The Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide For The Human Driver
Editor-at-Large Alex Roy chooses everything from Legos to radar detectors to stabilized binoculars—to his own book.
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Gifts. I love them. Receiving more than giving. When people say It is better to give than to receive, they are lying. It is way better to receive than to give, especially if one didn't do any giving at all. For those who must give, like I with my newborn, it is important to be creative. I don't mean expensive. I mean creative. Let Gwyneth Paltrow smother her kids with $1000 charcoal-activated blankets. Me? I just stick a $10 blanket on the BBQ for a few minutes. The latest ones are fireproof, so a little grilling works just fine if you're on a budget.
What to get for the human driving enthusiast in your family?
Here's my list for 2018, ranging from reasonably priced to you better really love this person. Here goes:
1. LEGO Technic Bucket Wheel Excavator Construction Toy
This thing is obviously awesome. What is it? It's the Lego version of the Bagger 288, Germany's terrain chomping mega-machine, which looks like this:
I'd say the Lego set is damn close, which is why you should buy one right now. Yeah, yeah, Legos cost real money, but they last. I still have the Lego Technic F1 car I bought 25+ years ago. Take 'em apart and give them to the next generation. Just don't mix and match parts from different sets. You'll never get the sets properly separated again.
If you don't appreciate big iron, you can never go wrong with something like this:
2. LEGO Porsche 911 GT3RS
Before you click buy, note that there are two different LEGO Porsche 911 GT3RS play sets. There's the GT3RS alone and then there's the Collector's Edition that comes with a coffee table book. Is the coffee table book worth it? That depends on you.
3. Porsche Flat-Six Boxer Engine Model Kit
Model kits aren't dead. They're back and better than ever, especially if they're from Franzis, who make models of the coolest engines. Who among us doesn't want to build a Porsche Flat-Six? Now you can.
Want something a little smaller? Here's a diecast model of one of my favorite cars of all time...
4. 1973 Ford Falcon XB "Last of the V8 Interceptors"
The high water mark of badass movie cars from the most badass car movie of all time, you can own this 1:18 scale die cast Ford Falcon XB for only $51.27. Do you even realize how good a gift this is value wise? This is the Mad Max car. The Road Warrior car. The Beyond Thunderdome car. The Fury Road car.
5. Consider Phlebas
Are you worried about AI? This is my favorite hard sci-fi depiction of AI, written by Iain M. Banks, Elon Musk's favorite sci-fi author. Dense, brilliant, and jam-packed full of cultural commentary, this is a must read. Did I say space warfare? Banks' space warfare makes Star Trek and Star Wars look like checkers, played by kids, for kids.
(Why didn't I recommend Banks' even better Excession? Because it's not available on Kindle. Still reading paperbacks? Then buy Excession too, but make sure to read Consider Phlebas first!)
6. The Perfect Mile
How did Dave Maher and I break the Cannonball Run record, 7 years after Brock Yates said it was impossible? Because of Roger Bannister, the first man to break the four-minute mile. How did he do it? Bannister wasn't necessarily the best runner, but he combined force of will with deep planning, serious intellect and a fresh approach. The Perfect Mile is the guide for anyone who wants to do anything "experts" say is impossible.
8. Fly By Wire
This isn't a car book, but if you're into cars and want to know what the true future of human driving is going to look like, you want to understand how and why Sully Sullenberger executed The Miracle On The Hudson. The brilliant Fly By Wire doesn't just tell Sully's story, but the story of how Airbus created Flight Envelope Protections and changed commercial aviation forever. I found the Airbus half even more powerful and fascinating than Sully's story, with numerous crazy deep dives into plane crashes whose details were barely known until this book.
9. The Driver
This is the second best book ever written about Cannonballing. What's the first? Brock Yates' Cannonball! Why didn't I put his book above my own? Because Yates' doesn't tell you much about how one might do it today. The Driver? It's as close as you're going to get to what modern Cannonball Run attempts are like.
10. Escort Max360 or Max360c Radar Detector
What's the best standalone radar detector on the market today? I use an Escort Max360c, the wifi enabled version of the Max360. You don't have to trust me, but I have set four Cannonball driving records using it, and it's the favorite of most of the serious endurance drivers I know. The standard Max360 is under $500. The Max360c runs about $150 more. Expensive? Yes. But pinching pennies for a garbage detector is pointless. Tickets are expensive. Attorneys are expensive. A great detector pays for itself over many years. Why get the 360c over the 360? One less dongle and connection hassle for the updates you want and need. Either way, this is the detector to get.
11. Fujinon Techno Stabi Image Stabilized Binoculars
Do you want to drive really fast and never get caught? If so, you need two things: 1) a pair of Fujinon Techno Stabi TS1440-14x40 Image Stabilization Binoculars, and 2) a friend to hold them while you drive 120mph all day long. Night? That's another issue. Either way, this is the professional Cannonballers choice. I can't guarantee you'll spot cops 100% of the time, but if you're co-driver only spots them 99% of the time, you might make it cross country without going to jail. Buy these bad boys
now. Oh, did I mention they're under $1000? Yup. But they're a lot cheaper than a year in jail.
12. Fratelli Orsini and Donnington Leather Driving Gloves
Unless one drives a 3-wheeler like a Morgan or Vanderhall, or one races professionally, driving gloves are unnecessary. Ergo, they are great gifts, because they make anyone who casually leaves a pair lying around look badass. Unless you know precisely what kind of pro gloves your loved one may want or need, buy them something else. Pro racing gloves need to be fireproof, and most drivers are very particular about fit and feel. Anything else can be left on a bar or dining table for no damn good reason, which is the point.
My favorites? Gloves that can't mistaken for anything but Driving Gloves. I love these Fratelli Orsini women's gloves (above).
Oh, looking for men's gloves? I wear these:
13. Ray-Ban Aviators
Guess what everyone cool wore in the seventies? Ray-Ban Aviators. Guess what I wear every day and own in 6 six colors? Ray-Ban Aviators. I wear pink dawn, dusk and indoors. Yellow is for driving at night, but only while driving. At night. Wearing yellow glasses any other time is creepy. Pink, on the other hand, is always cool, and an amazing conversation starter. Are those rose-colored glasses? People always ask. No, I say, they're pink. Try them on. Look like every action hero of the seventies, or me. Buy rose-colored glasses. Buy yellow driving glasses. They're unisex, and I recommend the large ones.
14. Polizei 144 Jacket
Wear what the German Highway Patrol wore back in the 60's, just like I did back in my Gumball 3000 and Bullrun Rally days. These Autobahn Polizei jackets are what made my team famous, long before we started setting records around the world. Swap your patches out for (almost) any country and unit. Men's come in black. Women's in black, brown and white. From $300 up. Buy now.
15. Human Driving Association Tees
Don't let self-driving cars take over without a fight. The Human Driving Association has a wide variety of awesome Tees that let everyone know they won't be able to take your steering wheel from you. Choose yours now.
Alex Roy is founder of Geotegic Consulting and the Human Driving Association; editor-at-large at The Drive; host of The Autonocast; co-host of /DRIVE on NBC Sports; and author of The Driver. He has set numerous endurance driving records, including the infamous Cannonball Run record. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.