The best gifts for petrolheads: CAR’s guide

CAR's merchandise-free gift guide to motoring-related gifts for petrolheads. Take it from us, we know what they like.

1958 Corvette model car

by Ryan Gilmore |

I have a disdain for motoring-branded mugs and towels and hats. As a gift, they indicate the giver has registered the recipient’s interest in motoring but could not be bothered to pursue it further. It's like giving a keen gardener a t-shirt with a picture of a cabbage on it. What use is that? Get them something useful.

Beyond car shampoo, finding car-related gifts is tricky because tastes vary. What we’ve done here is supply a succinct guide of gift suggestions for petrolheads of all ages, from young children to adult children.

Unlike petrolhead gift guides you’ll find elsewhere, ours is totally void of merchandise and instead focuses on items that the car-crazed (sounds better than petrol-mad, which gives visions of pyromaniacs) gift recipient will cherish and use.

Jump to:

For children:

Playmobil Volkswagen T1 Camping Bus

Playmobil Volkswagen T1 Camping Bus
Amazon

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Having put this model through rigorous testing ourselves, weu2019ve come to the conclusion that this classic VW Camper is a fun little model. Itu2019s very well made and is surprisingly detailed; thus this is a toy a child will enjoy building and using, rather than merely looking at.

There are other models available too, including a Volkswagen Beetle and a Special Edition ‘surf’s up dude’ T1 Camping Bus too.

Read our full article on the best Playmobil cars here.

Micro Scalextric James Bond No Time To Die Set

Micro Scalextric James Bond No Time To Die Set
Amazon

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Satisfying a developing petrolheadu2019s appetite for driving outside of racing games can be tricky if you donu2019t have the ability to support a karting career. Luckily, Scalextric has evolved considerably over the years to keep pace with the modern world and still offers genuinely enjoyable (and now reliable) racing.

Micro Scalextric set is more basic than ARC PRO, but it’s easy to use and good fun for younger users. Based on the No Time To Die Bond film, you get a pair of classic British motors – the Aston Martin DB5 and Jaguar XF. This set is battery powered, but sadly does not include the AA batteries required.

On the plus side, the Micro Scalextric tech makes crashing a challenge, which is ideal for younger racers cutting their teeth and honing their finesse. On the hand controllers, you simply slide the dial to the desired speed, and away you go. The track length is 408cm.

Read our full article on top Scalextric sets here.

LEGO Technic Off-Road Buggy

LEGO Technic Off-Road Buggy
Amazon

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LEGOu2019s Off-Road Buggy is one of a select few of its sets that can be driven. In the kit there is a Smart Hub that acts as a sort of brain, and electric motors. With a smartphone, using the CONNECT+ app, you connect to the Smart Hub via Bluetooth and drive the buggy.

It’s a good drive too. It has a top speed of over three miles per hour, good ground clearance, and grippy tyres. It’s great for dealing with rough terrain, though declining somewhat when it hits steep slopes. With 374 pieces, it’s a reasonably simple build. These factors make the Off-Road Buggy great for younger LEGO users.

Read our full article on the best remote control LEGO vehicles here.

Green Toys Car Carrier

Green Toys Car Carrier
Amazon

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For the youngest of motoring fans, is this car transporter. As we know, petrolheads go through the inevitable stage of being obsessed with trailers at some stage. This car transporter caters to this, but we pick this over others because we like the style of both the truck and the cars.

Made in the USA, it’s a well made set and as an added bonus, it’s made from 100% recycled plastic and is of course BPA, phthalate, and PVC-free.

Read our full article on the best toy cars for kids here.

Costway Ride-on Pedal Car

Ride-on Pedal Car
Amazon

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My first car looked very similar to this. And pedal cars remain superior in performance, handling and reliability to the arguably faddish electrified alternatives. With my pedal car, also in red, I was able to experience clipping apexes on the driveway, oversteer, and handbrake turns.

This model is aimed for ages three to six, or a maximum user weight of 30 kilograms. The seat is more comfortable than competitors and is adjustable too.

Airifx Aston Martin DB5

Airifx Aston Martin DB5
Amazon

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For young petrolheads with a tendency for hands-on hobbies, Airfix is such a great place to start. The Aston Martin DB5 is a gorgeous car and making an accurate 1:32 scale model is very satisfying. Everything you need is included in this set. If nothing else, this set teaches the virtue of patience.

For adult children:

LEGO Technic Land Rover Defender

LEGO Technic Land Rover Defender
Amazon

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As one of the best LEGO car sets ever produced, the LEGO Land Rover Defender is a must for car fans. It is a pleasingly challenging build, as we discovered when we had a go, consisting of 2,573 pieces and many details including differentials, a gearbox, proper suspension, and all that kind of carry on.

Read our full guide to the best LEGO car sets

Thrustmaster T300RS (PS4/PS3/PC)

Thrustmaster T300RS (PS4/PS3/PC)
Amazon

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Racing wheels can be a tricky thing. But to make things a bit simpler, the Thrustmaster T300 RS is a superb option for beginners and casual sim racers. The T300 RS is really well made and good value, featuring a brushless motor and offering sharp, precise control.

The T300 RS is for PlayStation 4 and PC but if it’s Xbox compatibility you need then the Thrustmaster TX is for you.

Read our full guide to the best racing wheels here.

Assetto Corsa Competizione

Assetto Corsa Competizione
Amazon

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Gran Turismo, Need For Speed, and Forza you will likely be familiar with. Assetto Corsa Competitzione is a more specialised, niche game that solely covers the GT3 Championship. Thus, the range of cars and tracks is not on par with Gran Turismo but for fans of the GT3 series and generally keen sim racers, Assetto Corsa Competitzione is superb.

The driving dynamics are quite realistic and take some time to get the hang of, which makes the sense of accomplishment all the more intense. The graphics are pretty good too, though perhaps not quite at the same level as GT Sport.

Read our full guide to the best racing games here.

FTX Outback 2 Rock Crawler

FTX Outback 2 Rock Crawler
Amazon

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Remote control rock crawler trucks offer a very different type of experience compared to the established and known types of remote control cars such as those offered from Tamiya.

Where many RC cars are about speed, rock crawlers are about tackling the toughest terrain possible. Like full-size off-roaders, rock crawlers are highly engineered with heavy duty, waterproof parts for lasting ability. The FTX Outback 2 is a wonderful RC rock crawler, ready to go out of the box and very good value. It’s a 1:10 scale and bears serious credentials that cumulatively create an amazing little truck.

Read our RC rock crawler group test.

The Science of Supercars: The Technology That Powers The Greatest Cars In The World

The Science of Supercars: The Technology That Powers The Greatest Cars In The World
Amazon

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With contributions from automotive greats such as Adrian Newey, Gordon Murray, Achim Anscheidt (Bugatti's Design Director), and Horacio Pagani, this book on the evolution of the supercar is a great read for any motoring fan or indeed anyone with a curious mind.

The Science of Supercars is about how technology and development has influenced supercar design over the decades.

Read our full article on the best motoring books here.

NOCO GB40 Boost Plus 12V Portable Jump Starter

NOCO GB40 Boost Plus 12V Portable Jump Starter
Amazon

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Small? Check. Jump starts petrol engines up to 6.0-litres and diesel up to 3.0-litres? Check. IP65 rated? Check. Also a general power bank? Check. 100 lumen LED flashlight? Check. What a wonderful device.

NOCO is one of the go-to brands for battery chargers and jump starters. They’re tough, compact, and very effective. The GB40 is the best for most motorists, though smaller and larger models are available for those that need them.

Double Supercar Driving Experience

Double Supercar Driving Experience
Amazon

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The problem with driving a supercar is that you immediately want to drive another one. Well with this double supercar driving experience, that yearning is satisfied.

With a number of locations available throughout the country to choose from, and from a number of different cars, the recipient can spend some time indulging in their passion for supercars. Drivers must be at least 17.

Rage Buggy Driving Experience

Rage Buggy Driving Experience
Amazon

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On the other hand, if loose surface driving is more their bag, going full throttle in a Rage buggy offers a thrill that is very hard to match.

The Rage buggy is every bit as quick as a sports car, only it can do that on dirt. This driving experience is available in five locations: Yorkshire, Oxfordshire, Leicestershire, Manchester, and Derbyshire. Drivers must be at least 17.

CAR Magazine Subscription

CAR Magazine Subscription

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Put together by some of the worldu2019s most respected motoring journalists and with sensational photography to match, CAR magazine is the place to go for conclusive tests and exclusive industry insights. Plus, in typical CAR style, youu2019ll get some chuckles along the way.

A subscription to print or digital editions of CAR is a top gift for petrolheads.

What about cleaning products?

Some petrolheads adore cleaning and detailing their car. At CAR, we have produced many guides on the best car care products. Below are some of our most popular guides:

The best car cleaning kits for comprehensive car care

CAR recommends the best car shampoo

The best car polish

The best car wax

The best wash brushes for car bodywork and wheels

The best alloy wheel cleaners

The best car vacuum cleaners

Don't forget about those in need

While we love giving to friends and loved ones, it's also important we don't forget about those less fortunate than ourselves. Perhaps consider giving a gift to one of the UK's homeless youth through Centrepoint, the UK's leading youth homelessness charity.

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