A smile flashes across the Hollywood hero’s face. But perhaps “smile” is something of an understatement: Ralf Moeller is actually beaming with delight! Some pleasant memories have clearly been unearthed here. The actor – all 196 centimetres and 114 kilos of him – has just stepped into the road cruiser after inspecting it from all sides, and he is familiarising himself with the “Big Fintail” parked in the morning sunshine. A giant of a man, he instinctively ducks his head as he gets in, though it isn’t really necessary in this car, as the 230 S has plenty of room even for a gladiator.
Two stars well matched: one of them owns a six-cylinder inline with dual carburettor, while the other has muscle of his own – and loves Cuban cigars.
The Big Fintail is the S-Class of the 1960s, and Gladiator was the title of Ridley Scott’s Oscar-winning movie starring Russell Crowe in the lead role. Former bodybuilder and Mr. Universe Ralf Moeller also had a part in the Hollywood film, playing the role of the battle-hardened companion who accompanied Crowe through the bloody arenas of the Roman Empire. The giant actor, born and bred in Recklinghausen, in Germany’s far west, caresses the instruments, steering wheel and leather with his mighty hands. He closes his eyes and takes in the evocative fragrance of old leather: “I just love classic cars. You can sit there and dream you’re back in the past. Is it all original?” Yes, mostly. Only the paintwork has been redone.
The German, who has lived in Santa Monica, near Los Angeles, since 1993 and has also had US citizenship since 2014, is really looking forward to the day out in the Fintail. “This automobile has a timeless beauty; it’s just like a dream from my childhood and youth,” he says. “This was a vehicle that only the well-off could afford. It wasn’t a car for someone earning an average wage. As a kid, I would often stare wide-eyed and open-mouthed at the Fintail when one went past. I come from a simple background. We simply couldn’t afford a dream car like this back in those days.”
The 230 S is parked outside the house he bought his parents many years ago – and where he always stays when he’s visiting his old home town in North Rhine-Westphalia. He comes here about three or four times a year, he says. We are in the leafy outskirts of Recklinghausen. Countless birds are singing, the gardens are large, the houses well cared for – a small, and surprising, idyll.
They have something in common, the Fintail series and this giant who happens to be a close friend of the Terminator and ex-Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger: they both exude a certain compelling elegance – and they were also both born in the same year, so to speak: 1959. That was the year the first Fintails (W 111) cruised the streets. Our 230 S from 1967 – red paint job, ivory-coloured roof, whitewall tyres, 4.87 metres in length and weighing 1,350 kilos, 120 PS, top speed 175 km/h – is pretty much identical with the first W 111 cars. A model of power and aesthetics. A timeless beauty.
In his heyday the athlete boasted 58 cm biceps. These days his upper arm still measures in at almost half a metre.
By the way, Ralf, did you know that Fintails have also featured in a number of major Hollywood productions? “No, I didn’t,” he answers, his curiosity aroused. “What movies?” In “Marathon Man” starring Dustin Hoffman, and in the James Bond film “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” starring George Lazenby as the agent with the licence to kill. “Wow, Bond is my dream. I’d really love a role as one of the villains giving 007 a hard time.” And what other films and actors does he like? “Practically anything with me in it,” he quips with impish charm. “No, seriously: I’m a huge Clint Eastwood fan. But my favourite movie is ‘Scarface’, with Al Pacino in his unforgettable role as Tony Montana.”
Back to Recklinghausen. From his parents’ home we drive the 230 S to the gym. Regular training is every bit as important to Ralf Moeller as eating the right kind of food. The main thing is to cut out sugar, he says, which he does as much as possible, and feels the benefits.
We step out of the car at Hohenhorst sports ground and the Südbad swimming pool. Ralf Moeller was the heartthrob of many a girl when he worked here as a lifeguard for a spell. He still gets recognised today. Lots of people say hello, smile and give him a thumbs-up, but despite his celebrity status, Moeller is still approachable; he has somehow remained one of them.
“Yes, I hope I have,” says the man who is active in the German Family Ministry’s “Starke Typen” (Tough Guys) initiative, which helps kids from deprived areas acquire a positive attitude to life. Next, we take a short road trip to the Ewald colliery, a disused coal mine in nearby Herten. Until 2001, thousands of miners worked here deep under the ground.
Was the muscleman ever a shy schoolboy? No way!
The final stop on this sunny day is Ralf Moeller’s old school. The head teacher and dozens of children have gathered on the playground of the Bernhard Overberg Realschule to welcome him, one of the town’s most famous sons. The return of the gladiator, the former pupil who made it to Hollywood. And he’s turned up in this fantastic old car that’s parked on the playground!
“Massive!” says a boy from year eight. What – the actor or the road cruiser? “No, just the whole occasion. It’s something really special!” And a girl then even sings a song for Ralf Moeller.
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