure went downhill. I still bought models, but never had a chance to build them up. The paint and cleanup makes me cringe. It’s almost like I’m hoarding / collecting the model sets: (R34 GT-R, Honda Prelude, 300ZX, Hiace, Eunos Roadster). I try to collect models of cars I own or would like to own.

    I’ve recently come across the “UGears” Wooden Marble Run set. It’s pretty satisfying; no paint, and very mechanically involved, and shorter time to reach finished product. I guess it’s the world we live in onow, “hurrying up.”

  2. Nigel says:

    Back when we where in our twenty’s my wife got me winter tires for my 83′ Tercel. (Coolest I ever got in my opinion).

  3. Fred Langille says:

    The recent commercial on an electric Hyundai Ioniq was the best … the couple’s parents gave them a gas card which they soon regifted. Works for me!

  4. 555jay says:

    Generically: a proper JIS screwdriver. I spent waaaay too long not understanding why every time I picked up my phillips #2 driver it was like playing round-out roulette, though I did clue in over time that the screwdriver that came in the car’s toolkit was ‘magic’ somehow.

    Specifically: this year I picked up for myself one of the more basic Vessel ball-end driver sets, and it quickly became my overall favorite. Not only does it ‘just fit’ every screw head on my car, the ball handle is very nice to work with in fiddley orientations.

    I’d be so excited to gift one to any of my friends. Instant quality-of-garage-life improvement.

  5. Alan says:

    Tools. Japanese tools. Glorious, polished, sexy, durable, useful, hand-downable, low-backdrag, high-tooth-count, off-the-charts-quality tools from KTC, Nepros, Ko-Ken, Tone, JDM Makita etc.

    Nothing as satisfying as working on your Toyota with a set of Kyoto Tool Company wrenches, the same company who supplies the company with OEM toolkit and even many production line hand tools.

    Beware the rabbit hole – Fap-Off is not the best, and the lie of “relatively affordable” Japanese tools will murder your wallet quick if you fall into the trap of parlaying your savings into more tools.

  6. エーイダン says:

    Motivation, money and beer.

  7. Jonathan P. says:

    Die casts are nice, like the big Maistos. Hot wheels and Matchbox are good, too.
    Tires would be another, more expensive option, but usually best when tires are needed.
    A good gag, yet practical gift for the grease monkey of the house would be a 10mm tool kit, it’s just a bunch of 10mm sockets and/or wrenches. There are some kits out there where it’s just 10mm tools.

    • CycoPablo says:

      +1 for die casts, also aligns with the instant gratification imperative most of us have these days.
      Kits…love em but we all know the time, expense and effort needed to get those just right!

  8. Jim Klein says:

    Every real car enthusiast needs a designer set of Rose-tinted glasses, the better to reminisce about the old cars they never should have let go that were all perfect all the time without any foibles, and in the case that mechanical disaster did strike them it was always completely obvious what was wrong without consulting some computer and they magically seemed to practically heal themselves with nothing more than a gentle tightening of a few random 10mm bolts under the hood.

  9. f31roger says:

    Best gift is helping them work on a project car that they lost motivation on!

    That is how I feel. Giving someone motivation and support I feel goes a long way. I’ve been always annoyed with my project car status because the people/companies I decided to work with… but moving on and having friends help you out has done so much for me.

    In the case of my Project Car’s full built RB25det…

    @Ben, Recently Aoshima did a re-issue of an older F31 model with a blister kit… while it is kaido racer instead of VIP (original), it’s just cool to see the box art. That too had gotten me back into scale models (on top of small projects for my M30s).

    I was afraid of working on the older one because the price of older scale models has tripled.

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