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By Jim Kerr

It’s that time of the year again! A time when Christmas gift shopping involves harried trips to the mall, decisions on items that seem either too expensive or not meaningful enough. If you are like me, you find competing with the crowds at the malls is no fun. Here are some suggestions that will reduce your gift-buying frustrations and be appreciated by those that receive them.

Start by shopping where it is convenient: go to the local auto dealership and check out the display items at their parts department. A coffee mug with your recipient’s favourite car brand on it will be appreciated every time they fill it up. Check out the clothing too. Dealers often carry everything from t-shirts to custom designed jackets. A pair of thin leather driving gloves will be appreciated if you are getting a gift for a sports car owner.

Many drivers have a favourite car that may be one from their past or even a high-dollar exotic that they can’t afford. Instead of buying the real thing, highly detailed models are available for literally thousands of different car models and prices range from about $30 to over $200. I have several in the $30 range and appreciate every one.

Pictures or posters are great decorations for rumpus rooms, dens or garage workshops. So are some of the metal signs – “Porsche parking only” or “Genuine Ford Parts” are but a couple examples – that are easy to find. There are reproductions of many vintage automotive related products, from gas pumps to branded wall clocks. All add character to a special space.

If you are getting a gift for a “gear head” – you know the type, the one who loves to tinker in the shop – it can be very difficult to buy tools for them, but here are a few tool suggestions. A set of miniature screw drivers is useful for everything from instruments to eyeglasses and they don’t cost much. A magnifying glass may seem like an unusual gift, but it will be appreciated by enthusiasts who do fine work. Ratchet combination wrenches are one of those tools many don’t have, but once you use them it is hard to imagine not having them. They have an open end wrench at one end and a thin ratcheting box end at the other. They are available in metric and standard sizes. Tools like these can be found in many places. The local auto parts supplier carries many tools, but you can also find them at Canadian Tire, Sears and hardware stores like Home Depot.

Books are a favourite for those cold winter nights. One I am reading now and quite enjoying is Life is a Highway: A Century of Great Automotive Writing. This book is a collection of automotive related short stories and memorable experiences by many authors from the famous to the anonymous. You can also find books on everything automotive from repairing your car to the history of the automobile. A subscription to an automotive magazine may be another choice. You can order automotive books online at Motorbooks Publishing or look for them at your local bookstore.

Perhaps you like to put your own personal touch on your gifts. How about assembling an auto cleaning kit? A plastic pail, a soft sponge, some terry towel or microfibre drying cloths and a small bottle of car wash soap make an excellent gift. You can personalize it by attaching a keychain with the recipient’s name on it to the pail handle and tip it off with some ribbon or a bow. Other economical gifts include car wash tickets, a good snowbrush or a tire pressure gauge.

Perhaps you have a little more money to spend. If you travel, consider a portable navigation system. Garmin, Magellan and Tom Tom are but a few of the makes on the market. Friends who use them tell me they have saved many a marriage when a driver has a spouse (both make and female) who is navigationally challenged! Another great gift is a watch with a manufacturer’s logo on the face.

Gifts for people interested in automobiles don’t have to be difficult to find or buy. You don’t have to fight the mall crowds and you can choose to spend a little or a lot. And these gift suggestions are good for other times of the year as well – birthdays anyone?

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