The List




The List


Riva Aquarama


The word 'speedboat' does not conjure up particularly glamorous images these days. Small, constructed from glass fibre, and usually the same anonymous shade of beige as the average caravan, they seem to be the vessel of choice for people who enjoy towing sizeable objects behind their cars for long distances.

But there is one particular type of speedboat that will forever transcend the tarnished image of the breed - the Riva Aquarama - which has earned its place on The List by virtue of its perfect aesthetics which can only bring to mind the heyday of the Cote D'Azur and the Italian Riviera.

Manufactured between 1962 and 1996, the Aquarama was a new direction for the company, and only entered production after the resolution of a lengthy dispute between old man Riva, who wanted to maintain the status quo of building light racing boats, and his son, Carlo, who wanted to produce boats inspired by the sleek, luxurious vessels coming out of the USA at the time.

Although Carlo's initial business efforts left the company with no customers and very little money, he soon talked the Beretta family, of gun making fame, into loaning Riva enough cash to purchase the American V8s that were needed to power his new boats. Then, with the help of staff who wore colour coded uniforms to indicate their positions in the factory, he set about manufacturing he world's most beautiful boats.

In the process of doing so, though, Carlo took obsessional behaviour to a level that would be diagnosed as a form of OCD by most modern psychiatrists; each boat routinely took upwards of 3000 hours to build, and was varnished to the point where the varnish was almost thicker than the wood.

His attention to detail had an upside, though; it wasn't long after the Aquarama was introduced that the swinging sixties began in earnest, and just as fellow Italian, Enzo Ferrari was having a path beaten to his door by the rich and famous, eager to purchase his four wheeled creations, so the same stars and millionaires sought out a Riva when they desired a boat.

The end result was just under 4000 boats built over four decades, until production ceased after Vickers purchased the company in the 1990s, and introduced, to Carlo's disgust, a glass fibre cruiser.

Today, the Aquarama's rarity and its unique style ensure that prices remain high. Expect to pay upwards of 250,000 for a good example. For this you will get a twin engined boat, with up to 700 BHP and a cruising speed of 45 knots - not bad for a design that is nearly 50 years old.

Although there is not the technical sophistication of a modern power boat, it will turn, accelerate and ride the waves with panache, and then, when you go to shore at say, Capri, the beauty of your machine will match the beauty of your surroundings. Which is more than can be said for the average glass fibre cruises, which, to use the same comparison, would be hard pressed to match the beauty of the surroundings on a wet weekend in Weston Super Mare.