News, music, movies & restaurants from the editors of the Silicon Valley's #1 weekly newspaper.
Serving San Jose, Palo Alto, Los Gatos, Campbell, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Fremont & nearby cities.

December 14-20, 2005

home | metro silicon valley index | columns | car culture


Car Culture

Gift List

Although Bill is invariably disappointed with my boring decision to give him socks and underwear, something from the boys at J.C. Whitney gets him excited

By Novella Carpenter

IT'S COMING. Can you feel it? The dizzying drumbeat of shopping mania. Maybe you find yourself thumbing madly through the Sur La Table or the REI catalog. You wonder if Grandma Jeannie needs a sock dryer or a child-safe chef's torch. Because I haven't left the States, as I usually try to do, I've been swept up into the frenzy myself. I almost get into car accidents window-shopping in traffic (who has time to actually shop?), I write lists and envision my relatives and friends' faces when they open the perfect gift. I've lost my mind. Keeping with this trend, I offer these strange and wondrous car-related gift possibilities.

Besides the JCPenney catalog, we also get one from another J.C.: J.C. Whitney, that is. Although Bill is invariably disappointed with my boring decision to give him socks and underwear, something from the boys at J.C. gets him excited. I'm trying to decide between the Garage-Pro air compressor ($49.95) that runs for five hours without needing a cool-down and the heavy-duty 1,170-piece nuts-and-bolts set ($94.99), which comes with mounting racks that will make everything more orderly.

There are some odd things offered, too. Like the Car Chip for paranoid parents. Car Chip pledges that "your kids may not tell you what they did with the car last night, but the Car Chip will!" The device clips below the steering wheel and logs data such as average speed, hard breaking and fast-acceleration events. Sneak that under the tree of a paranoid parent!

I just had to shake my head at the Wolf Whistle horn: "Wolf Whistle ... when you like what you see," the description reads, "Yeah, baby! This touch of nostalgia is sure to get smiles ... and maybe a few slaps!" And possibly some broken windows, too!

They make LEDs for cheap now, and Whitney sells them for odd places on your car, like on brake lights that rotate and flash every two seconds but aren't street legal ($15). Or there's an LED that runs along the bottom of a license-plate frame, so you can change your frame message to fit your mood ($99).

Who says motorheads aren't bookish? There's plenty of reading material on the shelves for these people. Sunday Money ($26), by Jeff MacGregor, tells a story that might appeal even to nonracing fans. Subtitled Speed! Lust! Madness! Death! A Hot Lap Around America, it's the hilarious story of a year on tour with NASCAR—the parking lots, the sunscreen, the 75 million screaming fans.

The gorgeous 60s Cars: Vintage Auto Ads ($10), published by Taschen, is pure eye candy. Covering the much brighter era of Detroit, this book will make American auto fans remember the good ol' days with a pang.

Only for total cheesemeisters, American Chopper ($50) attempts to cash in on the extremely popular television show with the same name. Set in Orange County, the book tells the story of a family of custom motorcycle makers. It is predictably enormous, black and faux-leather. Finally, in the book realm, I would recommend Hot-Rod Pinups ($35) to a few select gentlemen and women. Photographer David Perry captures a Betty Page meets junkyard meets R. Crumb aesthetic through his shots. The book manages to celebrate both the cars and the women with equal interest—gorgeous cars and women (check out those heels!).

Toy cars are the gateway to a lifetime of squandered resources and lead to a life of quiet traffic rage, but that won't stop parents from stuffing these into their dear ones' stockings. If you have to, buy Chub City toys ($10 and over). They have that homies vibe that I find appealing—if anything, at least cars have appeal across ethnic lines. Remote-controlled car choices include the Chrysler 300C, the Scion Xb, the Hummer, the Dodge Magnum, a no-name tow truck and a fire truck. All of the cars feature outlandishly enormous tires (and, of course, Spinner hub caps) and pimped-out paint jobs. Jada Toys makes a line of die-cast remote-control cars.

The list could go on and on, but this will get you started.

Send a letter to the editor about this story.

Novella Carpenter is a women not only obsessed with cars, but with protecting the environment. Her weekly column balances these two polar-opposite loves while providing handy tips and car-related news items.