Rockford man’s car is star in Hollywood movie

STAR CAR—(left) Tim and Julie Lenon make an appearance at the New York City premiere of “My One and Only.”

 

STAR CAR—(left) Tim and Julie Lenon make an appearance at the New York City premiere of “My One and Only.” Photo courtesy of TIM LENON

 

It is most common to think of movie stars, as people—individuals such as Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks or Will Smith.

Did you ever think that a movie star could be a “what,” not a “who?” Remember the 2000 movie, “Gone in 60 Seconds”?

The car, a modified 1967 Shelby GT—prettied up for the movie with high tech materials—named Eleanor was the main character. Eleanor couldn’t talk, walk or think on her own, but, without Eleanor, the movie would never have been a blockbuster hit with a cult-like following.

Rockford resident, Tim Lenon, owner of Legend Restorations Inc. in Sparta, recently created an “Eleanor” of his own. In the recent movie “My One and Only,” starring Renee Zellweger and Kevin Bacon, Lenon provided the 1953 Cadillac Eldorado, which was for all purposes as important to the film’s plot as Zellweger’s character. In “My One and Only,” a comedy set in the 1950s, Zellweger’s character, Ann Devereaux, takes her two teenage sons, Robbie (Mark Rendall) and George (Logan Lerman), on a drive down the Eastern coastline in an impracticable search for a wealthy man to fund a new life for her and her sons—a life better than what they had with Ann’s cheating husband Dan (Kevin Bacon).

The 1953 Cadillac Eldorado, “Zelly,” is featured in a New Mexico scene of “My One and Only.”	Photo courtesy of TIM LENON

The 1953 Cadillac Eldorado, “Zelly,” is featured in a New Mexico scene of “My One and Only.” Photo courtesy of TIM LENON

The process of restoring a vintage (1930s to 1960s era) car is not a quick process, nor is it inexpensive. Many times it can take 18 months to two years to complete a simple restore, and often it takes longer.

“You don’t get three chances to get it right,” said Lenon of the process.

Restoring cars to their vintage quality is not a job for Lenon, it’s a passion. He eats it, sleeps it, and breathes it. Vintage cars are his life, so you can imagine his response when approached by a major Hollywood motion picture production company.

This particular car, the 1953 Cadillac Eldorado, nicknamed Zelly, was as important to the movie as the movie stars who would ride in her. Lenon was in New Mexico for filming and maintaining the integrity of Zelly during the production process. It was there that he met Kevin Bacon, Renee Zellweger and the rest of the cast of the limited 2009 release. Lenon recalls eating a simple breakfast of oatmeal with Zellweger and how genuine and down-to-earth a woman she is.

“Zelly,” a 1953 Cadillac Eldorado, is on the scene during sunrise in New Mexico.	Photo courtesy of TIM LENON

“Zelly,” a 1953 Cadillac Eldorado, is on the scene during sunrise in New Mexico. Photo courtesy of TIM LENON

In August 2009, Lenon was given the honor of showcasing the ’53 Eldorado at the premiere of “My One and Only” in New York City. He was dressed as a 1950s gentleman and drove “her” down 56th Street and 5th Avenue. She was parked in a roped-off section in front of the Paris theatre while the red carpet clamor and paparazzi snapped pictures of Lenon and the cast of “My One and Only.”

People from all over the country look to Lenon for their vintage restorations. He has clients from all over Michigan to Maryland to Australia who ship vehicles to him, confident that their beloved car will once again be the glorious vehicle it once was—cherished, authentic, but most of all, vintage.

Tim Lenon arrives home with “Zelly” after the movie premiere in New York.	Photo courtesy of TIM LENON

Tim Lenon arrives home with “Zelly” after the movie premiere in New York. Photo courtesy of TIM LENON

Lenon has been to Hollywood only once, but now that Hollywood and the rest of the world have seen his work, he’ll be back. Modest, humble and passionate about vintage cars, Lenon hasn’t been star-struck or become arrogant by his experience with Hollywood. In fact, it’s probably the exact opposite. When asked if he would ever do another film, Lenon responded, “Only period-correct movies.”

Legend Restorations Inc. is a custom vintage car facility based in Sparta. The business specializes in getting exactly the right part for the car you want restored, and installing and finishing the car to your exact specifications with accuracy and attention to detail of days gone by.

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