ECE alumnus creates a Bonding experience for Engineering Open House
Tom Moone, ECE ILLINOIS
- ECE alumnus Michael VanBlaricum brought three vehicles associated with James Bond films to the 2012 Engineering Open House.
- VanBlaricum has been collecting manuscripts and other items associated with Ian Fleming and James Bond for many years.
- The display was to recognize Q, the engineer and inventor in the bond films, and to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the premier of the first Bond film, Dr. No.
“Other people wanted to be Bond. I wanted to be Q,” said ECE alumnus Michael VanBlaricum (BSEE ’72, MSEE ’74, PhD ’76).
A long-time collector and fan of Ian Fleming and his literary creation, VanBlaricum, in conjunction with The Ian Fleming Foundation, brought three vehicles that had been used in James Bond films to the 2012 Engineering Open House (EOH).
The vehicles on display included the Q Boat, which was built specifically for use in the film The World Is Not Enough. The boat was driven by James Bond in the film and performed a barrel roll on the Thames. The augmented Jaguar and Ski-Doo were used in the film Die Another Day. These last two are considered villain vehicles because they were driven by characters chasing James Bond.
VanBlaricum has been a fan of James Bond and Ian Fleming since he first saw Goldfinger when he was fourteen. But it was not the exploits of the international agent that caught VanBlaricum’s imagination. It was Q, the man who creates those fabulous gadgets that get Bond out of harm’s way. “I fell in love with Q and all of the gadgetry,” said VanBlaricum. “Q was the engineer, and I wanted to be an engineer.”
After seeing the film, VanBlaricum began reading the novels, and he was hooked. Then, as VanBlaricum said, “The collector gene kicked in.” He began his collection with first editions, which later led to manuscripts and other ephemera. The move to collecting movie props was a bit of an accident. Someone in the film industry who knew of VanBlaricum’s interest called to tell him that the Neptune submarine from the 1981 James Bond film For Your eyes Only was available, and would he be interested in it?
That was the beginning of a new aspect of his collection. In 1992 he became one of three co-founders of The Ian Fleming Foundation, and is presently president of that organization. The foundation, a nonprofit corporation, is dedicated to preserving all things dealing with the life of Ian Fleming, as well as his creation, James Bond. The foundation currently owns thirty-four vehicles that were used in the films.
VanBlaricum decided to bring these three vehicles to EOH because he has long been a supporter that event. In 1972, VanBlaricum and Pam Calvetti, who later became his wife (and who was the first female PhD recipient from what was then the Department of Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering), were directors of that year’s EOH. EOH had seen waning attendance in years prior to that, and the students knew they needed something to bring people in.
They were able to obtain a moon rock from NASA to display at EOH. That year, rather than the 3,000 attendees they had seen in previous years, there were 20,000 people lining up to see the moon rock.
When talking to students about this year’s event, VanBlaricum realized he could bring together two of his passions—EOH and Ian Fleming. The focus of his display is on Q and the engineering that goes into the gadgets for both the hero and the villains of the Bond books and films. It was particularly appropriate to bring the film items as 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the first James Bond film, Dr. No.
In his day job, VanBlaricum works at Toyon Research Corporation in Goleta, California. Toyon is a company involved in technology development and defense systems analysis. VanBlaricum and his wife live in nearby Santa Barbara, though they often travel back to Illinois to enjoy Fighting Illini sporting events. VanBlaricum is also a member of the ECE Alumni Board and is a 2006 recipient of the ECE Distinguished Alumni Award.
Of Ian Fleming and his literary output, VanBlaricum said, “They are great books. They’re 200 page thrillers that are written by a journalist who was the Deputy to the Director of Naval Intelligence in World War II. So he knew what he was doing and wrote some fantastic stuff.”