Born in South Bend, IN, on October 11, 1913, J.B. moved to Santa Monica, CA, in 1923 to live with his aunt and founder of Merle Norman Cosmetics, Merle Nethercutt Norman. He later left his studies at the California Institute of Technology to go into business with his aunt.
On September 3, 1933, J.B. married his high school sweetheart, Dorothy Sykes. The marriage lasted more than 70 years until Dorothy’s death on October 8, 2004. It was during their early years together that J.B. and Dorothy began their love affair with old cars.
In 1956, J.B. purchased two cars: a 1936 Duesenberg Convertible Roadster for $5,000 and a 1930 DuPont Town Car for $500, both needing total refurbishing. The DuPont restoration, which J.B. estimated would take a few weeks, instead took 18 months and over $65,000. By 1958, his meticulously rebuilt project claimed its first prize — the coveted “Best of Show” award at the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. By the summer of 1992, his cars had won the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance six times, more than any other individual. The Duesenberg and the DuPont are still part of The Nethercutt Collection.
As J.B.’s collection grew, he was determined to share his masterpieces with the public. In 1971, he and Dorothy opened a museum in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, which has been free to the public since its opening.
J.B., who passed away on December 6, 2004 at the age of 91, memorably stated: “The recognition and preservation of beauty has been a major focus of my life. It would suit me well if what people remembered about me was, ‘Where he went, he left beauty behind.’”