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Thursday, January 24, 2008 – Paris in the Thirties

1937 Talbot Lago, T150-C-SS, manufactured by Automobiles Talbot-Darracq of Paris with a body by Figoni & Falaschi

Not really Paris in the thirties, but Sylmar will have to do.  That would be at the dusty far end of the San Fernando Valley where amid all the warehouses and trash you'll find The Nethercutt Collection, probably the finest display of rare automobiles in America, all perfectly restored. Back in 2003 the Los Angeles Times explained the place this way –

    Deep in the San Fernando Valley lies the automobile and musical instrument lover's answer to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory: sibling collections of vintage cars and antique mechanical musical instruments amassed by J.B. Nethercutt, the 89-year-old scion of Merle Norman Cosmetics. The good news is you don't need a golden ticket to get into the Nethercutt Museum of cars or San Sylmar, which houses the instruments and more automotive artifacts.

    The Nethercutt started in 1956 with one car, a 1930 DuPont. Now it boasts more than 240 automobiles and a 65,000-square-foot temple dedicated to the heyday of automotive design.

J.B. and his wife have both passed away since then but the place just gets better and better.  The cars are displayed in chronological order, from an 1896 Eisenach 2-Cylinder to a 1983 DeLorean Series DMC-12 and so on, and they all run.  The San Sylmar museum across the street has a few more cars, but it's mostly oddities – hood ornaments, automotive mascots and Louis XV-style furniture, and on the top floor the mechanical musical instrument collection of musical pocket watches to midsize nickelodeons to gigantic electro-pneumatic "orchestians." The giant 1926 Hupfield Excelsior Pan Orchester has two built-in accordions, full percussion, a piano and more than five hundred pipes.  The 1926 Hope-Jones Unit Wurlitzer with its five thousand pipes is also impressive. The 1930 Encore Banjo with its mechanical fingers plays ragtime. Listening to these last three isn't musically impressive, but impressive nonetheless.

The car shown here is a 1937 Talbot Lago, T150-C-SS, manufactured by Automobiles Talbot-Darracq of Paris with a body by Figoni & Falaschi – six cylinders and one hundred forty horsepower. Only fourteen of these "teardrop" coupes were ever made.  At the time just the chassis would run you five grand.  This coupe was owned by the English-born Follies Bergere dancer Stella Mudge, who wed an Indian Maharajah and then became the Maharani of Kapurthalha, in case you were wondering.  And here it is last year on Rodeo Drive.

1937 Talbot Lago, T150-C-SS, manufactured by Automobiles Talbot-Darracq of Paris with a body by Figoni & Falaschi

That was 1937 – but below is a 1931 Bugatti Type 51 Coupe. It has a 2.3 liter inline eight putting out one hundred eighty-five horsepower.  It would have set you back about six thousand 1937 dollars. The Bugatti folks built it in Mosheim as a Grand Prix machine – Louis Chiron and Rene Dryfus drove it – and then in 1936 Andre Bith bought it and made it into this coupe, commissioning Louis Dubos Carrosserie of Paris to do the body. It's the only one of its kind.  It's cool.

1931 Bugatti Type 51 Coupe
1931 Bugatti Type 51 Coupe
1931 Bugatti Type 51 Coupe
1931 Bugatti Type 51 Coupe

Meanwhile, back in the United States, for 3,195.00 you could have your very own Art Deco 1930 Ruxton front-drive sedan, built in Saint Louis with a body by Budd Manufacturing of Philadelphia – with an inline eight putting out one hundred horsepower.  As they told you then – "A car so low you can look over it… a car so smart none can overlook it."  Ruxton made two hundred of these and folded.  They lasted one year. Oh well.

1930 Ruxton front-drive sedan

Or you could just buy a 1936 Hupmobile, with the Hayes body from Grand Rapids. It was only 795.00 back then.

1936 Hupmobile
1936 Hupmobile

If you wish to use any of these photos for commercial purposes I assume you'll discuss that with me. And should you choose to download any of these images and use them invoking the "fair use" provisions of the Copyright Act of 1976, please provide credit, and, on the web, a link back this site.

Technical Note:

Most of these photographs were shot with a Nikon D70 - using lens (1) AF-S Nikkor 18-70 mm 1:35-4.5G ED, or (2) AF Nikkor 70-300mm telephoto, or after 5 June 2006, (3) AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor, 55-200 mm f/4-5.6G ED. They were modified for web posting using Adobe Photoshop 7.0.  Earlier photography was done with a Sony Mavica digital still camera (MVC-FD-88) with built-in digital zoom.

[Paris in the Thirties]

All text and photos, unless otherwise noted, Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 - Alan M. Pavlik