Having a petrolhead in your life makes buying Christmas presents very easy.
If they’re anything like me then they will spend far too much time browsing the Internet gazing at stuff they either can’t afford or feel too guilty to buy because our hobbies are, by definition, discretionary and the money we’d like to spend on them is often better spent on more pressing matters like paying the gas bill, buying school uniforms, or taking our loved ones out for dinner as an apology for spending every evening in the garage…
This means that there are easy brownie points on offer when it comes to choosing their Christmas presents - and we shouldn’t ever turn down the chance to earn some of those, should we?
Build Your Own Drone
The days of tinkering with your new car are just about over, a sad state of affairs that forced Haynes to look for alternative subjects to cover now that we can’t spend a Sunday morning fettling our carburettors armed with nothing more than a screwdriver, the appropriate Haynes manual, and more optimism than skill…
They’ve done a terrific job of reinventing themselves and their catalogue is stuffed full of quirky titles like the Ferrari Engines Enthusiasts’ Manual, the Supermarine Rolls-Royce S6B Manual, and even a knitting guide aimed squarely at the chap in your life.
But the one that caught my eye is the Build Your Own Drone manual (£22.99). It’s packed full of advice on how to build and fly your own drone, as well as a round-up of current legislation. If the love of your life has ever build an Airfix model then the chances are they’d love to build their own drone.
All about drones
Car shampoo and polish
No, I’m not talking about the usual Halfords gift pack for a tenner. While that might be fine for a quick splash ‘n’ dash, the chances are that the motoring enthusiast in your life lavishes more time and money on protecting their car’s bodywork than they do their own.
Which usually means smearing carnauba wax on the paintwork of their latest toy, and while the obsessives warm the wax in their bare hands before lovingly stroking it on (think the pottery making scene in Ghost but without the erotic overtones) the rest of us are happy to use a microfibre cloth.
Yet the thing I love about this kit is that the car can be left to drip-dry after shampooing it; we might have minor OCD when it comes to keeping our cars looking good but that doesn’t stop us enjoying a shortcut now and then.
The kit, which comprises a tin of 65% carnauba wax, a 1lt bottle of smear-free carnauba shampoo, and a cloth, costs £44.99 direct from Frost. Yes, that’s bit more than the gift packs you’ll find on the shelves of your local supermarket but it’ll be worth it when you see their eyes light up on Christmas morning.
Then they will probably disappear into the garage on Boxing Day, which might just be a blessing if your family Christmases are anything like mine…
Seven tips to get your car properly clean
A new socket set
You can never have too many tools, and this 200-piece socket set from Halfords should quell any tool envy they’re experiencing.
A large part of its appeal is that it comes in a black finish, rather than the usual shiny chrome; this might not mean anything to you but to the sort of gearheads that spend their evenings perusing tool catalogues, an unusual finish is something to show our mates. (And yes, I reckon about half of all tools are bought with the sole intention of impressing other people rather than for serious work…)
It’s half-price until Christmas too, reduced from £370 to a bargain £185. Like all the tools in Halfords’ Professional range it comes with a no-quibble lifetime guarantee, so if they do manage to break anything - unlikely, given how well made everything in the range is - they’ll get a replacement free of charge for as long as they own it.
The ultimate dashcam
If your other half has been especially good this year then you might like to consider getting them what I think is the ultimate dashcam.
The BlackVue DR900S not only features full 4K recording, incredible low-light performance, and a wide-angle, 162-degree field of view, it also be viewed remotely via BlackVue’s Over The Cloud service. This is a great feature that not only lets you see what the camera sees in real time but also allows you to share footage with the police and your insurance company if you have a bump.
The basic DR900S-1CH costs around £340 from Amazon, while the two-channel DR900S-2CH, which includes a rearwards-facing camera, costs around £100 more.
Should you install a dash cam?
King Dick tools
Founded in 1856, King Dick still makes its spanners in Birmingham, making it the only remaining manufacturer of its kind in the United Kingdom.
Its tools are absolutely top-notch and a joy to hold; yes, they’re a bit more expensive than the sort of tat you can buy on eBay (although a five-piece set of AF combination spanners costs just £21.64…) but they will last for several generations.
You can find a list of suppliers here - and anyone who is still giggling should come and see me afterwards.
Dog first aid kit
ProAdventure, my local outdoor shop, has just started stocking the AMK Trail Dog Medical Kit, which is a fancy name for a first aid kit that’s been put together to help pooch when he or she is in a fix.
I was initially a bit sceptical but I’m now a convert; ticks, for example, can be a real problem if left untreated, and this kit has everything you need to deal with them along with a host of other non-emergency medical problems. It comes in its own case and is just the sort of thing to keep in the car so you can deal with problems no matter where you are or when they arise.
It costs £34.99 and ProAdventure will post it to you via mail order and while the postage charge is reasonable, it is free if you spend over £100. Qualifying for free postage is easy to do even without my encouragement, but if you want me to lead you astray then why not take a look at these axes, this bottle opener, and this portable espresso maker…
Six tips for travelling with your dog in a car
A classic car experience
Midlands-based Great Escape Cars has one of the best, if not the best, classic car fleet in the business. Worth more than £300,000, they even have their own on-site workshop to service and fettle the cars to make sure they’re always in tip-top condition for their customers.
You can get behind the wheel of one of Great Escape’s many classic cars for as little as £39 but I’d recommend splashing out on one of their full day, multi-car road-trips.
Prices start at £149 per person, and you get to drive up to five cars from their extensive fleet, which includes cars as diverse as a Mini and a Porsche 911, by way of a Jaguar E-Type and an HMC Healey. I’ve done it and came away amazed at what good value it is. (If you’re wondering, my favourite car of the day was the Ford Capri 2.8i.)
Readers can get 20% off either the half or full-day road-trip by using the offer code SAGA20.
Six future classic cars
Digital tyre depth gauge
I’m a sucker for anything gadgety and they don’t come much more gadgety than a digital tyre depth gauge. Available for under a tenner from Amazon, this nifty little tool makes checking how much tread your tyres have left as easy as 1-2-3.
Just remember that while the legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm, you should really replace them once they are down to 3mm.
How to look after your tyres
You can never have too many t-shirts and Redbubble.com has dozens to choose from.
Being a grumpy old man, this long-sleeved shirt with a Kimi Räikkönen quote on the front caught my eye, if only because wearing it should stop people saying things like “you don’t want to do it like that”.
If time has taken its toll on your thatch, a good hat can mean the difference between driving your convertible car with the roof up or down when it’s chilly outside.
Greycar does a high-quality sheepskin flying helmet for under £90. You can choose between one with or without an extended neck, but if you’re worried about chills then what you really need is a silk scarf.
In this instance, the use of sheepskin gives a look that is more World War II than seventies’ used car salesman, but that’s okay because we’ve all dreamed about chasing down the Fokker in front of us, haven’t we?