Around the holidays, dozens of “Best car guy/gal gifts” articles appear… just in time for requests for wish lists from the significant other and parents. The articles I find are always full of car wax, leather motoring gloves, car themed desk clocks, and other crap that we don’t actually want or need. None of these lists seem to be written by actual car people, more like online marketers who think they know which high margin junk a car person may want. This list is basically my own Christmas – Father’s Day – Birthday list, so if you’re trying to fill your own, or maybe you’re shopping for a Racer/HPDE driver… read on.
Items are marked with $ “Least Expensive (a gift in the 1-$10 range), $$ Relatively Cheap (10-$40 range), $$$ Decent Sized Gift ($40-100), and $$$$ Big Budget Gift ($100+).
35: Track decals: $ Least expensive:
For people who do track days and racing, track decals act like little badges of honor, for all the tracks you’ve been on. (Sorry, all those people running around with Nordschleife decals on their cars, that doesn’t count). Around $4 each, they’re relatively inexpensive and can look cool on your car, truck, helmet, etc.
www.trackdecals.com has been my source for track decals.
34: Photos of their cars on track: $-$$$ Range of cost
Windshadow Photo Studios photographs most of the track days I attend. Mike takes absolutely breathtaking photos. If I had the budget for it, I would buy everything with a hint of my car in it, but then I’d have no money left for racing. I purchase photos when I can, but would love to have some more, I expect any one else who does Track Days or racing feels the same way.
33: Trackday GiftCards: $-$$$$ Cheap through expensive:
Track day entry fees are a HUGE part of most people’s budget. If you have a budget friendly car, they will be your largest expense. While a $250-300 track day may not be in most people’s gifting budget, many clubs sell gift cards in multiple denominations so they can get you $25, $50, $100 to put towards your next entry fee.
32: Tire Marking Crayons: $ Least expensive
Years ago, I bought myself a tire crayon to help eat the last few dollars of a gift card. It has become an incredibly helpful tool, I’ve broken up the remaining crayon into two halves so I can leave one in my trackbox and one near my tire machine. Since I’ve started running racing tires the ability to easily mark heat cycles, tire position, and even which set a tire belongs to has been invaluable. I even use it to mark wheel weight positioning when balancing wheels.
31: Driving/Racecraft/Car Building books: $$ Relatively Cheap
Racing books are great for killing time between track days or for the long cold offseason. They are a source of important knowledge for both driving and car prep.
The “To Win” series books are a bit dense, but offer great knowledge for folks who enjoy deep engineering discussions. Prepare to win, Tune to Win, Engineer to Win.
Ross Bentley’s “Speed Secrets” speed secrets books, and podcasts, and mailing lists are a very user-friendly read. He continues to expand his media portfolio offering knowledge on an increasingly wide array of topics.
Some other good titles to check out:
Toys For the Car:
30: Race mirror: $ Least expensive
Clip on Race mirrors may be a bit taboo. They may be more common in hardparked civics than at the track, but don’t count them out. I initially got a slightly larger mirror for my miata since the rollbar blocked much of my rear view. I was so happy with it, I kept it in for the entire time I owned the car, and the extra visibility gave me more confidence driving in traffic. (Just make sure it’s secured… the typical clip on mechanism may not hold up to the rigors of track use)
29: Camera Mounts: $ Least Expensive
If you don’t have a social media sharable video of your adventures on track, did it even really happen? Everyone is showing up with GoPros to get video of their track-day. There are many different places and ways to mount a video camera, perhaps a cheap kit can give another option. I personally gave some very exciting video from a camera almost at ground level under my front bumper and one mounted rearward on my back bumper. Name brand stuff can be very expensive, but I’ve had good luck with cheap knockoff mounts.
28: Hubs: $-$$$ Relatively cheap
Hubs on a miata are a general wear item. The stickier and wider your tire the quicker they go. They’ll often get some play after a single Spec Miata rain race. Most miata racers have a couple in the track box and a couple more in the garage. Whether you have a miata, or some other car… find that item(s) that fail wear out quickly and ask for one or a few. Dillon of EJ2 Track Rat will remind me that Honda people better have a pile of rebuilt OEM axles and distributors.
27: One Tire: $$$$ Big Budget Gift
Race tires aren’t cheap. Asking for a set of tires may be excessive… but why not ask for just one? Do you tow your car to the track? What about a spare trailer tire?
26: Brake Pads: $$$$ Big Budget Gift
Pads are something else we wear out constantly. Depending on your car, you may be able to get pad within someone’s gifting budget.
25: Brake Rotors: $-$$$ Wide range in price depending on car
I replace my rotors about once a year… While it is certainly not the case for all cars, the cheapest ones you can find have been fine for me, and a full set comes in well under $100.
24: Lug nuts: $$ Relatively Cheap
Lug nuts are one of those things you may not think of until you have a problem. I replace mine occasionally, and always keep an extra set in the trackbox.
23: Oil: $$ Relatively Cheap
Service intervals are obviously way shorter for hard run track cars. Some people like running expensive race oils, I’ve run Rotella Diesel oil for years without noticing any problems.
22: Brake Fluid: $$ Relatively Cheap
While I personally feel like the internet has exaggerated how fragile DOT4 brake fluid is, I still try to keep some on hand for quick bleeds and do a full flush annually. It’s tough stuff to find locally so having at least an extra liter on hand can keep you out of trouble. Once a can of DOT4 has been opened over 2 years or so, it’s time to ross it.
21: Gloves: $$-$$$ Affordable to pricey
I don’t know that I’d want embroidered “BMW Motoring gloves” but a fresh set of Nomex racing gloves could be a great gift. Even gloves that are made for driving, but not specifically nomex or rated may be good for HPDE.
20: Shoes: $$-$$$ Affordable to pricey
There are several options for Trackday shoes. Everyday shoes like Converse Chuck Taylors, Adidas Sambas are a couple favorites. Race shoe manufacturers also offer more affordable non-fire rated “trackday” shoes. You also have the option for using fireproof racing related shoes for Track Days such as Racequip and G-Force shoes. Even when not required in HPDE, wearing full race shoes offers an extra bit of safety and very good pedal feel.
19: Nomex Underwear/Socks/Balaclava: $$$-$$$$ Decent sized gift to pricey.
I spoke a bit about the not-required but wise idea for racers to wear Nomex underwear under their suits in The Budget Safety Gear YOU need for Track Days and Racing: Post 31. If the person you are shopping for races or regularly wears a racing suit when they go on track, getting some Nomex underwear may be a good idea. Even if not, a nomex balaclava offers extra protection under a helmet and helps keeps the helmet a little less gross.
18: New Helmet Visors: $$$ Decent sized gift
Helmet visors seem like a great gift. It’s #1 on my list this year. There are many options for various preferences and weather conditions (clear, tinted, amber, chrome, etc), plus it may just be nice to replace a visor with a pesky scratch right in your field of vision. Make sure you know the exact helmet you or the person you’re buying for has.
17: Radio System: $-$$$ Range, depending how many components you get
In two earlier posts I discuss why radios are helpful on track: 6 Reasons why race radios are worth the money: Post 12 and what specific components you need to buy for a super cheap, working system: How to build a Budget friendly race radio setup – 9 Essential pieces: Post 12.5
In short, race radios can get you a big competitive advantage, add to the fun of track days, and don’t cost NEARLY as much as the $1,000 name-brand systems you see. I got mine together for around $150.
16: Harbor Freight Tools Giftcard: $-$$$$ As little or as much as you want.
Some people scoff at getting gift cards as gifts. But A) Most people suck at gift giving, and B) Most people don’t have time to get good gifts. Harbor freight sells hordes of cheap tools. Many are of questionable quality, but most do the job just fine and will last plenty long enough for the hobbyist shade-tree mechanic. Mechanics are also a fan of their cheap tools when they don’t wish to bring their expensive professional quality stuff to the track.
15: Torque wrench: $$ Relatively Cheap.
Not all torque wrenches are created equal, If you’re torquing bolts on a nuclear reactor or space shuttle, you want exceptional quality (and expense). If you are torquing lug nuts on your racecar for the thousandth time, the reasonable accuracy of a Harbor Freight torque wrench will do just fine. Even if someone already has one, a second torque wrench could be kept in the trunk for track duty.
14: Tire Pressure Gauge: $$ Relatively Cheap.
Most people constantly monitor, test, and tweak tire pressures throughout a track weekend. Just like a torque wrench, even if they already have one, or two decent tire pressure gauges, an extra is still worthwhile.
13: Harbor Freight (Pittsburgh Automotive) Jack: $$$ Decent Sized Gift.
I’ve always been a fan of my Harbor Freight Jacks. My 15 year old 2.5 ton aluminum racing jack is still going strong, and my 5 year old 1.5 ton is still doing just fine… even though they cost a fraction of the “name brand” jacks. I was also entertained to see plenty of Pittsburg Automotive (HF store brand) jacks in the IMSA professional racing paddock. The 1.5 ton is often on sale for under $65 during the holidays.
12: Jack stands: $$ Relatively Cheap
You can never have too many Jack Stands. You may only use ALL of them once a year, but that one day they are very important. Small Stands, Large Stands, Multiple Sets (You may need to work on the tow vehicle when the racecar is on stands in the garage), etc. I’m a big fan of the ratchet-style, over the pin.
Jack stands don’t wear out, even picking up a set for someone at a garage sale isn’t a bad thing.
11: 10mm wrenches and sockets: $-$$ Affordable Gifts
If you spend time on social media, you’ve probably seen the flood of 10mm jokes. 10mm bolts and nuts are the most common size on most automobiles, so naturally the sockets and wrenches will get lost the most. You literally cannot have too many 10mm’s. Sockets, Wrenches, odd size wrenches, etc.
10: Other misc wrenches (IE 8mm for brake bleeder): $-$$ Affordable Gifts.
While 10mm is the most popular overall, specific cars often have a sizes common in their specific car. 8mm is a common brake bleeder valve size, so 8mm wrenches are a good idea. Nearly every suspension and brake bolt on my Miata is 14 or 17mm, so I have a few extras of those as well.
9: Windshield repair kit: $ Cheap Gifts.
Driving in close proximity to cars at high speed increases the risk of windshield chips from debris. If someone participates in Wheel-To-Wheel racing, extreme proximity and liberal definition of “racing surface” virtually guarantees windshield chips from rocks, parts, etc. My last race at New Jersey Motorsports Park left me with 3 large windshield chips. Instead of letting them obscure my vision until they spread to full cracks, I’ve been using cheap windshield repair kits. Kits are less than $10 with some great deals when buying 2-3 at a time.
8: Tool Tote Bags: $$ Affordable Gifts.
Most of us are not rolling giant tool boxes into massive trailers for weekends at the track. Instead, we stuff the tools we hope we won’t need into bags or small boxes.
7: Vinyl Cutter: $$$$ Big Budget Gift
Track cars are constantly doing, adding, and changing the vinyl decals on their cars. Some people ask friends, some buy everything custom made online. A home vinyl cutting machine could be a nice way to eliminate the middleman and simplify the whole process.
6: Fuel Jugs: $$ Relatively Cheap
The 5 gallon Walmart fuel jug you have to fill your lawn mower is the worst. Trust me, the extra cost of a racing jug is worth every penny. They are way less likely to spill and flow way faster than conventional jugs (Wait, why do “no spill” fuel jugs seem to spill way more fuel?)
5: Bike/Scooter: $-$$$$ Full Range of cost
Race Paddocks are huge areas, and the typical day involves a lot of walking around between driving sessions. At a track weekend you will see a full range of paddock vehicles including Bicycles, Electric Scooters, Segways, Minibikes, Quads, and even Golf Carts. Whether someone drives their Miata to the track, or pulls a 36 foot enclosed trailer… there is some form of paddock transportation that will work for them.
A cheap example is to give someone a bicycle you have behind your house. A super expensive example is something like a Swag Cycle
4: Small Folding Table: $$ Relatively Cheap
I brought a folding table to the track nearly accidentally, but instantly realized just how useful they are. A light, folding table is great for any paddock space (provided they have a trailer or car big enough to get it there easily).
3: Camping Chairs: $$ Relatively Cheap
You cannot have too many camping chairs. They rip, they get lost, etc. The more chairs you have, the more friends you can have.
2: EZ up CanopyTent: $$-$$$ Relatively Cheap to Decent Sized Gift.
Shade is good. Protection from rain is good. Track days are physically exerting enough and having a shady spot to rest, protected from potential rain helps eliminate an extra stressor on an already intense weekend. Plus, like more chairs… you’ll have more friends if you have a comfortable paddock area.
1: Battery Bank/Small Solar Charger for Phone: $-$$ Cheap to Relatively Cheap.
Some tracks have decent electrical access, but many are a wasteland. In order to keep out phones and other (growing list of required) electronics running over what are sometimes 3 or 4 day weekends… some charging source is required. Sometimes a simple extra battery works, but even something like a small solar charger could help keep a phone going.
Stay tuned for part 2 coming this fall!
Even more gift ideas from small budgets to large!
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