Upon first glance, the Riva Aquarama appears to be a boat. Upon further investigation, the Riva Aquarama is still a boat – but it’s also so much more. The Aquarama is nothing less than a nautical legend. Over the course of its 34-year lifetime, its superlative beauty, peerless performance and expert craftsmanship have rarely been equalled. Today we salute the boat, the myth, the legend: the Riva Aquarama.
Italian yachtbuilder Riva began production of this luxury wooden runabaout in 1962. The Aquarama was a direct descendent of the Riva Tritone, an earlier model speedboat on whose hull it was based. From the Tritone Aperto the Aquarama borrowed an open sunbathing area, then piled on a few features of its own (like separate front seats).
Aesthetics were of prime importance to Riva. Most important of all was the hull, 8.02-8.78 metres of mahogany varnished to absolute perfection. The wood was varnished and polished over and over again, until the true character and beauty of its natural grain could fully be appreciated. The craft’s useful features included a swim ladder at the stern, a convertible roof, a non-slip gangway for easier water access and a cushioned sundeck over the engine compartment.
Speaking of… The engine. All versions of the Riva Aquarama were twin-engined, although the actual units fitted varied widely. Power ranged from 185 hp to a more substantial 300 or 400 hp, and top speeds hit 45-50 knots depending on the engine used.
In total, nearly 270 boats were built between 1962 and 1996. The original Aquarama and the Aquarama Special accounted for most of the examples, followed by the Super Aquarama and the hyper-rare Aquarama Lungo (only 7 built). Though it’s been almost two decades since the Aquarama was in production, it’s still revered for its elegance, Italian craftsmanship and high performance. The Aquarama has more than earned the distinction of being called ‘the Ferrari of the boat world.’
In Popular Culture
There hasn’t been a new one since the 90s, but love for the Riva Aquarama is still going strong well into the 21st century. The boat scores a mention in I Know You Got Soul, Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson’s book about the machines he believes have “that certain something.” Charlize Theron got behind the wheel of an Aquarama Super in a 1993 spot for Martini & Rossi. Xenia Ontaopp, Vincent Cassel, and Jude Law also took turns captaining Aquaramas – in GoldenEye, Ocean’s Twelve and a 2011 Dior campaign, respectively.
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