Riva Aquarama

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The Riva Aquarama is a luxury wooden runabout built by Italian yachtbuilder Riva. Production of it and its derivatives (the Lungo, Super, and Special) ran from 1962 until 1996. The hull was based on the Riva Tritone, an earlier model speedboat by Riva, which in turn was inspired by the American mahogany Chris-Craft runabouts. The boat's speed, beauty, and craftsmanship earned it praise as the Ferrari of the boat world.[1] The company was founded by Pietro Riva in 1842, and run by Carlo Riva through its 1969 sale to the American Whittaker Corporation.


The steering wheel of a Super Aquarama
The bows of several Riva Aquaramas and Aristans, an Aquarama in center

The most famous of Carlo Riva’s designs, the Aquarama has become over the decades a nautical legend. Its evocative name, derived in part from the widescreen Cinerama movie format popular in the early 1960s, echoed in its sweeping wrap-around windshield, conjures images from another time.

The Riva Aquarama's 8.02 - 8.78 metre[2] hull was sheathed in mahogany and varnished to accentuate the beauty of its natural wood grain. All versions were twin engined, with top speeds of 45/50 knots depending on engine choice. Power varied from 185 hp to 400 hp per engine,[3] delivered by Riva 'tuned' Cadillac and Chrysler models, among others. On top of the engine compartment was a cushioned sundeck. The boats also carried a convertible roof which retracted behind the rear seat and cockpit. A swim ladder was often mounted in the stern.

Model variants: 1960s and 1970s[edit]

  • Aquarama (1962–1972) Total built 281
  • Aquarama Lungo (1972) Total built 7
  • Super Aquarama (1963–1971) Total built 203
  • Aquarama Special (1972–1996) Total built 277
  • Riva Lamborghini (1968) - one-off, powered by two Lamborghini V12 engines [4]
The stern of a 1979 Aquarama Special, with swim step for easy access

The Aquarama is a direct descendant of the Tritone, upon whose hull it was based. First built in 1962, it incorporated the open sunbathing area of the Tritone Aperto together with new features, including separate front seats and a central non-slip gangway which allowed easier water access at the stern.


The Aquarama is mentioned in Jeremy Clarkson's book I Know You Got Soul. The boat also featured in the Top Gear 2013 DVD special The Perfect Road Trip in which presenter Jeremy Clarkson, whilst driving the boat in Venice, described it as "the most beautiful thing in the world". The actress Charlize Theron drove an Aquarama Super in 1993 in a spot for Martini & Rossi. Another Special driven by Xenia Onatopp appears in the movie GoldenEye, and a Special is driven by Vincent Cassel in the movie Ocean's Twelve. In 2011 the actor Jude Law drove an Aquarama Special for the Dior 2011 campaign.

1980s and 1990s – Monte Carlo Offshorer 27, 30, 32, 300[edit]

After selling the Riva yard, Carlo Riva took part in the creation of the "Monte Carlo Offshorer" brand.

The goal was to develop runabouts with the same strengths as the Super Aquarama in build quality, power and livability on board while handling better at sea.

The Monte Carlo Superfast Offshorer 27 (1970s), 30 (1980s) and 32 (early 1990s) was built out of fibre glass and was the first production runabout with a "stepped" hull to improve ride and stability. Its engines were centreline mounted with heavy duty chain drives transmitting torque to port or starboard mounted marine gearboxes. The V drives were mounted well forward and powered shallow angle propeller shafts using Radice props. This drive arrangement helped keep the boat's centre of gravity much lower than conventional side by side mounted engines, which contributed to its handling efficiency. Cal Connell was responsible for this system's engineering, and Bob Hobbs developed the hull form with assistance from Connell. The engines and fittings were mostly by Crusader, the same as those used on Rivas at the time. Most of the Monte Carlo 30 Offshorer used 2 Crusader 454s, which allowed them to reach 55 knots in standard configuration. The boats were built by RAM – the maintenance operation of the former Riva company, still owned by the Riva family.

About 400 Monte Carlo 30s were built—they mostly replaced Aquarama Specials on the Riviera or were used as yacht tenders.

A Monte Carlo 30 Offshorer driven by James Bond appears in the movie GoldenEye.

2000s – Riva Aquariva[edit]

Aquariva continues the Aquarama heritage with elegant sinuous lines, the use of precious woods, and all-around attention to detail. Performance, however, is no longer on a par with luxury, the model being offered solely with diesel engines that leave it significantly slower than its predecessors.


External links[edit]

Restoration of RIVA Tritone #156