The Greatest

By Xavier Stéfaniak

In Europe, it is not uncommon for the owners of trucks to decorate their vehicles with elaborate themes and paint schemes. These owners really let their imaginations run free, and often choose themes related to movies, actors and musicians – but in this case, the theme owner Franz Müller of Ermensee, Switzerland chose was based on “The Greatest” athlete of all time – boxer Muhammad Ali.

Having around ten trucks with strong themes, like the deceased Swiss driver Joseph Siffert and the Swedish musical group Abba, just to name two, Franz opted for a much more substantial project on this latest rig – a 2017 Scania S580 Topline and a matching reefer. For his new refrigerated ensemble, he had several murals and phrases painted on it, dedicated to the king of boxing – Cassius Clay, a.k.a. Muhammad Ali.

On his previous projects, Müller liked the style of the talented English painter who goes by the name “Matt the Painter” so, once again, he utilized this man’s talents for this latest truck. Indeed, this style of painting, which is unique to the English, jumps out at your eyes, so the decision to hire this man for the job was an obvious choice for Franz. Starting from a Scania base, specifically, the new generation Model S Topline with a 580-hp V8 engine, Franz waited almost five years to give life to his sumptuous project about the famous boxer.

Searching through all the available archives of books, highlight reels and other documents, Franz provided the painter with everything he needed to properly depict “The Greatest” on his truck and trailer. While the trailer was being fitted with additional fairings and lighting, the tractor went to England to begin the painting process. Once the two pieces of equipment were completed, the roles were reversed – the tractor went to the Netherlands for its custom interior and accessories while the trailer went to England for its paint, in perfect harmony with the paint on the tractor.

After weeks of waiting, the project was complete. Featuring the company’s signature green apple color, this rig was also embellished with a custom-mixed gold color, which provides a striking and undeniable look. Depicted on the sides of the combination are various boxing matches and popular poses, from throughout Ali’s career, painted in tones of gray, including what has been called the Fight of the Century, when Ali faced Joe Frazier on March 8, 1971 (the bout went all 15 rounds but Frazier, after knocking Ali down in the 15th, won by a unanimous decision). It was Ali’s first professional defeat. Of course, there are also murals of Ali knocking other people out, as well as some of his well-known poses and famous quotes.

In addition to the many things that make this combination unique, this truck has no chrome – everything is painted. Behind the sleeper is another mural of Ali in the ring, and in front of the mural is a makeshift “ring” fabricated of two metal posts with three cables loosely draped between them. This same custom feature was also employed on the front of the truck, where four cables (ropes) were draped across the grille.

Along with the murals and custom paint, the rig is also adorned with several of Ali’s famous quotes, including, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” and, “Don’t count the days, make the days count.” The wheels, which are painted gold, also include the dates and locations of prominent boxing matches that Ali participated in, throughout his career, in bold black letters. The visor has the phrase “Greatest of all Time” painted on it, while the back of the trailer features the bold but true statement “Athlete of the Century” – a title once given to Ali.

The interior of the truck has been highly-customized, as well. Back in the sleeper cabin, Franz had the interior customized to look like a boxing ring, complete with a World Championship belt on the wall. Another famous saying was put in the sleeper, as well; this one says, “If you even dream of beating me, you’d better wake up and apologize.” Covered in black and white leather with touches of gold, the cab also features boxing memorabilia, including a pair of boxing gloves signed by “The Greatest” himself, and a copy of Muhammad Ali’s star from “The Hollywood Walk of Fame” on the floor between the seats.

Although not sold in the United States, Scania is a huge company with a long history. Scania was formed in 1911 through the merger of two Swedish companies – one that made railway cars and another that made bicycles, vacuum cleaners, autos, trucks and engines. Today, Scania has production facilities in Sweden, France, Netherlands, India, Argentina, Brazil, Poland and Russia. In addition, there are assembly plants in ten countries in Africa, Asia and Europe. Scania’s sales and service organization and finance companies are worldwide. In 2012, the company employed about 42,100 people around the world. Scania is now 100% owned by the German automotive company Volkswagen, and has been since January 1, 2015.

Delivering fresh and frozen goods to the central region of Switzerland will undoubtedly be much less monotonous driving a combination like this. Franz Müller is proud of his latest rig, as he should be, and although it is completely different than the rigs seen here in the US, no one can deny its attention to detail and uniqueness. Turning heads wherever it goes, this flashy combination just might be “The Greatest” thing to ever hit the roads in Europe.

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