Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Photo Essay: The Cars of the Nethercutt Museum & Collection

If you enjoy car museums like I do - the smell of petrol ready to ignite inside some flimsy container of a building, each vehicle ready to be hotwired and driven through the walls like you stole it - then the Nethercutt Museum is a must-do day trip from LA.



Located in Sylmar - technically the Valley, not that far north from City of Los Angeles boundaries - the Nethercutt is unique because its collection is largely private, named after J.B. Nethercutt, whose wealth as co-founder of Merle Norman Cosmetics allowed him to collect some exotic antique cars.



And some cars they are!



From Bugatis to Talbot-Lagos...



...to Mustangs...



...and Thunderbirds...



...the collection runs the gamut from the antique era (1890s to 1915), through the vintage and classic eras...



...and into the post-war era (1945-1970s).



A 1956 Packard convertible intermingles with a 1980 Cadillac limo.



There are coupes and turbos and roadsters...



...all shiny and restored, regardless of their vintage...



...many of which have been winners at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.



And that's just in the main museum.



Wait - there's more.



Across the street is the Nethercutt Collection, available for viewing by appointment only...



In the Lower Salon of the Collection, you can find anything from a bright orange Lowrider (with hydraulics!)...



...to an early generation electric car model by Saturn (priced at nearly $44k in 1997)...



...to a 1958 Vespa...



...and, of course, a Delorean.



Upstairs, in the Grand Salon, is where they keep the good stuff...



...30 of the finest automobiles of the 1910s, 20s and 30s, showcased in a ballroom of marble columns and crystal chandeliers.



This is where Nethercutt's cosmetics fortune and car collecting converge: specifically at the 1934 Packard (above) whose paint color after restoration was developed by chemists at Merle Norman into the color "Hussy," to be used in their lipsticks and nail polish. It's still so popular that the neighboring company store is nearly always sold out of it.



Salivation (and inclination to touch) may be induced by the classic Benz...



...or Sport Cabriolet, Cabriolet de Ville, Zeppelin or Buick...



...their headlights and hood ornaments and other chrome accents beaming out...



...ready to drive...



...ready to ride.



As with many car museums, these babies are driven regularly to keep them in working condition...



...but no matter how old they actually are...



...they all look brand new.



Featuring both domestics...



...and imports...



...Nethercutt's collection has continued to win awards (like Best in Show) in recent car competitions.



A car like the 1955 Mercedes Benz 300SL "Gullwing" coupe is breathtaking with its racing style.



...and it, like the 1926 Pierce-Arrow Series 33 Runabout...



...wasn't cheap to buy at the time.



These are celebrity cars, special occasion cars, formal towncars worthy of chauffeurs.



And Nethercutt's is a top-of-the-line collection that also serves as a history lesson for the evolution of the automobile, and a case study in restoration.

It's also a fantasy for visitors. Not many of us could ever afford to drive - much less actually own - any cars of this caliber, but at least we get to see them up close.

Nethercutt died in 2004 but his legacy lives on through his son Jack Nethercutt, who has taken over the operations of both the Collection and Merle Norman Cosmetics, and continues to grant free access to the Museum and Collection for car enthusiasts and visitors of all ages.

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