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10 bucket-list gift ideas for car fanatics

Tired of giving out jumper cables or air fresheners to the car fanatics in your life? If so, here are some truly top-shelf gift ideas for the upcoming holiday season.

Craig Cole Former reviews editor
Craig brought 15 years of automotive journalism experience to the Cars team. A lifelong resident of Michigan, he's as happy with a wrench or welding gun in hand as he is in front of the camera or behind a keyboard. When not hosting videos or cranking out features and reviews, he's probably out in the garage working on one of his project cars. He's fully restored a 1936 Ford V8 sedan and then turned to resurrecting another flathead-powered relic, a '51 Ford Crestliner. Craig has been a proud member of the Automotive Press Association (APA) and the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA).
Craig Cole
5 min read
Bucket List Gift Ideas Main Art

You don't have to spend a lot to give a great gift to your favorite gearhead. Of course, nobody's stopping you from blowing a fortune, either.

PM Research/DirtFish/Allen Berg Racing Schools/Rolex

Are you out of ideas for what to get for the gearhead in your life that already has everything? Here are 10 bucket-list suggestions, a compilation of dream gifts and experiences that any petrol-lover is sure to adore. But just a heads up, none of these items are necessarily cheap, and some of them are downright absurdly expensive. You've been warned.

Read more: Best affordable gifts for car lovers and gearheads in 2019  

Minimizing damage to your finances, we start this collection off easy with a fairly inexpensive item, something that will keep a car fiend's restless hands busy for untold hours. The Bugatti Chiron is one of the most awe-inspiring vehicles to debut in the last decade, bringing unimpeachable style, luxury and performance to market. And now your favorite motoring enthusiast can have one of their own and build it, too, because Lego offers a Technik kit of this beautiful car. When completed, the 1:8-scale model measures more than 5 inches tall and 22 inches long. It contains 3,599 individual pieces and is rated for ages 16 and up. That's a lot of numbers, but one that shouldn't necessarily scare you is the price. You can grab one of these Chirons for $350.

Stepping up the price ladder, a trip to rallying school is sure to please many a gearhead. The fine folks at DirtFish provide just such training in America's picturesque Pacific Northwest. The program was established in 2010 and operates out of Snoqualmie, Washington. Sign up for one of numerous available courses and you'll learn car control and build driver confidence while having more fun than should be legally allowed. A two-hour training session can be had for $499, though DirtFish also offers half-day, one-day, two-day and three-day programs. Go all in on the three-day advanced package and you'll be shelling out about $4,699.

But what if you're shopping for a car enthusiast that likes getting a little grease under their nails? For those that enjoy spinning wrenches you might consider buying some high-quality hand tools, and Snap-on equipment is arguably the best in the business. This Wisconsin-headquartered company offers all kinds of equipment, from pliers and torque wrenches to sockets, ratchets, pry bars, screwdrivers and even toolboxes. Snap-on stuff is a top choice of working professionals in myriad fields and will faithfully serve fortunate car enthusiasts for years to come. Be warned, nothing Snap-on offers is inexpensive; a simple, quarter-inch ratchet lists for $145.50. Grab a complete mechanic's tool set and a crib to put everything in and you'll probably be spending tens of thousands of dollars.

Car lovers are often enthusiastic about other highly technical things, like computers, aircraft or even watches. Accordingly, an amazing gift for more refined gearheads, or even yourself, is a race-themed bit of timekeeping wrist candy. Yes, the Rolex Daytona is a peerless piece of engineering, one that's crafted of top-notch materials and slathered in enduring design. Grab one of these and it's guaranteed to be a family heirloom for generations, just don't expect it to come cheap. A 40-millimeter Cosmograph Daytona with yellow-gold and oyster accents stickers for about $17,000. Yikes!

Next up, something else that's more experiential than tools or a watch. One bucket-list thing that should be on every car enthusiast's list of must-attend events is Monterey Car Week. This shindig brings some of the finest vehicles from across the country and around the world to one place, Monterey, California and its surrounding communities. Appealing to all sorts of car people, there are vintage races and auctions, driving tours and much more. Of course, the crown jewel of all this is the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance itself. Next year, this grand event will celebrate its 70th birthday. The extravaganza is set to take place on Sunday, Aug. 16, 2020. Book travel and accommodations well in advance, before prices get even crazier than they undoubtedly already are.

If you want to be inundated by automobiles but don't feel like taking out a home-equity loan to afford Monterey Car Week, put the Woodward Dream Cruise on your vehicular bucket list. This event is far less snooty than its California counterpart, attracting a diverse crowd of automotive fanatics from around the world. Dream Cruise brings a claimed 1.5 million people to the Detroit area every year along with an estimated 40,000 classic cars, which you can watch roll up and down historic Woodward Avenue for free. Of course, you can spend a lot more than nothing if you want to turn this into a true bucket-list experience, but the choice is yours.

BMW Welt

For antique auto buffs, a grand tour of Germany's major car museums would be a real treat. This central-European nation has a rich manufacturing history and its motoring industry is one of the most respected in the world. A trip to BMW Welt and Audi Museum Mobile, plus the Mercedes-Benz and Porsche museums would be a great way to spend a few days. Best of all, since Germany is a small country, all these facilities are relatively close to each other in the nation's southern half. The first two are located in Bavaria, the second pair in the Stuttgart area. But if you're feeling really ambitious, hit up the amazing Deutsches Museum in Munich, which is loaded with all kinds of transportation-related exhibits. Also, venture a little farther north to Wolfsburg to experience Volkswagen's Autostadt, a car-centric theme park of sorts, another must-see facility.

DirtFish will teach you how to hoon it up, but what if you want to master the art of wheel-to-wheel racing? There's a simple answer to that question: get in touch with the folks at Allen Berg. They offer authentic training for drivers of all skill levels and budgets. A variety of one-, two- and three-day instructional programs are on the menu, with prices ranging from about $2,500 to roughly $7,000. Register for one of these, and you'll climb behind the wheel of a purpose-build race car that rolls on slicks and is used in international competition. They even look like F1 cars, so you can really live out your high-speed fantasies.

Plenty of talented craftspeople have built miniaturized engines, including painstaking duplicates of famous powerplants like the small-block Chevy or Ford flathead V8. These things start and run like their full-size counterparts yet can fit in a shoebox. Unfortunately, as cool as these labor-intensive projects are, not many of them are available for sale. But one company, PM Research, offers a range of different engines, including a quarter-scale model of a five-horsepower Red Wing Motor, complete with a 1.25-inch bore and a 2-inch stroke. It runs on gasoline and is water cooled. One of these units, fully assembled and ready to run, goes for about $2,950. If you can do the machining work yourself, you can grab a do-it-yourself kit for a mere $550. How cool is that? This is one gift almost nobody is going to have.

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Gifts under $500: What to give when you're feeling generous

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