Car museum plans unveiled | February 16, 2007 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |

Mountain View Voice

News - February 16, 2007

Car museum plans unveiled

John Mozart gives us a look at his world-famous collection

by Daniel DeBolt

John Mozart is a wealthy man who loves old cars.

When you walk into the lobby of his Palo Alto company, Mozart Development, a completely restored 1962 Ferrari coupe is parked in the lobby. Behind it is a set of double doors leading to more samples from his world-famous car collection.

Unshaven and wearing shorts on a cold winter day, Mozart emerges from the shop and directs a Voice reporter, accompanied by City Council member Jac Siegel, into his glass-walled conference room. He not only employs a team of real estate developers in the front office, but a full-time mechanic in the adjoining auto shop. Having his hobby next to his office seems to work for him.

Pulling out large sheets of rolled paper, Mozart went over his plans for a museum in Mountain View to house 60 of his 100 cars. Some of the world's finest automobiles could be displayed here — including exotic examples sporting the famous Duesenberg and Ferrari nameplates. Another candidate for the proposed museum is his 1937 Alfa Romeo 8C2900 Spyder, an unusually sleek piece of automotive history that has won recognition in some of the world's finest car shows, including the Pebble Beach Concours d' Elegance.

The museum plans show a simple one-story, two-room, 25,000-square-foot building on a site next to the Computer History Museum on Pear Avenue. After reviewing the details, Siegel concluded the building would likely be a visitor draw in itself.

The building — designed by Korth Sunseri Hagey of San Francisco — features walls of an unusual composition. Made in Germany, the tall, thin, U-shaped channels of glass will lock together and be filled with gel for insulation. The walls will be translucent, but not transparent, Mozart explained. Grids of small lights will be attached to the metal-framed ceiling to bounce off black granite floors, providing just the right amount of light to make the cars "pop," he said.

"I really wanted to make a statement architecturally," Mozart said.

Old racing days

Soon the discussion turned to the old days when sports cars were king. Siegel told a story about a 1950s Ferrari Monza he owned in his younger days that was originally raced by famed driver Phil Hill and was featured in the movie "State Fair," with Pat Boone driving.

Because fixing its blown engine would have cost an "exorbitant amount of money," Siegel put in a then-state-of-the-art Chevy 409 V8 and went racing on the circuits in the Southeast U.S. where he lived. He eventually sold the car for $8,000, but today it would be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Many of Mozart's 100 cars are in that price range, including a 1958 Lister Chevy, a car he regularly enters in vintage racing events. It is one of the few vintage race cars of its type that originally came with a Chevy V8.

As long as Mozart uses a few period-correct pieces to comply with race rules, options for modifications abound because of the engine's popularity with hot rod builders. In the 1950s the car was rated at 300 horsepower but now it has about 500, Mozart said, making it a great selection for vintage races, where the menacing black car regularly runs at the front of the pack.

What's it like to drive such beast?

"It's scary," he said. The tires used in vintage racing are a bit too narrow to keep the unruly car planted to the asphalt.

Mozart said he never had any money until he sold his auto parts distribution business, Eurasian Auto Parts, in the 1970s. But once he did, he jumped into real estate development — like someone jumping into a pool who didn't know how to swim, he said. He bought his first collector car, a Duesenberg, in 1981.

He seems to have inherited the collector's bug from his father, who came from humble beginnings to own one of the country's first Porsche dealers, Mozart Porsche/VW, in Palo Alto, which included a museum with antique cars. One day his father grew tired of the cars and sold the whole collection, Mozart said.

Today, Mozart's collection is world-renown. A search on the Internet turns up numerous references and photos of him driving his cars on racetracks such as the famous Laguna Seca in Salinas.

In his office's auto shop, hundreds of pieces of memorabilia hang from the ceiling and the walls. Models of old war planes, old signs, pieces of automotive artwork and Elvis' face is prominently displayed on one wall; bronze statues of motorcycle racers and old toys sit on shelves; and there are even two very old go-carts built to look like 1930s race cars.

But while many of Mozart's cars will find their way into the museum, the memorabilia filling his shop will not.

In the family

Mozart's wife, Heather Mozart, talked about the car she has raced in Vintage events since 1997. In 2005 she was the first woman to win the Wine Country Classic at Sonoma's Infineon Raceway. Her 1965 Alfa Romeo GTA is like "the perfect gentlemen," she said, because of the way it predictably handles in the corners. It was totaled once in a crash, but the Mozarts decided it was worth saving. Since then the car's value has gone up.

The Alpha Romeo GTA was parked next to a row of Ferraris, Porsches, Mercedes and Jaguars, many of which have been restored by Mozart and his crew. They have the ability to fix anything on a car — and sometimes have pieces manufactured when they are no longer available.

John and Heather's 6-year-old daughter happened to be in the shop, looking to show off her go-kart — a small replica of a 1960s-era formula car, powered by a lawn mower engine.

Mozart plans to use the new museum for charitable events, and says he'll continue his tradition of opening up the collection to car clubs. He has made significant donations to charities, and sits on the advisory board for the Children's Place in Redwood City.

While the museum could be considered a gift to the city of Mountain View, it won't be open on a daily basis. Mozart said it wouldn't be worth it to hire someone to stand at the front counter when only a small number of visitors are likely to visit each day.

E-mail Daniel DeBolt at


Posted by Andy Graybeal, a resident of Monta Loma
on May 29, 2008 at 10:02 pm

This article was written over a year ago, it now being almost June 2008. What has happened in the meantime? Are there any plans or other progress to report? Years ago, I had a reason to visit Mozart Development and saw a beautiful Packard on display. I never knew his collection was so extensive and wonder if there are any plans for including automotive art.

Posted by Ago, a resident of North Whisman
on May 30, 2008 at 3:17 am

According to the City's Development Status list, the 26,000 square foot car museum is in the "Plan Check" stage which is the final stage before approval of the project.

Web Link

Posted by John Moore, a resident of another community
on May 16, 2009 at 12:14 pm

I've just visited this site for the first time. Has the museum come to pass or if not, what is the situation?

Posted by registered user, Daniel DeBolt, a resident of Mountain View Voice Staff Writer
on May 18, 2009 at 3:19 pm

According to the city Web site (see link in the post above yours), the museum is under construction, but I have not been by the site to check.

Posted by Scotty Irby, a resident of another community
on Jul 21, 2010 at 1:29 am

One of the most remarkable men of the bay area if not the nation on cars and their restoration.God Bless this man on keeping it alive.

Posted by lori chenier, a resident of another community
on May 4, 2011 at 1:13 pm

I am very interested in finding out if mr. mozart is building the museum and if he purchased a 1929 duesenberg convertable coup from the late rene chenier (my father) and if so would love to see it fully restored as it was my fathers life long dream to restore it and it never happened.

Posted by Local , a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jun 13, 2011 at 8:54 pm

John Mozart Did not purchase Mr. Chenier's Duesenberg.

Posted by Liz Adams, a resident of another community
on Sep 16, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Our Corvette club is planning a visit to the Mozart Collection in October 2011. In Palo Alto? In Mountain View? I'd like to know if the museum has been been built or if it still housed in Palo Alto. Thanks for an update.

Posted by sebtown, a resident of another community
on Nov 5, 2011 at 6:49 pm

Was at the museum today. It is awesome, thank you John, you are a gift to car people!

Posted by Jim Carroll, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 27, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Where is the Museum located?

What is the address?

What are the hours?



Posted by Karen, a resident of another community
on Feb 1, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Is a 1954 Mercedes Gull Wing purchased in Redding CA from a local couple who live there in Mr. MOzarts museum?

Posted by Karen McClaflin, California Auto Museum, a resident of another community
on Feb 6, 2012 at 3:05 pm

The California Auto Museum is planning a trip to view the Mozart Collection. If you are interested in attending, please visit our website at Web Link for more information and to register.

Posted by Eric Doner, a resident of another community
on Feb 6, 2012 at 3:32 pm

I had the good fortune to visit the Mozart Foundation Museum on Saturday, February 4 with the Northern California Ferrari Club. The building is breathtaking and the collection is amazing. John was the proud, passionate car guy and consummate host; and provided a narrative history of his hobby, his building and many of his very special cars.