Nethercutt Museum

Nethercutt Museum — Los Angeles Explorers Guild

Nethercutt Musuem

In Sylmar, you’ll find a building that contains one of the greatest collections of classic cars in the entire world. And visiting the place is free.

Nethercutt Museum — Los Angeles Explorers Guild

J.B. Nethercutt, co-founder of the Merle Norman Cosmetics Company (his aunt was Merle Nethercutt Norman herself) started his car collection in 1956 when he acquired a 1936 Duesenberg Convertible Roadster and a 1930 DuPont Town Car. The two cars, although in rough shape, cost Nethercutt $2,000.

Restoring the cars turned out to be a more monumental task than Nethercutt had initially anticipated. J.B. did the restoration work himself, and restoring the DuPont alone took 18 months and cost him another $65,000. But his investment paid off.

In 1958, the DuPont won “Best of Show” — that’s first place — at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, one of the most prestigious classic car shows in the world. Over the years, Nethercutt has managed to win “Best in Show” six times, the most of any individual in the festival’s 71-year history.

The Nethercutt Museum from the free parking lot. Photo from the author’s collection.

From there, Nethercutt began acquiring what would end up being a whole fleet of classic cars. And as his collection expanded, he found he needed a place to store all his vehicles. He also wanted to share his pristine vintage vehicles with the public. So in 1971 he opened a museum in Sylmar, a 10-story tower called San Sylmar (a likely riff on Hearst’s San Simeon), that was adjacent to the Merle Norman factory.

Twin Corvettes — a 1956 Roadster and a 1970 Stingray — in the Nethercutt Musem foyer. Photo from the author’s collection.

But San Sylmar only has space to show about 30 cars. And by 2000, Nethercutt had restored so many cars that he opened a large showroom across the street from San Sylmar. This building is known today as the Nethercutt Museum. At any given time, it displays around 120 different vehicles from Nethercutt’s vast collection.

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J.B. was adamant about being able to share his collection with world so that others could appreciate the beauty of these restored vehicles. As such, admission to the Nethercutt Museum is totally free to the public.

Inside the Nethercutt Museum

The number and variety of cars on display at the Nethercutt Musuem is truly astounding. At any given time, the large showroom features upwards of 120 antique, vintage, and classic automobiles, some dating back to at least 1898.

A 1907 Westinghouse Demi-Limousine. Photo from the author’s collection.

The display includes such known luxury brands including Lincoln, Rolls Royce, Packard, Cadillac, Bentley and Porsche. But there are numerous other cars that only the most die hard car aficionados have even heard of such as Pierce Arrow, Simplex, Westinghouse, Duesenbeg, Napier, and Graham-Paige.

The 1956 Rolls Royce Phantom IV Saloon once owned by Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salim Al-Sabah. Photo from the author’s collection.

The Nethercutt Museum even showcases more modern cars like a stainless steel DeLorean and an EV-1, the first electric car and star of the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car?

The Nethercutt Museum’s EV 1, on display with a charging station. Photo from the author’s collection.

Nethercutt’s collection even contains the 1998 Chevy “Tool Time” van from Home Improvement that Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor and his long-suffering assistant Al Borland would tool around in on the show.

The Nethercutt Museum is also home to the Nethercutt Automotive Research Library, a vast collection of books on automotive engineering and countless owner’s manuals from European and American vehicles going back to the end of the 19th century. There’s also an extensive number of miniature cars, hood ornaments, and automobile memorbilia displayed in glass cases along one of the museum’s walls.

Just a few of the miniature cars that are part of the Nethercutt Museum’s display. Photo from the author’s collection.

Automobiles and Trains

In addition to cars, the Nethercutt Museum features to a 1937 Canadian Pacific Royal Hudson Locomotive and a 1912 Pullman Railcar #100.

Royal Hudson Locomotive No. 2839, which played a supporting role in the 1980 film Coal Miner’s Daughter. Photo from the author’s collection.

These are kept outside (exit past the Tool Time van) behind the Nethercutt Museum building. These two railroad artifacts are usually closed to visitors, but open up twice a day at 12:30 PM and 3:45 PM for guided tours.

A Museum and a Collection

The Nethercutt museum is only part of the extensive Nethercutt Collection. Housed across the street in J.B. Nethercutt’s “San Sylmar” are even more artifacts acquired by J.B. Nethercutt through the years.

This large showroom, spread across six floors of the Nethercutt Tower, contains a few of the rarest cars from the Nethercutt stable, like his 1933 Duesenberg sedan known as “Twenty Grand” (named for its initial retail price — it’s worth $40 million today).

But the Collection also features a great collection of photographs, pianos, and mechanical musical instruments, including a Wurlitzer Theater Pipe Organ, that Nethercutt was fond of. Unlike the Museum, admission to the Collection is $10 a person and reservations must be made in advance.

A striking 1922 Chrysler on the floor of the Nethercutt Museum. Photo from the author’s collection.

Although J.B. Nethercutt passed away in 2004, his son Jack carries on the tradition of making the Nethercutt Museum free for anyone who wants to visit. So if you like old cars, a quick drive up The 210 to Sylmar would be well worth your time.

And if you like car collections …

Nethercutt Museum

  • 15151 Bledsoe St, Sylmar (at Bradley Ave.)
  • GPS Coordinates: 34.307557, -118.463629 [ Google Maps ]
  • what3words: ///
  • Hours: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM.
  • Free Admission
  • Visit Nethercutt Museum for more details.

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Tom Fassbender is a writer of things with a strong adventurous streak. When not exploring Los Angeles, he’s been known to enjoy a cup of coffee or two. You can find him at Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


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