Gene Ponder’s MG treasure troves are up for auction

by Stanley Daamen, Netherlands

Years ago, I wrote an article about the great classic car collection of the American car collector Gene Ponder. Now I write once again, having found information on the Internet about the forthcoming auction of his entire collection.

Firstly, some information about the man himself and the previous auction that was held in 2007. Gene Kupra Ponder was the founder and former CEO of one of America’s largest kitchen manufacturers, “The Master Wood Craft Cabinetry” in Marshall Texas. Born in 1942, he grew up penniless with his grandparents in Georgia, but after college he started his woodworking firm. His kitchen cabinet business prospered in the post-war US consumer boom and he became a multimillionaire.

After a very successful 50-year career, there was little that Gene could not afford. He spent a lot of his earned dollars on gifts and donations for charities in his area, but also on his great hobby, collecting mainly European classic cars and everything that has to do with these cars.  Our ‘hobby marque’ MG, especially attracted his attention including the TD with the Bertone designed body fitted by the American car manufacturer Arnolt, who started importing British cars to the United States in the 1950s.

Aston-Martin, Austin Healey, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo Maserati and Bugatti were also among his favorite marques. He regarded these cars as true art objects. His collection was carefully and tastefully housed on his park-like and well-maintained Texas estate on which he had three museum garages built. One of his famous sayings was “I buy things because I like them, it’s that simple.”

His first love for cars is the MG, and they have a very prominent position in his collection of mainly European sports cars. “The MG TC is the most beautiful car I own”, Gene once told a reporter. “This red MG TC convertible really fueled my passion for MGs and sports cars. It is also the first car that I restored myself”. A striking fact is that many cars from his collection are painted red.

The maintenance building is divided into two halves, one half is a restoration workshop that houses a large warehouse with spare parts for rare cars, and the other half is exhibition space. For years his regular mechanic Harold Rogers worked on all his classic cars. “Harold knows more about these cars than any 100 mechanics combined” said Gene.

There is a short video on YouTube under the name Garage Mahal – Gene Ponder about his collection from that period. His regular mechanic Harold Rodgers also has a say in this.

His favorite MG was the PB “Leonidas” racer, this was a beautiful exact copy in aluminum of the 1935 Le Mans racer by Miles Collier; perhaps the most famous pre-war MG in America. The original is at the Revs Institute in Naples Florida USA. Gene Ponder’s copy was sold in early 2007. More than 15 years ago I found this information about his mega collection, Gene Ponder then decided to put part of his collection up for auction. This happened on April 21 and 22, 2007 at RM Auctions in Scottsdale USA, the reason for the reduction of his collection was a serious heart attack that required surgery. Many rare Pre and Post War classic cars were then sold.

The MG TC with supercharger, restored by Gene Ponder himself, was also auctioned for $81,000.

This auction then consisted of 1168 lots, in addition to cars, it also consisted of motorcycles, car and aircraft models, advertising signs, petrol pumps, display cabinets, parts and many car memorabilia. In total, this part of his collection yielded more than 15 million dollars. Check out by The Ponder Collection 2007 auction results

His wife died in January 2022 and his mechanic Harold was unable to get under his cars to work due to age-related ailments. “Age is catching up with us all” said Gene Ponder in a press release, and now 80-year-old Gene Ponder indicated that he will be auctioning off his entire collection of more than 120 cars, and motorcycles, as well as an enviable and extensive selection of automotive memorabilia at the end of September. This auction will be hosted by RM-Sotheby’s at its Marshall Texas estate. The auction house has already spent more than 1000 manhours to map out its collection of 1243 lots. Top pieces from various European car marques will also go under the hammer at this auction and many MGs that he had added to his collection since the previous auction in 2007, including a 1935 MG-PB Airline Coupé from Carbodies. It is striking that a considerable number of handmade MG specials are auctioned. Gene Ponder was a big fan of this and he gave it various names such as replica, recreation, conversion or tribute model. Sometimes he adapted the original with extra accessories such as a time period supercharger, a different colour or interior, but he also had complete cars rebuilt. He must undoubtedly have given orders to many restoration companies to have all these beautiful things made. For example, there are 8 MG TCs for sale in September, including a few very nice specials, one with a boat tail body and supercharger.

The supercharged TC and the Leonidas racer ‘rebuilt on the basis of a TD’.

Gene also had the MG Leonidas racer rebuilt again, but now on the basis of a TD. He even had the MG Pickup TD made as a replica based on an MGB, the original was built by Moss Motors USA in 1953. A total of 35 MGs are offered for sale of almost all types made by the MG Car Company. The Automobilia lots up for auction in September range from engine blocks, classic gas pumps from various brands, motorcycles, pedal cars, engine blocks from various brands, car lifts and trailers, racing trophies, furniture, mascots, classic signage, jukeboxes, complete tools and parts racks with unknown content, neon billboards to wall art and much, much more.

Whatever your interest in any marque, there really is something for everyone to discover in the Gene Ponder Collection. “It’s a tribute to virtually unattainable European sports cars that are rarely seen outside of museums,” Gene Ponder reported.

There is a short video on YouTube announcing this auction under the name RM Sotheby’s Presents The Gene Ponder Collection:

If you want to take a good look at all lots in this auction in advance, sit down and open the website Gene Ponder Collection / Available lots / RM Sotheby’s

Ed’s note: To be continued (after the sale).