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Feature Story


by Bob Hagin

December 12, 1997

The holiday season is almost here and it's possible that you haven't come up with a gift for that car enthusiast friend or relative. And although you've been inundated throughout the year with catalogs that hawk everything from fancy scanties to outdoor backpacks, it's possible you haven't made it onto the auto catalog mailing list - yet. I am on that list and as a public service, I've herein compiled a list of helpful and/or entertaining presents that can be obtained via a phone call and a credit car number.

TOOL CART - Chances are that if you friend does any work on his or her Ferrari, Duesenberg or Hummer at home, you won't be able to come up with any tools as a gift that he or she doesn't already have. Chances are you wouldn't get the right ones anyway. But the one thing that most home mechanics lack is bench space close to the car when a job is being done. Besides the traditional rolling toter that holds their tools, pros usually have a two-shelf rolling utility cart that can be wheeled alongside the vehicle being worked on. He or she lays parts and other items endemic to the job on it rather than trying to balance them on the front fenders. Most major tool companies make utility carts, but I saw one in the tool catalog of Sears Roebuck for $55.

AUTO EMERGENCY KIT - So it's the chauffeur's night off, and your friend got a flat tire on the Rolls. There's no spare, the battery in the cell phone is dead and the nearest phone is three miles away. To top it off, the car is in a precarious position and could be hit by oncoming traffic. But your friend has the auto emergency kit in the trunk that you gave for Christmas. It has a couple of safety flares, a pressurized can of flat tire sealant, a flashlight, and even a couple of simple tools. And there's usually a plastic siphon hose in the event that the Rolls runs out of gas and your friend decides to filch a bit of petrol from the Bentley in the next parking space. I've seen emergency kits peddled in auto parts stores and the AAA sells one through its catalog for $70. They promise quick delivery by calling 1-800-631-4222.

NATIONAL CAR BADGES - Many of the plebeian motorists that share the road with your friend's Rolls-Royce or that Bentley don't know that these two marques come from England. But they will if you order your friend an enameled National Car Badge that will display the Union Jack on its grille for $17. Or if the owner is of Gaelic extraction (Irish, Scottish, Welch, etc.) you could also get him or her a similar enameled badge that displays those nation's logos and colors. The Scottish Lion Import Shop sells them through its catalog, as well as lots of other Scottish stuff (none of it automotive, unfortunately) and you can call them for pre-Christmas delivery at 1-800-355-7268. It's rumored that they will soon have car covers in appropriate clan tartans but you'll have to check with the order desk.

AUTO MOTIF TIES - Most males don't like to wear ties, but if they're vintage car enthusiasts, they may be more inclined to upgrade sartorially if they have a cravat that reflected his vehicular proclivity. Hemmings Holiday 1997 Catalog (1-800-227-4373 Ext. 550) has them in ('57) Chevy Fins, ('60s) Ford Muscle, and VW Beetle for $30. Hemmings also sells T-shirts, sweat shirts and baseball caps with its corporate name boldly emblazoned on them, but I could never see the rationale in displaying advertisements on my clothes and having to pay for the privilege.

AUTO VIDEOS - When I was teaching high school, I used technical videos to explain the various aspects of auto theory and repair techniques to the kids. But occasionally I'd go off-beat with non-technical auto crash movies like "...And They Walked Away." I got it from the MotorCam Auto Videos catalog (1-800-240-1777) and it was OK, but tucked in among its hundreds of titles were vintage features like "Grand Prix" with James Garner (1966), "Winning" with Paul Newman (1969), "Le Mans" with Steve McQueen (1971), and "Greased Lightning" with Richard Pryor (1977). They were all in the $20-to-$35 range and while I also enjoyed owning "Rebel Without A Cause" and "American Graffiti," those first three had classic shots of vintage Formula One, IndyCar, Prototype GT and NASCAR Grand National stock cars in action.

J.C. WHITNEY CATALOG - As I browsed through my collection of contemporary auto-related catalogs, I eventually came across the omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient Whitney Catalog. Its cover proclaims that it has "...everything automotive.." and I believe it. From chrome-plated hood mascots to roll-bars; from engine rebuild kits to van roof ventilators; the Whitney Catalog has them all listed in its 200+ small-print pages. I tried to pick the most universally useful gift for you to give your auto enthusiast friend, but the task was too daunting. The best thing for you to do in this case is to call Whitney at 312-431-6120 and ask for a free subscription to the catalog itself. It comes out two or three times a year and gives most "car guys" (including the female ones) hours of browsing entertainment. And what a bargain for you at just the price of a long-distance phone call.

Time is running out, so you'd best act quickly. And if you do order anything by phone, you won't have to depend on me for catalog information next year. With that one call, you'll appear on everyone's auto catalog list for 1998.