• The drawings of Dr. Masao Kozu.

For the love of the three-pointed star.

Masao Kozu has been drawing Mercedes-Benz vehicles for over fifty-five years. To the present date, more than 5000 drawings have been produced in both black and white as well as colour. As a member of the Mercedes-Benz Club of Japan, Dr Masao Kozu was presented with the Silver Star Award for his life’s work in 2011.


His first love was a Mercedes-Benz 320 Cabriolet B.

One brief moment radically changed Masao Kozu’s life: in 1947, aged sixteen, he saw an extraordinary car on the streets of Tokyo which fascinated him immediately: ‘The spirit and style,’ he recalled, enthralled him, as well as the harmonious design – and of course the impressive star at the front!

“I was really excited,” he said. It was not until much later that he found out: ‘That's a Mercedes’, or a Mercedes-Benz 320 Cabriolet B from 1937, to be precise.

Inspiration: Press photos dated 1953.

Inspiration: Press photos dated 1953.

The special relationship was sealed by a letter.

“Up until then I had only been interested in American cars,” said Masao Kozu, laughing sheepishly as if he were admitting a youthful sin. Since this formative encounter he has only had eyes for vehicles with the world-famous three-pointed star. This love has not been without consequences: when he was twenty-one he wrote a letter to far-away Stuttgart asking the company for more information about Mercedes-Benz. “I immediately received a reply from the then head of advertising at the time, Friedrich Pattosien, with lots of photos and sales brochures, and also Hans Liska’s (Mercedes-Benz illustrator, ed.) sketch books and a model of the 300 Saloon,” recalled Kozu, now 81. Since then he has collected all the material about Mercedes-Benz that he could get his hands on.

Five thousand drawings since 1956.

In 1956 Masao Kozu finally began to do drawings of the vehicles – and since then he has not tired of putting cars, racing cars and utility vehicles down on paper. He has now created more than 5000 black-and-white and colour drawings, from Carl Benz’s Patent-Motorwagen to the newer concept vehicles. The legendary silver arrows are included, as are the Mercedes-Simplex, the C 111, and also historic buses and fire engines. Kozu only works with pencil and watercolours; on average a highly detailed work takes him between two to three hours. He prefers to make his sketches from “the living object”: so this self-taught artist regularly travels to Stuttgart to visit the Mercedes-Benz Museum, where he has been a popular guest since 1960 – even though he rarely announces he is coming. “I don’t want to disturb anyone,” said the likeable Japanese artist modestly.

Masao Kozu’s drawing tools.

Masao Kozu’s drawing tools.

Masao Kozu receives the Silver Star Award in 2011 from Michael Bock, Head of Mercedes-Benz Classic.

Masao Kozu receives the Silver Star Award in 2011 from Michael Bock, former Head of Mercedes-Benz Classic.

A Silver Star Award as a reward.

Masao Kozu learned in 2011 that he doesn’t “disturb” anyone – quite the contrary. His enthusiasm and his decade-long involvement in the Mercedes-Benz Club of Japan received official recognition at the celebration of the 125th anniversary of the motor car. Kozu was given the Silver Star Award in Berlin, a prize reserved for the most deserving members of the official Mercedes-Benz Club. “That was the most beautiful day in my entire life,” he said about his honour. He is retired and lives in Kawasaki near the gates of Tokyo, and back at home of course he drives a Mercedes: since 1993 he has had a 190 E from 1993. This self-declared 'crazy man' is also interested in current models: 'For me Mercedes-Benz will always be the best and most beautiful car in the world,' said Kozu full of conviction. And you can believe him instantly.

Five weeks in the museum.

The vehicles from the 1930s to the 1950s are the ones which he loves the most. His particular favourites are the 500 and 540 K, Roadster and Coupé. And of course the 320 Cabriolet B, which set everything off 65 years ago; but also the 170 V, the 300 Saloon and the Cabriolet D, the 220 Cabriolet A, and so on and so forth.

Another highlight was his visit in 2006 to the newly opened Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart: Kozu stayed for five weeks, drawing all the exhibits – a total of about 200 sketches. True love means real commitment too.

Masao Kozu developed this J-3 jet engine.

Masao Kozu developed this J-3 jet engine.

From the jet engine to the Mercedes star.

And what does Kozu’s family have to say about his unusual passion? The father of two grown-up sons and five grandchildren said: “My wife was never particularly interested in my travels, but she was always very understanding.” She presumably had to be. Kozu’s love of Mercedes-Benz is so huge that he learned German on his own initiative, and also took an interest in German classical music: he is a fan of Brahms and Beethoven. “I love the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, especially when they were conducted by Furtwängler and Karajan”, he said enthusiastically.

Now 81 years of age, Kozu, who has a doctorate in aircraft engines and worked for many years as an engineer developing jet engines, also collects fountain pens from Germany. Yet Masao Kozu does not own a computer and does not want to buy one. What should he do with one?