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Christmas gifts for car lovers

By Stephen Corby, 24 Dec 2015 Car Style

Christmas gifts for car lovers

Has somebody asked you for a car this Christmas? Here are some gift ideas that won't require a second mortgage.

FERRARI ANYTHING

To look like a prancing whore.

It could be argued that owning a Ferrari would make it okay to wear the company’s inexplicably uncool, gauche and gaudy clothing/jewellery/baseball caps, but it would be a failed argument.

The simple fact is, no-one looks cool in a Ferrari-logo polo, they just look like they’re desperately trying to be a member of a club for rich show-offs. At least a small percentage of people who own the cars are actual enthusiasts, and they’ve probably never even thought about buying a Ferrari iPhone cover.

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But selling Ferrari-emblazoned tat is big business for the prancing horse. As its previous CEO Luca di Montezemolo revealed in 2013: "Ninety-five [Ferrari] branded items are sold every minute around the world”. As a senior employee pointed out to me not long ago, Ferrari is a brand now, not just a carmaker.

The Ferrari store offers a multitude of ways to waste cash on Prancing Horse logos, but right near the top is the Ferrari Acer laptop, which will fool absolutely no-one into thinking you work on the F1 pit wall with the Scuderia Ferrari crew.

If it was actually any faster than a normal Acer laptop it might make some sense, but it’s all about branding, and a reassuringly high purchase price. The same goes for the slow, and stupid, Ferrari Segway.

Best (or worst) of all, though, is the Ferrari golf club, which is made by Cobra, costs thousands of dollars and hits that infuriating little white ball no further than a far cheaper version, despite its go-faster red paint. How stupid do they think golfers are? Oh, yes, right.

Why it’s hot

Kids might be impressed by your Ferrari logos, but only until they remember that Bugatti Veyrons are faster.

Why it’s not

You look like a desperate loser. The only Ferrari badge worth having is the one most of us can't afford attached to a little red key.

PORSCHE DESIGN BLACKBERRY

When classic doesn’t mean you rock.

Porsche seems like a cutting-edge company, and a pretty cool one at that, but it has a strange relationship with technology.

For years, even after the invention of Bluetooth, it kept a little slot in the dash of its cars where you could jam in your SIM card, turning the car into your mobile phone, as long as you didn’t mind the immense fiddliness of switching the damn thing back and forth.

Porsche Design Blackberry

So it should come as no surprise that the company’s Porsche Design brand has forged a relationship with the almost wilfully old-school Blackberry. It’s possible that Porsche owners prefer the button-heavy approach, or it might be that its style gurus haven’t caught on to the fact that the days of phones with actual buttons have sailed.

Regardless, Porsche Design is sticking with the Betamax Blackberry brand, which prefers to be called “iconic and timeless”, upgrading its P-9983 as recently as last year and getting away with charging a hefty $2000 for it to boot.

For that money you get custom Porsche wallpaper and a branded watch face, and buttons with the same font found in your 911, as well as a certain undeniably bold, blunt style aesthetic.

There’s no doubt the Porsche Design Blackberry looks and feels special, but it also looks like it would have felt more special, and more relevant, in the Noughties. And having kids ask what the hell a Blackberry is can’t be anything but annoying.

Why it’s hot

It’s got buttons, which make typing emails easier than using a screen. So there. You silly smartphone users have it all wrong.

Why it’s not

Your brand’s about classic style mixed with modernity, but it only makes sense if you’re still in the original Boxster. Drinking Sub Zero.

HUMMER COLOGNE

The smell of desperation.

There are some car brands that might, just possibly, get away with launching a fragrance range. And then there is Hummer, which actually did so.

It’s plausible that someone with poor social skills and questionable body odour might want to smell like the inside of an Audi, because it is a nice scent, so that brand could possibly market eau de carlogne and get away with it. Although it hasn’t, possibly because Germans feel that smelling nice is a particularly French thing to do.

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But Hummer? Seriously? First you have to look at who their customers are, or even the kind of people who’d like to buy one and thus might be fooled into the cheaper option of rubbing the brand behind their ears.

It’s fair to generalise that Hummer lovers are climate-change ridiculers who relish masculine displays of strength and shirtlessness; people like Tony Abbott and his mate Vlad Putin, basically. Men of this ilk tend to see cologne as something worn by pussies, and those other men who should never be allowed to marry each other. The market, therefore, doesn’t seem ripe for patchouli plundering.

Then there’s the problem of what a Hummer fragrance might smell like – burning fossil fuels, Americana (McDonald’s perhaps?), the acrid sweat of a man so fat he can’t wash between his flesh rolls?

In fact, we are told that it has an oriental fragrance, with top notes of pimento, caraway and cardamom; middle notes of leather, sandalwood and patchouli; and base notes of thyme and, I kid you not, tonka bean. At least the last one makes some sense.

Why it’s hot

If you’re lost in a trailer park in America’s Deep South, a spray might get you out of trouble. Or possibly into more.

Why it’s not

You smell like a giant, brightly coloured turd, which is what a Hummer is, and no woman without a beard will find you attractive.

BUGATTI EAU DE TOILETTE

Taking the stink out of stinking rich.

Okay, sure, the Hummer man-smell idea on the previous spread seems just a tiny bit less absurd when considered next to the existence of another car-branded cologne, from Bugatti.

There’s no denying that there might be some attraction in smelling like the inside of a $1.3 million supercar – if it’s possible to bottle rarefied air – and the fastest one ever created at that, in the hope that some slightly shallow woman might find you more marriage material as a result.

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What really makes this scent feel appropriately premium, however, is the packaging; your bottle of smelly stuff turns up in a special twisty gold holder within a carbonfibre briefcase. You can just see some oligarch’s poor assistant having to lug that thing around all day, just in case the boss decides he’s not smelling wondrous enough at any given moment.

There are cheaper Bugatti colognes available, but of course you will want the absurdly priced one, which does, at least, genuinely reflect high-end brand values. The top-end Bugatti cologne will set you back a stinking rich $2750 a bottle.

Clearly that’s pocket change for the uber-rich, but just as clearly it’s a massive rip-off, and surely the hugely rich didn't get that way by just throwing money away. Perhaps it's a hobby you take up when you’ve got too much of the stuff.

Why it’s hot

What did you say it cost? I didn’t notice. I’m a Bugatti customer and numbers have lost all meaning for me. Unless they’re on a tax bill.

Why it’s not

Anything this expensive would want to smell so fabulous that women around you will swoon at the first sniff of the stuff.

JEEP STROLLER

For taking a stroll on the Rubicon.

Much like the strangely popular vehicles they boldly try to emulate, Jeep Strollers very rarely actually head off-road, unless you count the slightly sparse grass on the way to the softly surfaced, OH&S-approved park where Jackson and Sophia (the most popular baby names of 2014, folks) go each day to sit and play on their mums’ iPhones.

Yet, like the cars, these baby Jeeps are designed to look rugged, reassuringly army-coloured and ready for action, although just what kind is hard to say. On the plus side, they do have excellent cupholders for the slightly frazzled dipso Dad.

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While 85 percent of car-buying decisions are now allegedly either made or influenced by women, I’d like to know how many Jeep Stroller purchases are made or influenced by men, because who else would be so desperately keen for their offspring to have a steering wheel in front of them from day one?

This decision to make the Jeep baby carriage look like a mobile toy may be a cutesy coup, but it’s a kind of brand-cheapening one, and seems daringly close to naff.

The simple fact is that in a market where Bugaboo prams are the Nike/Audi/Apple of pram ownership – which gives them the right to charge prices of staggering stupidity – a Jeep Stroller looks cheap, nasty and too uncool for school.

Why it’s hot

The chunky cupholders, because if you weren’t a drinker before you had kids, you soon will be.

Why it’s not

Everyone at the park is sniggering behind your back, wondering when the pram will break down.

LAMBORGHINI ENERGY DRINK

The taste of a brand selling its soul.

Some brands are so strong, so beloved, that they can’t really harm themselves, no matter what stupid side projects they attempt to engage in, which is a good thing for Lamborghini.

If Cartier or Louis Vuitton launched an energy drink, they might deservedly cop a pasting for it, no matter how slick the marketing patter, but Lambo seems to have somehow gotten away with its Tonino Lamborghini Energy Drink, despite awful slogans including “Elegance doesn’t go to bed at 11pm” and “Style never sleeps”.

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Red Bull has proven that drinks that taste like liquid aluminium cough medicine can be rewardingly associated with high-performance motoring, but can a brand as bullish as Lamborghini?

Clearly the marketing people say yes, as they describe this drink as a “fashion accessory, an Italian style icon” that promises to improve your concentration during stressful working periods, improve your physical performance and mental efficiency, and increase your sense of wellbeing while stimulating your metabolism.

Frankly, you’re wasting your life by not having banged down a can yet, with its combination of secret ingredients and “natural caffeine”. Sadly, it’s not suitable for children, diabetics, pregnant women or people with a brain in their heads.

Lamborghini also sells branded chainsaws. We recently saw an electric model discounted by 60 percent at Masters. It seems that not even gardeners want an electric Lambo.

Why it’s hot

We spend a third of our lives sleeping, but no longer need to. You could be out driving your Lambo while flying high on energy fizz.

Why it’s not

We’re willing to bet it doesn't taste as good as the sweet air inside a Huracan or Aventador, nor stimulate your heart rate as much.

HSV-BRANDED ANYTHING

When the Lion loses its roar.

Obviously some clothes do not date well, with body shirts and flares being an obvious example, but even Hypercolor t-shirts are going to stand the test of time better than HSV-slathered clothing over the next decade.

In the past, HSV gear, which seems to sell at a mystifyingly prodigious rate – just like KFC – only made you look like you weren’t comfortable drinking alcohol unless it was wrapped in neoprene, but once the mighty Holden brand morphs from being the pride of Orstrayia to the export of America, you’re going to look more dated than a Peter Brock tattoo.

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It could be worse than that fetching HSV parka you bought, though; like if you’d snapped up a Holden race-suit apron, which wouldn’t even look good on the ever-smiling Craig Lowndes, or a Holden ID tag, just like the ones you used to get in your M*A*S*H showbag. Incredibly, the HSV Lions Den website has reduced this highly personalisable item from the slightly optimistic opening price of $49 to just $10.

Sadly, while the same website has a section titled “Ladies Underwear and PJs”, it is, currently at least, disappointingly bare, so to speak.

You can, however, buy “stationary” on the site, though you can’t write on the fetching Holden Lion stickers. But you surely can’t resist a Mark Skaife sleeve tattoo, down from $15 to just 20 cents. Bargain!

Why it’s hot

On your annual pilgrimage to Bathurst, people don’t need to ask whether you’re red or blue, and it’s still cheaper and less ugly than a tattoo.

Why it’s not

If the Style Police ever move beyond female fantasy, you’ll be first up against the wall when the revolution comes. And no-one will miss you.

FORD MUSTANG NAIL POLISH

‘Nailing it’ gets a new meaning.

There was a time when car companies were hugely misogynistic dinosaurs, a period sometimes known as “the good old days”. Then the world changed and, slowly and painfully, car companies reacted, with storage bins for high-heeled shoes, appalling paint colours and SUVs that aren’t designed to go off-road.

This, inevitably, led to some truly woeful commercial tie-ins (Sportsgirl Barina, anyone?), but none have come within a cow’s moo of Ford’s recent effort to effeminate the manly Mustang by introducing a line of Mustang-themed nail lacquers.

Ford Mustang Nail Polish

Yes, nail lacquers. Stuff that goes on your nails. No, I don't know the difference between lacquers and polishes, and I don't care. Perhaps "polish" sounds too much like something that might actually relate to cars.

The natty nail lacquer range was launched with OPI Products to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the revered pony car.

“This new collection will deliver elements of sophistication, luxury, power and style fitting for both OPI and Mustang consumers,” gushed OPI’s Suzi Weiss-Fischmann. Power? Can you push your fingernail through brick walls while wearing it?

The "hero shade" of the range is Race Red, a "tribute to one of Mustang's most iconic colours". Red nail polish, how radical.

Mustang marketing manager Melanie Baker said "there's no better way to express Mustang’s bold personality than through color.” Perhaps, but if there's not a better way to celebrate Mustang's Mustangness than by launching a range of nail lacquers, it's time to sack your marketing team.

Why it’s hot

Well, it’s simply not. There’s absolutely nothing in its favour. If you can think of anything, you’re wrong.

Why it’s not

You’re gutting a brilliant brand, you’ve got it all wrong, you don’t need shiny  nails, you need a nail through the head.

PORSCHE PIPE

Getting high by design.

You would hope we were talking about an exhaust pipe here, and selling Porsche-branded ones wouldn’t be an entirely silly idea, but what we’re actually looking at is, effectively, a Porsche Bong.

Listed on the Porsche Design website in the “useful things” section, this fiercely expensive $2400 “shisha pipe” looks very much like what the well-heeled might use to ingest the smoke of the cannabis sativa plant.

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Yes, it is at least theoretically possible that the people who buy this bong-resembling device only use it to imbibe apple-flavoured tobacco, and that it is mainly aimed at Arabian markets, where passing the peace pipe implies something quite legal and even pleasant. But you’d have to admit, looking at it, that there’s a better than even chance that some people are using this no doubt brilliantly engineered device to assist them in breaking the law, and subsequently being led to ingest copious amounts of chocolate, and Lamborghini energy drinks, as a result.

It’s probably just a sign of things to come, of course, with two large American states – Colorado and Washington – making marijuana entirely legal in recent times, while California turns a medically blinded eye to the practice.

Perhaps, as is so often, Porsche is ahead of the curve here.

Why it’s hot

If you happen to own an actual Porsche as well, it will get you to the shop for munchies very quickly.

Why it’s not

Cynical types might accuse Porsche of promoting the smoking of what are still largely illegal substances.

BUGATTI BELT BUCKLE

You've too much money and should be belted.

Sometimes I accidentally alight upon the fashion pages of trendy, strangely androgynous men’s magazines and what alarms me is not just the clothes they are wearing (dress shoes with shorts and no socks; on what planet did that happen?) but the absurd pricetags attached – $1200 “slacks”, $800 shirts, ties for $300 for God’s sake.

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Even these prices look reasonable, however, once you’ve taken in the mysterious majesty of the Bugatti x Roland Iten Belt Buckle, which will set you back a slacks-sapping $100,000.

Yes, we’ll grant you, it looks pretty special, although not quite six-figures special, and there’s only 44 of them in the world. And the fact that it uses a ratcheting mechanism inspired by watchmaking techniques to tighten your belt without the need for ugly, daggy holes must be a real conversation starter when you’re standing at some gold-plated urinal.

But still, $100,000?

Bugatti would like us to point out that it features hand-crafted bridges, cogs, wheels, springs and pinions and that it’s made from rose gold, titanium and stainless steel, and features sapphire crystals. But really, $100,000? Clearly this is for the man who owns not just one Veyron but a whole fleet, presumably platinum-plated.

On the plus side, I was once refused entry to a country and western bar in Texas, for not having a belt buckle. This one would blow them away.

Why it’s hot

It’s a Bugatti, so it does your pants up faster than any other belt buckle, and it matches your car. Who doesn’t want that?

Why it’s not

You’ve been fleeced $100K for something even smaller than your fat wallet. And if you don’t own a Bugatti, you’ll look a right dick.

MERCEDES-BENZ MILK JUG

Surely the cream of car-related merchandising.

It's not easy to stand out in the world of car-branded merchandise, everything from chainsaws (Lamborghini) to cufflinks (Rolls Royce) has already been covered for a start, so you have to forgive the marketers their occasional flights of fancy.

It’s hard to know what else to call the Mercedes-Benz milk jug, which surely ranks as the most prosaic of branded products. And it’s not even expensive, at about $25.

Mercedes Milk Jug

Being from Benz, you’d kind of hope it was a bit special, perhaps containing a Pre-Safe system that tells you if your milk is about to turn, or alerts you when your Weet-Bix are approaching maximum density, but no, it’s just a jug. That you put milk in.

Mercedes would prefer it if you called it a pitcher, really. At least that, in itself, suggests a certain premium classiness. At my house we just make do with the more Kia-spec option of pouring it straight from the bottle.

At the breakfast table of the Benz enthusiast, however, as they sit down to kippers, and toast held in toast racks, while wearing their AMG polo shirts, the Mercedes milk jug is just that extra touch of class.

Either that or it’s a completely pointless waste of money; it’s hard to say.

Why it’s hot

In Germanic fashion, this milk jug performs its required task, no more and no less, but go crazy and use it to hold orange juice.

Why it’s not

Are there really people who set out in the hope of finding a branded milk jug? If there are, we really hope not to meet them.

LAMBORGHINI WATCH

Time is not always on your side.

Watches are something – like free beer or sport – that every man on the planet is apparently fascinated with. This is the only way to explain the amount of coverage they get in men’s interest magazines; even car magazines run pages about them, such is the clamour for chronographical news.

Combine a watch with a car brand, of course, and you’ve got a double score, which explains why you so often see Formula One drivers in strange advertisements where they pose looking deep and thoughtful (which they’re not), wearing chunky watches across the backs of their hands.

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Sometimes it goes wrong, though, as it sadly has with Lamborghini. Take, for example, the Spyder range of watches from Tonino Lamborghini (Tonino is the son of company founder Ferruccio) with a construction featuring numerous auto-inspired details, mainly garish leather bands, lots of little dials and a face shaped like a guitar pick (presumably meant to be in the style of the Lamborghini logo).

This watch will set you back at least $2000, but it will set your sense of personal style back far further, because it really is quite awful.

It’s not that all the Lamborghini watches are awful; some of them are just gauche. Designing awe-inspiring cars, it turns out, does not qualify you for the obviously highly competitive world of watch design.

Why it’s hot

You’d hope the second hand was really loud, providing an air of ticking-timebomb excitement. The box it comes in is quite lovely.

Why it’s not

It’s not actually made in Italy. It will look gaudier on your wrist than a parrot that speaks only in pirating cliches.

This article was originally published in Wheels March 2015.