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Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2010 09:13 pm

Gifts for gear heads

From a full-blown electric vehicle to a set of spark-plug cufflinks, auto enthusiasts will get a charge out of these car-crazy gifts.


A new Leaf: Nissan’s zero-emission electric car

Auto aficionados tend to be a breed apart from mere motorists. No, motor oil does not course through their veins, but their interest in all things vehicular runs much deeper than that of the average driver.

Tracking down gifts for a car-loving friend or relative can be a lot of fun. There are more nicely designed, imaginative products more widely available – from auto shops and tech stores to the finest jewelry counters in town. Here’s a look at a few gifts guaranteed to make their hearts race this holiday season.

The ultimate high-tech auto gizmo of the season has to be an electric car, like the stylishly aerodynamic Nissan Leaf. Delivering true “plug and play” operation with zero emissions, the Leaf promises as much as a 100-mile range on a charge. It includes Internet and smart phone connectivity and a navigation system that can show the location of nearby charging stations ($32,780. Pre-order through the factory at nissanusa.com).

A less costly gift for environmentally conscious auto buffs is the nifty car care kit from Green Earth Technologies. It consists of five eco-friendly products made from plant oils: organic glass cleaner, brake dust shield, hydrophobic car wash, tire shine and wheel cleaner ($20, auto, hardware and big box stores; getg.com). Motorists who want to maintain the showroom shine of their rides also will appreciate Meguiar’s complete care gift kit ($20, auto and hardware stores; meguiars.com)

Why not give an exotic sports car for a pittance? Upgrade his or her computer mouse with a racier model – a Porsche 911, to be exact. The Motormouse is a 2.4g wireless mouse that’s a strikingly detailed replica of the iconic coupe ($50, motormouse.us.com).

Get his wardrobe running: automotive cufflinks

Another gift sure to appeal to enthusiasts who can’t yet afford their dream cars is the Soundracer, which can make even an old beater at least sound like a Ferrari. The device plugs into a 12-volt power point and replicates the roar of a sports car engine through the car’s audio system via a built in FM transmitter. Soundracer works in perfect sync with the vehicle’s actual accelerations and decelerations ($40, auto accessory retailers, soundracer.se.)

Those who like to – literally – wear their affection for autos on their sleeves will enjoy a pair of car-themed cufflinks: charming miniature shift knobs, tires, spark plugs, dashboard gauges, headlamps and road signs ($45 to $425, department stores and cufflinks.com).

Leading the race to build a better travel mug is the aptly named Brugo, designed to eliminate spills and scalded lips. A “tip and cool” mode allows users to transfer small amounts of too-hot take-out beverages to a temperature-controlled chamber, where it cools down a gulp at a time ($15 to $20, coffee shops and specialty stores; brugomug.com)

Making driving safer and more convenient is the Belkin Tunebase with Hands-Free, which allows iPhone owners to conduct hands-free conversations through their car stereo systems. The “Direct” version ($70) connects through an auxiliary audio input jack (found on later model cars), while the “FM” model ($100) transmits to an unused FM radio station. It also streams music stored on an iPhone and allows users to charge up to two mobile devices while en route (electronics retailers; belkin.com)

Another hands-free calling adapter – this one using Bluetooth wireless connectivity – serves as a speaker phone, a personal safety device and a wireless “leash” to prevent motorists from losing their cell phones. ZOMM attaches to a keychain and will flash, vibrate and even sound an alarm if an owner walks away from his or her phone ($80, Best Buy; zomm.com).

Speed enthusiasts can document and share their vehicular adventures thanks to the GoPro HD Motorsports HERO camera. It mounts to a helmet or dashboard and records first-person high-definition video or a succession of still photos. It can store up to nine hours of footage on a 32GB SD memory card (not included). ($300, auto supply retailers; www.goprocamera.com)

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