Marshall resident Gene Ponder is selling his multi-million dollar car collection from his home this week in a highly-publicized auction with RM Sotheby’s.
The auction will take place over three days, beginning on Thursday at 11 a.m. and ending on Saturday, Sept. 24. R.M. Sotheby’s will hold a public preview from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 21. The Gene Ponder Collection is worth over $25 million.
“I enjoy buying an old, junky-looking car and turning it into something beautiful,” said Ponder. “Some people collect Rembrandts, Van Gogh’s art, jewelry, things like this. To me, these old vintage cars made in the ’30s and ’40s, ’50s and ’60s are works of art in themselves.”
Car enthusiasts from all over the country will descend on Ponder’s state-of-the-art shop and garage buildings, which are spread across a well-kept estate, on Thursday. Guests will notice his personal Texaco gas station model in his front yard first. The model station, as well as vintage signage, jukeboxes, wall art and other desirable automobilia, will be for sale.
This weekend’s auction features a diverse collection of over 120 cars, motorcycles, and boats. A dark navy blue 1938 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic Recreation by Erik Koux with an Egyptian baby crocodile interior valued at $1.4 million to $1.8 million is one of the highlights offered.
Other lots will include a 1960 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster, valued between $1.7 and $1.9 million; a 1954 Aston Martin DB2/4 Drophead Coupe, valued between $800,000 and $1 million; a 1960 Maserati 3500 GT Spyder, valued between $800,000 and $1 million; and a 1967 Ferrari 330 GTC, valued between $650,000 and $725,000.
There are 98 cars in total, 1,047 lots of cars and memorabilia, 57 cars with estimates over $100,000 and cars spanning the decades from 1923 to 2015.
Ponder grew up in a low-income family in Atlanta, Georgia. His mother abandoned him when he was 1 year old, so he was raised by his grandparents. Ponder moved from Georgia to Jefferson in 1968 to work in the cabinet manufacturing industry. He was adamant about having money and living a better life.
“The Gene Ponder Collection and the upcoming sale stand out among others as this is a unique opportunity for a buyer to come experience the passion of Mr. Ponder firsthand at his estate,” Thatcher Keast, auction coordinator and auctioneer, said. “When you arrive, you realize the entire estate was built to house a car collection. Every aspect of this property revolves around the vehicles, the memorabilia, and Mr. Ponder’s love for all things automotive. We are thrilled to bring this collection to market as there is truly something for every type of collector within Gene’s collection.”
When asked why cars became so important to him, he responded, “I don’t care how good a football player or track star you were, the girls didn’t want to walk on a date.” He promised himself that he would one day have a beautiful car and clothes. “Thank God, He’s helped me achieve all that.”
Ponder presents himself as a fair and honest individual. He founded his own company, Republic Industries, which continues to be a major contributor to job opportunities for Marshall residents. However, after retiring and selling Republic to a New York investment group in 2004, he received numerous complaints from former employees about unfair treatment by their new employers. This prompted him to establish Master WoodCraft Cabinetry in 2007 in order to assist his former employees. He funded this venture by selling his first car collection, which was also handled by R.M. Sotheby’s.
As probably one of the few people in the world to have a Catholic Chapel on his property, the religious Texan gives all glory to God for his success.
“I’ve just been lucky and God’s been good to me, and I never fooled myself that I’m anything more than what He’s helped me achieve,” Ponder said.
Why another auction? Ponder wants to travel the world after establishing two significant commercial businesses, recently remarrying and turning 80, he said.
Ponder has sold his commercial cabinetry manufacturing business and is now retired. He remarried two months ago, and the new couple intends to travel and rest on their laurels.
Ponder plans to keep seven cars from his collection and use them in rallies across the country. He’ll keep one of the first Lamborghini convertibles, an Ashton Martin and a couple of Jaguars, among other things. He enjoys driving 1,000 miles in four to five days through Napa Valley, San Francisco and the Northeast.
“I just love Marshall Texas and it’s been good to me. I don’t want to go back to Atlanta, Georgia, I know that!