1. home
  2. news
  3. Automobile's 2017 Holiday Gift Guide

Automobile's 2017 Holiday Gift Guide

Classically Timeless

Automobile StaffwriterJorge Nuñezphotographer The Manufacturerphotographer

Picture a Range Rover, ready to show up anywhere dressed to kill, and you will have a pretty good idea of what Aether is all about. The Los Angeles-based company specializes in reshaping utilitarian outerwear into casually sophisticated clothing. Aether's take on the classic waxed cotton jacket is a perfect example of its ethos. The ornamentation is gone. The contrasting brass zippers and buttons, the floppy and impractical belts all disposed of. What's left is a jacket stripped to its essentials.

Simplicity of line, thoughtful engineering, a nod to history. It's not surprising that Aether cofounder Jonah Smith would be a Porsche guy. Smith and longtime business partner Palmer West traded one savage racket for another. As producers, the two have credits in major films, including "Requiem for a Dream," "A Scanner Darkly," and Bill Maher's "Religulous." Not content whipping on films, the two plunged into apparel as a way to indulge outdoors inclinations: skiing, motorcycle adventures, and driving cars.

Smith's black on black Porsche 964 is as understated as you can make the thing. Up on Mulholland Drive in the hills above Malibu, he's gentle on it. Revving it out, applying clutch, giving the gearbox plenty of time to settle before picking up the next gear and letting the clutch take up again. It's easygoing, methodical, and appreciative—the driving of a man who cares about a classic.

There is a similar steady pragmatism to Aether's design, the knowledge that most of us don't need the bright colors and ice-axe-swing-friendly cut of mountaineering jackets. That a complementary fit shouldn't be sacrificed to sealed seams and insulation. That those fancy mountaineering jackets mostly get used in town or on early morning drives.

Aether's L.A. outpost is all dark wood and enabling. Casual outerwear shares floor space with the technical stuff, waterproof jackets and pants for snow sports and hardcore armored adventure gear for motorcycling. It all slots neatly into a careful, tidy color palate. Lots of black and gray, dusty reds, greens, and blues.

Custom-built Ducatis and Timbersleds and composite kayaks are placed around the shop. Broad tables feature things that encourage adventure, such as Butler's maps of twisty roads and the occasional camp tool. Most impressively, in the middle is a large walk-in freezer, an advantage when selling outerwear in L.A. 's sunny weather.

South La Brea Avenue is all fancy bistros and vintage denim shops, the curbs kept clean by valet stands. It might have a clean storefront similar to its neighbors, but Aether's curb is often awash in dirt-spattered adventure bikes and road-worn sports cars—rides owned by the Hollywood elite and the hoi polloi alike. It's inevitable that Aether's clean take on classic looks will filter into movies and onto a new generation of idols. But for now, wear that updated waxed cotton jacket with your old Porsche. If experience has shown us anything, it's that a classic is always cool. —Chris Cantle

Bee Line Coffee

You already know how well cars and coffee go together, but you might not know Bee Line. This automotive-themed brand makes truly delicious joe. Some of our favorites:

Flat Track: Colombian coffee from La Union farm in a direct-trade arrangement that pays farmers more of what their coffee is worth.
Streamliner: Uses a special drying technique that results in more sweetness as well as a richer flavor.
Classic Blend: Combination of African and West Pacific beans.

Pocket Squares

Detroit-based Cyberoptix Tie Lab offers the coolest handmade, graphic screen-printed car-themed ties, scarves, and pocket squares. Choose from a Packard Motors logo scarf, an automotive leather necktie, British racing green to Martini Racing stripes, engine "rosettes," spark plugs, exhaust patterns, or six-speed manual gearshift knobs. Be sure to check out the Cargyle ties. You'll recognize the argyle pattern as connecting images of the original Ford Mustang.

Blipshift, 710 and The World Is Flat Mugs

If you like your coffee like some of us do, you can turn the 710 mug upside down without spilling a drop—and in doing so, you'll be in on the joke.

Aether Apparel Hudson Jacket

One of our favorite Aether offerings is this Hudson Jacket, a wool-nylon piece that functions best in the chillier seasons in the city. Think less about an ascent up a frostbound mountain and more about a slushy slog down to the metro station. That's not to say it wouldn't keep you warm if you decide to take it upstate. Deep pockets and a midweight design mean you'll still be toasty for a quick walk around a frozen park. Get it now online or at one of brand's shops in L.A., San Francisco, Aspen, and New York.

Velomacchi Hybrid Duffle Pack and Tool Roll

$400/$75, velomacchi.com

Still using a backpack for overnight adventures? You're better than that. With 50 liters of storage space and watertight construction, this duffle-shoulder-backpack is the best of both worlds. The rugged materials mean you won't worry if it's caught in the rain. Make sure you also pick up the Velomacchi Speedway toolroll, compact enough to strap to your bike even when filled.

Goodwood Road Racing Club Mechanic Overalls

It's not easy to get an invite to run at the Goodwood Festival of Speed or the Revival, but with the Goodwood Road Racing Club mechanic overalls, you can pretend you did. Available in white or khaki, these overalls are best worn while trapped in the dark engine bay of a Triumph TR6, in the fuselage of a Spitfire, or changing the tire of a Lotus in the Silverstone pits. Or add a leather belt, a flat cap, and a scarf, and you're ready for teatime at the Revival.

Hot Wheels Car Culture: Modern Classics

You never truly outgrow Hot Wheels. While the regular blue-card Hot Wheels are as rare as rocks, these mini models are part of the brand's popular Car Culture premium series. The design team behind the cars is hard at work yanking influence from past and present automotive trends, resulting in some seriously cool diecasts. With detailed paint schemes, metal bases, and rubber Real Riders wheels, these are collector darlings. This series features some of the greatest hits from the 1980s and '90s, including a 1985 Honda CRX variant.

Hoodoo GT40 Victory Series Guitar

$6,000, gt40.com

Garage art can be a tricky thing, especially when the line between tacky and tasteful is so blurry. For the Americana enthusiast, check out Safir GT40 Spares and Hoodoo Guitar's take on what a GT40 looks like in guitar form. Like the racing prototype that rocked the world more than a half century ago, this limited-edition axe features headlight and hood slot cutouts, along with special GT40 badging, VIN designation, and historical livery. If you'd rather strum than let it gather dust on the wall next to your car, it's actually a very sharp-sounding piece, thanks to the craftsmen at Hoodoo's shop in Calgary, Canada. They'll make only 100 of each of four different liveries.

Nuna Rava Convertible Car Seat

The Rava works as both a rear- and forward-facing seat, so take comfort in the safety of that tiny poop monster just home from the hospital all the way up to the 4-foot, 65-pounder who won't stop asking, "Why, mommy and daddy? Why?" The Rava comes in a variety of colors from charcoal to berry, so it'll match the interior of most of daddy's cars.

"Josef, The IndyCar Driver" and "The Spectale: Celebrating the History of the Indianapolis 500"

Chris Workman's children's motorsports books are perfect for introducing a new generation of potential race fans to America's open-wheel circuit and its most famous track, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. While intended for kids, the books will inform and refresh even the sport's full-sized veteran observers.

Carrera Digital 132 '80s Flashback Slot Car Set

Carrera is one of biggest names in the slot-car business, and the German company offers an astounding number of tracks, cars, and configurations. We distracted ourselves with the new Digital 132 '80s Flashback set, pitting a 1:32 scale 1979 BMW M1 Procar against a Zakspeed Ford Capri Turbo. Joining these two old-timers were incredibly detailed models of the No. 68 Ford GT race car and the No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R.

Vulcan Innova Winder

"When an engine block is engineered, its shape is pure function for maximum performance and no regard for beauty. As a result, it made for an extremely intriguing aesthetic, one that I wanted to celebrate," says Vulcan Innova's Sean Cheng, who has produced his bespoke watch winders from salvaged BMW M52 straight-six engines since 2015. Design, engineering, production, and assembly are all done in-house. The Vulcan Innova is plain bananas: Lock the watches in place in winding mode, insert and turn the key, and the watches will rise forth from the winder's pistons. Custom paint and leather are available to match the winder to your E36 M3.

Vintage Kart Company Italiano

Looking very much like the great monoposto grand prix racers from the 1920s and '30s, this pint-sized blue bullet is the product of Vintage Kart Company, an Arizona-based outfit that offers karts as kits or turnkey toys. For about $7,000, DIY-ers can assemble a bare matte aluminum kart, replete with Gatsby appeal and charm. Power comes from a Honda GX-200 one-cylinder four-stroke, pumping out a healthy 6.5 hp at full chat. Considering the Kart weighs around 300 pounds, this is plenty. Once you complete the build, slap on some period-correct racing graphics and sign up for the annual Grand Prix of Scottsdale, Arizona, to compete with other Vintage karts.

Land Rover Experience Heritage Program

$1,200-$1,500, landroverusa.com

If you've always had a taste for British bricks, the backwoods, and a bit of trail-bashing, this program is just the ticket. Spend either a half or full day of guided driving in the Defender 90 and other Range Rover and Land Rover models. Off-road courses include mud, water pits, and terrain so challenging you won't believe you made it through, but you will. Locations in California, Vermont, North Carolina, and Quebec, Canada, mean you're no more than a short flight from the off-road experience of your dreams.

"Crashed and Byrned"

"There were lots of things Tommy Byrne didn't know. He didn't know tomorrow had a limit, that he wasn't just going to keep on surfing this beautiful wave forever. ... He also didn't know what on Earth Ayrton Senna was talking about in early 1982 when he burst into the Van Diemen office, ranting and raving, calling Tommy a 'f------- thief. '" This excerpt is from Chapter 6 of the autobiography of perhaps one of the greatest race-car drivers you've never heard of. If you enjoy tales of human experience, triumph, failure, and dark humor—and learning the ins and outs of professional motorsports—you need this in your library.

"Uncommon Carriers"

If you know of John McPhee, you know this is going to be a great read. If you don't know McPhee, go buy everything he's ever written, starting with "Uncommon Carriers." As much as it's about transportation by plane, train, and truck, it's also a sketchbook of the characters who pilot these machines. Through their eyes we see the world not as it should be or even as it really is, but exactly as it looks from the long end of a career devoted to getting people and things to the right places at the right times. It truly is, as the book's dust jacket states, a classic work.

"A Man and His Watch"

With his new book, Matthew Hranek has created the style bible for any watch collector. Hranek masterfully weaves the stories of 70 unique timepieces from the men who've owned them. He also uncovers examples of deep historical significance such as Steve McQueen's Heuer Monaco and astronaut Wally Schirra's Omega Speedmaster. "For me," Hranek says, "it wasn't just about the watches, it was about the stories behind them that made them so interesting."

"Stars & Cars: Mythical Pairings"

Author Jacques Braunstein shares our passion not only for cars and entertainment but also for the cultural impact automobiles have achieved through their appearances in some of Hollywood's most memorable movies and television programs. His latest book includes actors who have raced—from Dean to McQueen to Newman—and car-entwined characters such as James Bond, Mad Max, and the Blues Brothers, not to mention specific films and shows and the cars they helped to make famous. You'll find plenty here to satisfy your automotive cravings.

Richard Mille RM 50-03 Tourbillon McLaren F1

$1,000,000, richardmille.com

If you have a cool million sitting around—yes, we know—and are looking for the proper timepiece to match the McLaren BP23 you've ordered, you're in luck. Richard Mille has created the wrist cleavage of your dreams. The RM 50-03 is made from Graph TPT, a composite created by injecting graphene-containing resins into layers of carbon fiber and weighs in at 1.4 ounces, including the strap. No one ever said that channeling the bleeding-edge nature of F1 and distilling it into a timepiece this flawless is for the masses.

Rolex Milgauss

Similar to daily worn dive watches, the Omega Speedmaster's NASA flight certification, the Breitling Navitimer's slide-rule function, and true moonphase-equipped models, a great number of watches possess seemingly ridiculous capabilities that are entirely too specific for the average desk jockey. The colorful Rolex Milgauss is so-named for its resistance to up to 1,000 gauss of magnetic force. Before the advent of modern computers and digital watches, scientists working with magnetic fields needed timepieces designed to resist these forces. The Milgauss is one of the most recognizable of these scientist specials, sporting a lightning-bolt seconds hand.


$10,000, vistajet.com

There's a reason the tarmac at Monterey Regional Airport is lousy with private jets during Monterey Car Week. Driving yourself—or even worse, flying coach into foggy and oft-delayed MRY—is a big drag. VistaJet, with its global fleet of branded Bombardier Global 5000 and Challenger 350 aircraft, takes the idea of the shared economy to the next logical and expensive level. Choose from either VistaJet's on-demand or longer-term program, and you'll never get stuck waiting for a connection again.

Döttling Colosimo Watch Safe

Since 1919, Döttling has produced some of the finest safes in its factory in Sindelfingen, Germany. Named after legendary turn of the century gangster "Big Jim" Colosimo and inspired by bank vaults Big Jim would knock over during Prohibition, Döttling created a 1:13-sized vault replica. The Colosimo is an aesthetic gem we wholeheartedly endorse.

Montblanc StarWalker Spirit of Racing Doué Fineliner

If you appreciate fine watches, cars, and design, it doesn't make sense to sign documents and letters with the 10-cent ballpoint you picked up from your insurance agent. The StarWalker collection is one of Montblanc's more subtle product lines, offering subdued, dark designs accented primarily with platinum finish and a crystal endcap. Part of the Spirit of Racing line, the pen wears a rubber tread pattern wrapped around the resin barrel. This example uses the felt-tipped fineliner cartridge but can be had as a ballpoint or fountain pen.

Pagnol M1A Auto Jacket

Pagnol, an established purveyor of high-end riding gear, looks to break into the four-wheeled sector with the fab M1A Auto Jacket. Just like the motorcycle jacket, the M1A features the same slim leather construction, retaining the accordion stretch panels at the center back, under arm, and above the elbows, and replacing the thick, bulky Kevlar abrasion guards with matte Lycra. Like any good riding jacket, it features zippered pockets, ventilation slots, and zippered sleeves.

The Balvenie Peat Week, 2002 Vintage

Ahh, peat. That rich, funky, decidedly Scottish stuff that makes whisky so magical. If you're a peat lover, you'll love The Balvenie's Peat Week, the result of experiments undertaken in 2001. In 2002 and every year since, the Speyside distillery has set aside a week each year to using 100-percent Highland peat for barley drying. In the process, the malted barley absorbs the smoke. Highland peat imparts an earthier, woodier flavor. Look for hints of butterscotch and honey in the nose with citrus, smoke, and oak on the tongue and creamy vanilla on the finish.