So what should you get the dear old guy?
How about a gift related to the vehicle he drives? Even if he isn’t an unredeemed teenage car freak, there are lots of automotive products and publications that are useful, enhance driving pleasure, or are just plain fun.
So, let’s look at some possibilities. I’ve listed with each product the store where I saw it, but most of them are also available at other auto stores and departments. The book suggested is, of course, available at a host of bookstores and online outlets.
• Engines of Change: A History of the American Dream in Fifteen Cars, by Paul Ingrassia, Simon & Schuster, $30.
Written by a Reuters editor and former Detroit bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal, this illustrated 395-pager is a smart and highly readable history of 15 cars that have influenced or reflected our culture. As Ingrassia puts it, these are cars that "either changed American society or uniquely captured the spirit of their time."
The Ford Model T is one of the cars that changed things. It made us a mobile nation, for openers. It also "begat mass production, which begat the $5 day," which "begat the middle class, the suburbs, shopping malls, (fast food franchises), drive-through banking and other things beloved of the modern-day philistines."
Many of the other cars mentioned reflect changes in our tastes, aspirations and needs. These include the finny, be-chromed 1959 Cadillac, an emblem of the wretched excess of the prosperous 1950s, the college kids’ beloved Volkswagen bug, and the Chrysler minivan popularized by boomers who had acquired families.
The creation stories of cars such as the Toyota Prius ("the first practical mass-market hybrid") turn out to be fascinating reads, as are the accounts of the often legendary designers and executives behind them.
• Highland Cargo Carrier, WalMart, $59. This useful device is essentially a heavy-duty steel platform that attaches behind the back bumper by slipping inside a two-inch trailer hitch receiver. It measures 60 by 20 inches and will carry up to 500 pounds of cargo.
• Highland Basket Carrier, Advance Auto Parts, $76.99. If you don’t have a trailer hitch, you can store your cargo on the roof with this handy gear.
• Bell Roadside Emergency Kit, Pep Boys, $19.95. This 56-piece kit will come in handy for driving emergencies. It includes a flashlight with batteries, cable ties, tire sealant, electrical tape, pliers, a screwdriver, a rain poncho, a detachable first aid kit, and a carry case with no-slip fasteners to secure it in the trunk.
• Slime Tire Gauge, Pep Boys, $8.99. I know, that’s a pretty grim name for something you’re trying to sell, but it is still a useful tool. The father figure ought to be checking tire pressure once a month, and before you go on road trips, so this should prove worthwhile.
• Pilot Chrome Skull Tire Valve Caps, Amazon.com, $12.97. These are great: little chrome skulls with blood-red eyes. I’m getting a set for my pickup.
Think about it this way: Years from now, when the grandchildren gather at the knee of your husband and ask him if he had a chance to own a set of those highly coveted chrome skulls as a younger man, you won’t have to watch him tear up and say, "I could have had a set, but your grandmother wouldn’t buy one for me."
Contact Al Haas at email@example.com.