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.
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.”