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
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.