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DOUG REDENIUS OF THE IAN FLEMING FOUNDATION
|Licensed to Thrill - Ken Wysocky talks to Doug Redenius, vice president of the Ian Fleming Foundation and a good friend of FSWL, exclusively for American Airlines in-flight magazine.
How did a postal carrier in Illinois wind up with one of the coolest car collections ever? By being as relentless as James Bond himself.
You might imagine that the man with America’s largest collection of James Bond movie vehicles is a reclusive, millionaire owner of an obscure, multinational corporation — a shadowy, Auric Goldfinger type, jonesing for cool cars instead of gold bullion.
You’d be wrong. The man’s name is Redenius. Doug Redenius. He’s a 55-year-old rural postal carrier. And hold on to your steering wheel: Most of the 34 cars, boats and other mind-bending vehicles sit under tarps. In a rented metal barn. Surrounded by farm fields near tiny Momence, Ill., about an hour south of Chicago.
Estimated value? About $3 million. Throw in Redenius’ personal collection of 15,000 pieces of Bond memorabilia, worth upward of $1.5 million, and you’re talking some serious coin.
Yet the affable Redenius is about as pretentious as a Yugo — way more Joe Commondude than the suave, pop-culture icon that’s infiltrated his DNA: British secret agent 007, licensed to kill. You’d never guess that this former antique appraiser plays with the big boys when it comes to one-of-a-kind hobbies.
“It’s clearly the most significant collection of Bond film cars in North America,” says Don Rose, a car specialist at RM Auctions, Inc. (The company recently sold the quintessential Bond car — the gadget-filled Aston Martin DB5 that dropped moviegoers’ jaws in Goldfinger back in 1964 — for a cool $4.6 million.)
“The Bond genre has it all: beautiful locations, beautiful girls and cool clothing,” Redenius says. “But I was always enamored with the cars. I never saw cars do such cool things.”
There’s usually an interesting bacK-story to how each of these vehicles arrived at this decidedly un-Bond-like destination. But like most 007 films, it all starts with a woman — in this case, a baby sitter — and a sympathetic father.
“When I was 8 years old, my baby sitter took me to see a double feature, and the second movie was Goldfinger,” recalls Redenius, who’s co-founder and the vice president of the nonprofit Ian Fleming Foundation (IFF). The foundation owns the vehicles and pays homage to the man whose novels spawned one of the longest-running franchises in movie history.
The movie’s opening sequence, in which Sean Connery manages to plant a bomb, peel off a wet suit (revealing a tuxedo, of course) and seduce a local lovely named Bonita — all in about as much time as it takes to make a shaken-not-stirred vodka martini — left an indelible impression on Redenius. And on the sitter.
“When Bonita stepped out of a bathtub, the baby sitter pulled me out of the theater,” he recalls. “She was mortified.” Luckily, his sympathetic father took him back to see the movie.
“Little did I know that it would lead to my collection, the foundation, and calling many of the actors and actresses my friends,” says Redenius, who was an extra in Licensed to Kill. He’s also been on every Bond film set since 1987, has met every Bond actor but Sean Connery, and is friends with the Broccoli family, who has co-produced almost every Bond film. “It still boggles my mind.”
Redenius’ hunt for Bond vehicles began rather innocuously about 20 years ago, before Bond items fetched higher prices. Through Albert “Cubby” Broccoli, the patriarch of the film-producing family who had heard about Redenius’ memorabilia collection, Redenius learned that a Neptune submarine featured in For Your Eyes Only was for sale.
“One of my friends put up $1,500, another put up the other $1,500, and I drove to New York to get it,” he recalls. “I restored it, then rented it to the National Boat Show tour. It was a snowball effect — the more things we rented, the more money we made and the more vehicles we could buy.”
Shortly after that, Redenius and friends Mike Van Blaricum and John Cork formed the IFF, and the hunt was on. The condition of some vehicles would make Bond fans wince. Like the red 1971 Ford Mustang Mach 1 that raced through Las Vegas in Diamonds Are Forever, found in the backwoods near Howe, Texas. Or one of Redenius’ favorites: the über-cool 1977 Lotus submarine car from The Spy Who Loved Me, discovered in a junkyard in the Bahamas — painted red and decorated with Christmas-tree lights, no less.
Some were expensive, like the 1969 Mercury Cougar convertible driven by George Lazenby in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Price tag: $75,000. Others were donated or bought for nominal sums.
It may seem odd that filmmakers didn’t save the vehicles, given that the Bond franchise is such a global phenomenon. But warehousing props is expensive, so it’s much cheaper for filmmakers to dispose of them — just like the 1964 Lincoln Continental that meets its demise in a junkyard in Goldfinger.
About a half dozen of the IFF’s prize autos are on loan to the National Motor Museum, at Beaulieu in England. But the barn still holds an eye-popping assortment of vehicles.
There’s the blue Renault taxi with the shorn-off roof from A View to a Kill; the Glastron speedboat that caught 110 feet worth of big air jumping over a sheriff’s squad car in Live and Let Die (you can see where the hood buckled a bit from the landing); the Q jetboat, and both the ground and flying Parahawk snowmobiles from The World Is Not Enough (Redenius occasionally takes the boat for a spin on the nearby Kankakee River); the tuk-tuk (motorized rickshaw) from Octopussy; an underwater tow sled from Thunderball; and the Bath-O-Sub used by 007’s nemesis, Blofeld, in Diamonds Are Forever.
In another building sits the 2000 Jaguar XK8/R from Die Another Day, featuring a trunk-mounted machine gun and orange-tipped “missiles” inside the grill.
Redenius says the IFF is pursuing about a dozen more vintage vehicles. “We usually know where things are; it’s just a matter of people not getting ridiculous on price,” he says. “Everyone thinks their vehicle is worth $4 million.”
But his real raison d’être? Converting an old car dealership in Momence into the Museum of Bond Vehicles and Espionage, which would give the vehicles a proper home, one where the public can enjoy them. Redenius hopes to raise $3 million and build the museum by spring 2013. Museum proceeds would pay for upkeep; nonprofits would receive any balance.
Until then, the vehicles remain undercover, for his eyes only.
OTHER INTERVIEWS WITH BOND PEOPLE FEATURED ON FROM SWEDEN WITH LOVE:
>Robert Davi (December 2011)
>Vic Armstrong (November 2011)
>Béatrice Libert (November 2011)
>Bettine Le Beau (April 2011)
>Jeffery Deaver (April 2011)
>Martin Grace (January 2010)
>Bob Dix (August 2009)
>Britt Ekland (June 2009)
>Eight James Bond film directors (Winter 2009)
>Sean Connery (January 2009)
>David Hedison (June 2008)
>Sean Connery (April 2008)
>John Glen (September 2007)
>Terence Mountain (April 2007)
>Stanley Morgan (April 2007)
>Albert Moses (October 2006)
>Virginia Hey (October 2006)
>Dolph Lundgren (June 2006)
>Richard Kiel (March 2006)
>Hilary Saltzman (January 2006)
>Papillon Soo Soo (September 2004)
>Roger Spottiswoode (April 2004)
>Greg Powell (May 2001)
>Doug Robinson (May 2001)
>Roy Alon (May 2000)
>Nick Wilkinson (May 2000)
>Sarah Donohue (May 2000)
>Eunice Huthart (May 2000)
The 1969 Mercury Cougar convertible from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969).
View the full article about Doug Redenius from the Ian Fleming Foundation: