G ene Ponder built an automotive compound on his estate that includes three carriage-house style garages, each representing a different segment of his amazing collection of European exotics. There's also a separate mechanic's garage and other collections, ranging from wine to watches.

In the article you'll learn about the business Gene built into a national powerhouse, what it took to bring his dream garage(s) to life, the stories behind his collections, and his favorite cars of the past, present and future.

VEHICLES INSIDE:
MGs, Ferraris, Jaguars, Mercedes-Benzes, Alfa-Romeos, Rolls-Royces, Arnolts, Bentleys, and more.

Select the STORY tab above for all the details. PHOTOS and VIDEOS at right.

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T he Spirit of Ecstasy, a silver likeness of a beautiful woman in fluttering robes, is one of the most well-known motor car mascots in the world. Often called The Flying Lady, this ornament has adorned the radiator of every Rolls-Royce since 1911. A nearly life-sized statue of The Spirit of Ecstasy stands in a place of prominence in Texas businessman Gene Ponder’s main garage, flanked by a beautiful 1931 Roll-Royce Phantom One, one of over 70 vintage vehicles in his extensive collection. The feeling of freedom captured by this statue may be the best illustration of what these automobiles represent to this collector of extraordinary cars.

Gene readily admits he has an affliction; he is suffering from the collector’s mentality, an all-consuming need to acquire, accumulate, assemble, and restore, traits that non-collectors often find difficult to understand . Over the years he has amassed what is arguably the largest private collection of rare cars, motorcycles, and automotive memorabilia in the South, housed in three custom-designed garages behind his magnificent home. With a specialization in European sports cars, his collection of vintage vehicles includes MGs, Ferraris, Jaguars, Mercedes-Benzes, Alfa Romeos, Rolls-Royces, Arnolts, and Bentleys. He also owns a number of one-of-a-kind vehicles that showcase the pinnacle of automotive craftsmanship. As his wife Patsy says, “Gene is more than a car collector—this is his all-consuming passion.”

As the founder and chairman of Republic Industries, the fifth largest kitchen cabinet manufacturer in North America, Gene applies the same tenacity and dedication to running his company as he does to augmenting his collection.

He grew up in Atlanta and worked as a teenager unloading boxcars for the cabinet company located behind his high school. “I was a football player, but I couldn’t get the girls because I didn’t have the money for nice clothes and fancy cars,” he recalled. “So, in a way, I am trying to accumulate everything I couldn’t have as a kid. I have always believed if you work hard, you will be a success. If you expect good fortune to just fall into your lap, it’s not going to happen.”

After completing a stint in the Army, he used his life savings to purchase a cabinet company in the small town of Marshall in Northeast Texas. The central location has proven to be very good for business. He started on a shoestring with 20 employees, and today the company employs over 2,200 and is valued at over $300 million. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for my employees—they are the best,” he said. Two of the couple’s three sons--Kenny, Allan, and Jeff—work in the cabinet company with him.

Although Gene’s father rode English motorcycles and appreciated fine automobiles in his own right, it was his Uncle Pete, who owned a variety of cars including Alfa Romeos and Mini Coopers, who truly inspired his passion.

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Garages To Ponder

Garages To Ponder

Gene Ponder's collection of European exotics grew too large for just one 5000 sq.ft. garage, so he built three. Four if you include the Workshop.

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