Whether the image in your head is that of a 1960’s European actress playfully posing in the sea spray in front of the Carlton Hotel in Cannes, in a tight polo-neck with raven hair being tossed and scarcely contained under a Hermes head square, George Clooney mooring ahead of the filming of another coffee advert on the shore of an Italian lake or Jeremy Clarkson cutting wash in Venice, the water bourn vehicle carrying our hero is almost certainly a Riva Aquarama.
Simply, the Riva Aquarama is the most beautiful and most iconic wooden speedboat ever built.
The Riva boat yard was founded in 1842 on Lake Iseo, in Sarnico (Italy) by Pietro Riva, a marine craftsman, who had recently moved to the area from Laglio (on Lake Como). Pietro’s early reputation was gained from repairing the storm damaged boats of the local fishermen.
Ernesto Riva, who had succeeded Pietro is credited with introducing the internal combustion engine to Riva boats. Following the First World War, Serafino Riva, the founder’s grandson, is generally created with establishing the Riva brand at the forefront of powered boating. Between the 1920s and the 1930s Riva, also saw great national and international success, through its racing yachts.
The 1950’s saw Riva, now headed by Carlo Riva, the great-grandson of Riva’s founder, at the forefront of a wave of stunning and unmistakable Italian design that was seen in the ranges of car and boat craftsmen builders. 1956 saw the start of Riva’s collaboration with designer and architect Giorgio Barilani, who, together with Carlo Riva, launched in November 1962, at the third Milan International Boat Show, the Aquarama.
The Aquarama, took its name, in part, from the widescreen “Cinerama” movie production format that prevailed in the 1960’s. It’s heavily varnished mahogany superstructure, chopped transom, padded sun deck and its sports carwindscreen accentuated its fine lines. At its launch the Aquarama was hailed with the slogan: “Sun, sea, joie de vivre!”
Available in a variety of lengths, between 8.02 – 8.78 metres (and a 2.62m beam) all versions of the Riva Aquarama, known as the “Ferrari of the Waves”, were graced with twin engines – with some blocks being supplied by Chrysler and Cadillac – and capable of top speeds of 50 knots.
The Aquarama and its succeeding models have been used in many movies including James Bond’s “Golden Eye” and “Ocean’s Twelve and countless tv commercials. The value of these stunning boats in the second hand market are similar to that of classic cars of the similar era with current prices ranging from around £280,000 for a good 1964 version to around £450,000 for a later 1971 model.
In September 1969, Carlo Riva, having become increasingly frustrated by the employment and trade union practices prevalent in Italy sold the Riva yard to the US company Whittaker, continuing in the roles Chairman and General Manager, until 1971. After a period of ownership by Vickers, the English former owner of Rolls Royce, in 2000, Riva became part of the Ferretti Group, a leader in luxury boating.