CHICAGO -- Doug Redenius' first encounter with the fictional British secret agent James Bond occurred at an Illinois movie theatre back in 1964.
"I was eight years old and my dad took me to see 'Goldfinger,'" Redenius recalled. "I was hooked. After 'Goldfinger,' my father and I went to see every James Bond movie when it would come out."
Redenius' love for all things 007 would eventually lead to his collecting vehicles from the Bond movies. He started this collection in late 1991, when Redenius and two partners paid $3,000 for a Neptune submarine, which was featured in the 1981 Bond film "For Your Eyes Only".
That purchase was the basis for a collection which now includes 42 vehicles from Bond films. Redenius, a longtime resident of St. Anne, Illinois, in Kankakee County, now houses most of these vehicles in an undisclosed airplane hangar about an hour outside of Chicago city limits.
"It's not just the Bond cars," Redenius said. "We own everything from helicopters and boat and motorcycles to jet airplanes. It's ideal that the vehicles are based here in the Chicago area, because we're centrally located and it's easier to ship the vehicles here from the East or West."
This illustrious collection, which is valued at around $15 million, is now owned by the Ian Fleming Foundation, a not-for-profit organization created in 1992 by Redenius and his two partners - American producer/screenwriter John Cork and Dr. Michael VanBlaricum, a University of Illinois alumnus who works in the tech field in the Los Angeles area.
The foundation, which is dedicated to the study and preservation of literary works by Bond creator Ian Fleming, showcases its 007 movie vehicles solely for charity. For instance, the exhibition of the Bond vehicles is used to help fund an undergraduate research scholarship fund for the media department at the University of Illinois.
"We have around 20 volunteers working with us to restore the vehicles," Redenius said. "None of the volunteers, none of us on the board make a salary. We survive off donations."
Currently, many the vehicles are being featured at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles in an exhibit called "Bond In Motion". The exhibit is also celebrating the 30th anniversary of the launch of the foundation.
"We're celebrating our 30th anniversary, while the Bond film franchise is celebrating its 60th anniversary - the first Bond film was 'Dr. No' in 1962. And the first Bond novel was Fleming's 'Casino Royale,' which was published 70 years ago. So we're celebrating a lot of anniversaries."
The foundation's charitable work with the Bond movie vehicles is sanctioned by both the Ian Fleming estate and the estate of longtime Bond movie producer Cubby Broccoli. And Redenius, who is also the archivist for the Ian Fleming Foundation, is responsible for locating the vehicles.
Many of those vehicles are instantly recognizable to Bond fans. They include the vibrant green Jaguar featured in a memorable chase on the ice in "Die Another Day" (2002); two Polaris snowmobiles featured in a chase through the French Alps in "The World Is Not Enough" (1999); a recently acquired jet featured in an iconic airborne fight scene in "Goldfinger" (1964); and the most valuable vehicle in the collection, a Lotus submarine car from "The Spy Who Loved Me" (1977). That submarine car is valued at $1 million, Redenius said.
"It's my favorite in the collection," Redenius said.
Redenius, who spent much of his adult life working as a postal worker in Kankakee County, never was blessed with unlimited capital to purchase these Bond vehicles. But he didn't need large sums of money to acquire most of the vehicles, which were often discarded by the movie producers after the shoots were completed.
"Once we got established, people began tipping us off on where to find some of these vehicles after their movies wrapped," Redenius said.
The jet from "Goldfinger," for instance, was tipped off to Redenius last year. "It had decommissioned in 1988 and was junked," Redenius said. "I did the research, and was able to verify it from its VIN number. Now we're a year into restoring it."
His most notable acquisition, the Lotus submarine car from "The Spy Who Loved Me", was perhaps Redenius' most shrewd acquisition.
"I found that vehicle in a junkyard in the Bahamas, it had been left behind by the producers," Redenius recalled.
In addition to the Bond vehicles, Redenius also owned other non-transportation-related Bond memorabilia, which he started collecting in 1980. He ended up with over 18,000 Bond-related items before selling that collection in 2011.
Now the 66-year-old Redenius just concentrates on the Bond vehicles.
"I still enjoy doing this," he said. "The hunt and acquisition (of the vehicles), that's what really thrills me."