Sometimes I go somewhere and I am just so knocked on my feet I’m not even sure where to begin to share it with you. This is the case for the Nethercutt Museum and Collection. In fact, this place is so massive it’s actually receiving two blog posts! The Nethercutt is probably best known as an automotive museum, but if you decide to take the guided tour of the Collection, housed across the street from the museum, you’ll be astounded by amazing pieces of mechanical wonder of another sort. So stay tuned, in the meantime, let’s focus on the gorgeous automobiles of the Nethercutt Museum…
Here, spectacular cars from the 20th century, with a particular focus on pre-1950 cars, are showcased, including many unique, one-of-a-kind cars, as well as ones owned by celebrities of all sorts, such as Rudolph Valentino, Fatty Arbuckle, and several heiresses. There is also an extensive collection of hood ornaments.
The above grey car is the unique Voisin C-5 Sporting Victoria, bought by silent movie star Rudolph Valentino in Paris. He in fact bought three, bringing one to Hollywood. Fellow actor, Douglas Fairbanks, gifted Valentino the cobra hood ornament. The maroon red 1923 McFarlan Model 154 Knickerbocker belonged to yet another actor, funnyman “Fatty” Arbuckle.
While all of the cars in the collection are flawless, the above car is in somewhat sad condition, but it sits as an example of how some of these cars arrive at the Nethercutt, before the in-house team restores them to their former glory.
One of the most fascinating elements I came across was the art of caning on cars. I grew up with Victorian furniture and am familiar with caning for chairs and such, but I had not come across it on cars. Initially I thought this was woven cane applied to the cars, but it is in fact painted on, using paint thickened with lead and talc or powdered chalk. Originally this was done with a piping bag akin to the kind used in cake decorating, but later a pneumatic tool was developed. Below are some gorgeous examples of this unique design element.
In addition to the large collection of cars, just outside is a 1937 Canadian Pacific Royal Hudson train engine, with a 1912 Pullman Private Car in tow. The private railroad car belonged to Clara Baldwin Stocker, the daughter of one of California’s prominent settlers, “Lucky” Baldwin, for whom Baldwin Park (home of the first In-n-Out) is named after.
But just how did this amazing assortment of automobiles come to be? Well, it’s thanks to make-up. J.B. Nethercutt was born in 1913 in Indiana, but moved to Santa Monica in 1923. A few years later, in 1931, he and his aunt, Merle Norman, founded Merle Norman Cosmetics. Not long after he married his high school sweetheart, Dorothy, and soon they began collecting cars together. Beginning in 1956 they purchased a 1936 Duesenberg and a 1930 DuPont Town Car, had them restored, and they simply didn’t stop. By 1974 they decided to open a museum to showcase their now massive collection of cars. The tradition lives on today with J.B. and Dorothy’s son, Jack, and his wife, Helen. The museum likes to note that each car is still functioning, and goes out for a drive at least once a year. Additionally, the cars are still entered into car shows, and have participated in the New Year’s Day Rose Parade in Pasadena.
If cars aren’t your thing, but music is, then the Nethercutt Collection, a separate, ticketed tour is the place to be. But it’s also for car lovers too. Stay tuned for a look into the exclusive Collection next!
Gaze upon unique and fabulous cars at the Nethercutt Museum at 15151 Bledsoe Street in Sylmar, roughly 25 miles north of downtown Los Angeles. At the time of our visit, the Nethercutt Museum was free to visit, but had very limited operating hours of Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Please visit their website for further details.