Every Father's Day brings with it the challenge of finding the father(s) in your life the right gift(s). It's particularly tough finding the right gift for the car-obsessed dad because, well, car stuff isn't cheap. And the cheap car stuff that's out there is often so cheesy it's an embarrassment to give. After all, is your dad really going to wear a tie covered with vintage Mopar muscle cars to work? Does Dad really need another sign that asserts that his garage is for Porsche/Ford/Fiat/Yugo/Lada/Buick/Panoz parking only? Come on. Even if he rolls cornballs every time he opens his mouth, he's sick of that.
So through careful research involving brutal, supercharged data mining of the worldwide Web, here are 19 car-related gift ideas priced at around $50 (or less) for the gearhead dad that aren't totally embarrassing. Or at least they're only mildly cheesy. Or so cheesy they're kind of cool...if you apply enough irony.
That's 19 gifts for 19 different kinds of car dads.
The Anal-Retentive Garage Dad
Does your dad's garage always seem to have been scrubbed clean for surgery? Do his tools hang on peg boards with little outlines drawn on for every wrench, screwdriver and detailing toothbrush? Then the Tire Garage from The Tire Rack is just what he's always wanted: a cozy for his extra rubber.
Made of the same weatherproof material as boat covers, the Tire Garage can cover a stack of four tires up to 40 inches tall. It cleans off easily, protects the tires from UV exposure and if there are spider colonies growing inside the tires, at least you don't need to see them. And the cost is only $49.95 through the Tire Rack's Web site.
The Dad Who Never Grows Up
Back in 1968 an entire generation of boys was caught in the marketing onslaught that came with the introduction of Mattel's Hot Wheels cars. And today, 45 years later, there are plenty of those 49-55-year-old boys who still collect and, yes, play with these speedy miniatures. Hey, it's too late to demand that they grow up.
So head to Mattel's Hot Wheels Web site and order up this jumbo box packed with a staggering 50 cars inside. That's $54.99 for an assortment of 50 new and vintage Hot Wheels designs presented in a box that is itself suitable for itty-bitty vehicle storage.
The Android Addict Dad
If there's a dad left on Earth who isn't addicted to his smartphone, he soon will be. And if that phone runs Google's Android operating system, he will positively plotz over Cobra's JoyRide system for optimizing its usefulness when car-borne.
Besides being a charger for the Android phone, the JoyRide features a single button that when depressed puts the phone in a customizable "driving mode" that may (or may not) include bouncing among various usable apps, controlling music playback, engaging voice command systems or just flashing pretty colors. Beyond that, the JoyRide also has a car finder feature that automatically records where Dad parked his car through GPS... and gives him walking directions back to the car. Awesome.
The Dukes Dad
Its musical horns that play Dixie just like the General Lee did on The Dukes of Hazzard. It's the perfect gift for the dad who loves the Dukes and just this year achieved tenure in Harvard's School of Engineering & Applied Sciences.
The horns are available through, duh, the J.C. Whitney catalog. And they're only $61.07.
The Artsy-Fartsy Dad
There's no accounting for taste, but you can buy art pretty cheaply. Not every painting featuring a car is a sophisticated and subtle masterpiece, but if it's the sort of thing that knocks Dad's knackers, go for it. Fine Art America lists more than 10,000 different car paintings on its Web site and sells prints for usually between $15 and $30.
The Absent-Minded iPhone Dad
Apple offers an app called "Find iPhone" that allows the tracking of various Mac and IOS devices from other Mac and IOS devices. Now Scoshe offers essentially that same service for anything to which this doohickey can be attached. You know, like teacups, luggage and yes, key rings.
Optimized to work with the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5, the Scoshe FoundIt uses Bluetooth technology to locate items up to 100 feet away. That's perfect for keys that are somewhere in Dad's house, even if he doesn't quite know where that somewhere may be. A set of two key fobs and the accompanying app is $49.95.
The "Life Is Corvette" Dad
Chances are you can't afford to get your dad a new C7 Corvette even if you start saving right now. But you can get him a T-shirt from Mid America Motorworks with the new C7 logo emblazoned upon it. And with any luck, that ought to be enough to keep him from emptying your college savings account and buying the C7 in a few months.
The shirts start at $18.99 and run up to a size 3XL. So even if Dad won't fit in the Corvette, he will still fit in one of these shirts.
The Porsche Dad Who Reads
As every automotive Web site, magazine, TV show, radio show and newsletter has let you know, the Porsche 911 is about to complete its 50th year of continuous production. And the book from which most of us car writers will be swiping our information for all those stories is Randy Leffingwell's The Complete Book of Porsche 911: Every Model Since 1964. It's beautifully photographed, authoritatively researched and really heavy, so it makes a big thud when Dad drops it.
And yet despite that substantial heft, it's only $30.42 through Amazon.com. But if that's too rich, you can save 47 cents and get it directly through Motorbooks International for $29.95.
The Dad Who Always Wanted To Wear John Lingenfelter's Pants
John Lingenfelter was one of the greatest tuners of American cars ever to turn a wrench. Those of us who were lucky enough to drive the Corvettes he tweaked in the 1990s will never forget their balanced performance and overall excellence. But Lingenfelter's magic touch (his business continues today though he died in a 2003 drag racing accident) was never cheap. But at $32.95 these Lingenfelter logo flannel pants are affordable and kind of stylish.
And Dad can put these pants on exactly the same way John Lingenfelter put his on: one leg at a time.
The Dad With a Ford Older Than He Is
If your dad is still futzing with some old Ford in the garage, here's a chance to get him what you don't know he wants. It's a gift certificate to Mac's Antique Auto Parts in Lockport, New York. And the wicked deal here is that whatever size gift certificate you buy your pappy will be super-sized by 10 percent: so a $20 certificate specs out at $22, a $50 one goes up to $55 and a $1,000,000 chit hits all the way up $1,100,000.
Mac's covers most collectible Fords from the Model T through 1972 passenger cars.
The Dad Who Demands Documentation
If your father's obsession is a GM product built since the mid-1970s, then he'll want a copy of its original invoice. And it's obtainable through the GM Media Archive for $50. The archive also offers build sheets for most Cadillacs and other vehicle documentation at the same price. It's not cheap for a couple pieces of paper, but the information on that paper can be invaluable. Or at least it's cool to have.
The Dad With Really Nice Dress Shirts
There are some dads who have style. You know, the sort of classic style that has them wearing dress shirts that still look great when finished with a set of silver Porsche crest cufflinks. Look, we're recommending T-shirts a couple times here, so forgive us for trying to class things up a bit.
Offered by The Purple Armadillo through an Amazon.com storefront, these cufflinks are $49.95. If Pops owns a Porsche, these are a sort-of-classy way of telling the world he does. If he doesn't own a Porsche, then what's he doing wearing such fancy shirts?
The Dad Who Thinks He's as Cool as Steve McQueen
As a drama, Steve McQueen's 1971 passion project Le Mans is not a great movie. But as a record of how incredibly freaking awesome endurance racing was back then, it's a spine-rattling blast. And it has never looked better than it does in this Blu-Ray version: a top-quality transfer that's not merely a warmed-over version of the DVD. And it's only $17.72 through Amazon.com.
The Dad Who Likes Looking at His Toes
Alpinestars builds all sorts of really expensive fire suits and they're so stylish that the Stig wears one on Top Gear. But it also makes these $20 flip-flops that you can actually afford to give to your father. They're super-stylish, too, as long as your dad has a nice pedicure and no one ever looks up above his ankles.
The Dad Who Is All Thumbs
USB-based thumb drives are so common that your dad likely can't keep track of which one is his. So how about this 4GB flash memory drive that looks like a tiny Audi R8? That's Quattro gigs. Get it? Quattro means four... and do I have to push each joke this hard? The drive is $49 through the Audi Collection.
The Dad Who Works With Sharp Objects
Rusty body panels, oily surfaces and sharp tools are all out to ruin your father's hands. So the next best thing to hiring someone else to do the work and take all that risk is a set of hard-core work gloves. The MRT 0.5 M-Pact Glove from Mechanix Wear uses a honeycomb exoskeleton to provide protection combined with 0.5mm dimpled "Clarino Septon" finger surfaces and foam panels on the palm for even more protection. They're good-looking, too, and $44.95 through Mechanix Wear.
Meanwhile, Clarino Septon is playing and singing your favorite piano tunes nightly at the Stardust Lounge & Supper Club in Plano, Texas. Where there's never a cover charge!
The International Jet-Setter Dad
Suave and always perfectly coiffed, your dad is the type of guy who cares about how he presents his travel documents when jetting off to calm an international crisis. So he needs this black leather BMW Passport Wallet, no matter which of his several passports he's using. It's $46.80 through BMW's online store.
The Dad Who Dreams of Going to the United States Grand Prix
Hey, not all of us will make it to the next United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas outside of Austin, Texas. But your dad can fake it pretty good with any of the T-shirts for sale at the Circuit of the Americas online store. Prices start at $25.
The Dad Who Hates To Squint
Impact Racing is the company that builds the HANS device that's saved dozens of lives in racing by protecting the head and spine of drivers. The company also makes helmets and lots of other racing safety stuff. But when it comes to looking good while protecting your dad's eyes, it's Impact's line of sunglasses that rises to the occasion. This pair, called the Redline, is $49.95 through Impact Racing and features G-15 polarized lenses in a TR-90 polymer frame. And we all know what a huge leap forward the TR-90 polymer was over that crummy TR-89 stuff.