Now that the holiday shopping season is in full swing, here is our second annual list of gift ideas for that special person in your life who loves to stare at the iron on the side of the road.
R.C. Race Truck
Kudos to Car and Driver for testing the latest batch of radio-controlled cars in its January 2010 issue. Thumbs-up in the off-road category is awarded to 1/10-scale Traxxas' Slash 2WD Short-Course Race Truck (shown above), which retails for about $220 and is an ideal gift for R.C. newbies and experts alike. The truck includes a fully independent suspension (for leaps and bounds, you'll need it), 7-cell, NiMH battery pack, AC charger, watertight electronic speed control and Lexan body kit. Available in basic red and blue and two more base/silver trims, its top speed is 30 mph. With an optional brushless motor and lithium battery, speed jumps well over 40 mph.
iPhone Level App
This year, Stanley Works has been on a roll, with a new line of hand tools, its acquisition of Black and Decker and this nifty, new electronic tool. The Stanley iPhone level app is a clever, modern-day twist on the ancient spirit level. Download the app (free) from the iTunes Store and after a few minutes of calibration, you are ready to start hanging pictures or taking emergency field measurements. The app uses the accelerometer in your phone to determine the position of whatever you are measuring. The customizable skin mimics the look of a real bubble level, and reviews say it is just as accurate. Doubtful that it will ever replace your old level, but for a free app, you'd have to be a quarter-bubble off plumb—upstairs, that is—to not try it out.
Venerable heavy-equipment photographer and historian Eric Orlemann has just released the continuation of a legendary story in "R.G. LeTourneau Heavy Equipment: The Electric Drive Era." This 160-page, softcover sequel, published by Iconografix, covers some of R.G.'s wildest ideas until the company sold to Marathon in 1971. LeTourneau's foresight into the efficiencies of electric drive seems almost prophetic today, but it wasn't a perfect vision of the future. For example, you'll witness how R.G.'s near-disgust with hydraulics inspired him to take the then-clunky rack and pinion to comical extremes. Show your support for the Historical Construction Equipment Association and pick it up for $29.95. If you really want to dig deep into the LeTourneau story, Amazon is offering a triple-serving of Orlemann's two books, plus LeTourneau's autobiography, "Mover of Men and Mountains," for about $50.
Grease the Halls
As the man who popularized WD-40 died earlier this year, we are compelled to add this ubiquitous squeak-stopper to our wish list. The latest innovation on the familiar blue-and-yellow can is an non-aerosol head called the TriggerPro, which allows you to adjust your spray and is targeted for industrial use because its sealed package does not require special disposal. But our favorite is still the "Smart Straw" (shown above). The innovative can allows you to swing the often-missing red spray tube in and out of place so you don't have to rely on a rubber band or piece of tape. How many times have you lost that little red straw? A 12-oz can retails for $7.99.
Models, models, models. We love 'em. Die-cast model maker Norscot has been busy lately working with the Antique Caterpillar Machinery Owners Club to introduce a line of historic machines, including this 1960-era 966A Traxcavator. The 1:50 scale model of an early wheel loader measures 5 in. long and lists for $66.95. We found one at an online store for $46.95. For a really special gift, dig deep into your pocketbook and check out this rare, 1:6-scale, limited-edition Otis steam shovel for (gulp) $4,995. Only 70 of these upscale models will be made.