Riva Aquarama is probably the most well known Riva model, designed by Carlo Riva and built at the shipyard “Cantieri Riva”. The Aquarama is also the model in production for the longest period, starting in 1962 and ending 1996.
As the successor of the shipyard’s flagship Tritone it was initially intended to be named Admiral. Luckily Carlo Riva changed his mind, after beeing inspired by the 60’s big news on the big screen, Cinerama, and chose the name Aquarama.
|1962 – 1972
|8.02 – 8.30
|2.60 – 2.62
|2 x 185 – 2 x 220
|Super Aquarama #:
|8.25 – 8.50
|2.60 – 2.62
|2 x 290 – 2 x 320
|Aquarama Lungo, #:
|2 x 220
The first Aquarama start its life as Tritone # 214 thats taken out of production for a complete rebuild. The new model gets a new fore deck fitted with a beautifully shaped anti-slip edge on the deck side. Just behind the nose fitting a built-in anchor box with an anchor winch is installed under a nicely designed mahogany hatch. A revolutionary invention is that the rope is wound on a large drum with automatic retracting spring that greatly simplifies handling.
The cockpit gets a completely new dashboard in Honduras mahogany and a new interior with two chairs in the front instead of the previous couch. Now you can move freely around in the cockpit, without being forced to jump over a backrest all the time.
The passenger seat, with room for two people, is equipped with a folding drink table in the backrest. Under the seat that can be folded forward is a large storage space. The Aquarama also get an improved sound insulation between cockpit and engine compartment for even quieter operation.
Behind the cockpit is a sunken sun bed above the engines and storage hatches . This is a direct legacy of the Tritone Aperto, but now the bed is deeper, wider and with a shape that follows the deck side line. The stern deck is divided by a recessed non-slip gangway to the sun bed.
On the hull sides there are four engine ventilators in a new design. The whole creation is crowned with a new nose fitting equipped with two cheeky air intake for the ventilation of the built-in anchor box. The boat is named Lipicar, after Carlos daughters Lia, Pia and Carla.
Aquarama # 1 is equipped with twin Chris Craft 8V 283 at 185 hp instead of the Chrysler Sea-V M80 that is standard on its predecessor Tritone. The boat’s color scheme is also completely new. The upholstery is cream (ivory) ribbed vinyl with black edge fields and orange piping. Footsteps are dressed in orange (Coral) vinyl just as the cushions above the cab storage and the mattresses on the sun bed.
The cab fabric is white and the waterline is tri-colored in white, black, orange. The hull below the waterline is painted white, except for the planing surface that is painted with a rust-red antifouling paint.
(According to an image from the New York Boat Show in 1964 the Aquarama had a thinner waterline than later model years. Piero Gibbelini states in the latest book about the Aquarama that the measurements should be 10/20/20 mm (white, black, orange). On later boats it’s 20/20/50 mm.)
This year begins the actual production. The first boats (# 1-3) is planked on the hull sides just as on the Tritone, but from boat # 4 the new preformed three-ply mahogany sides, made with the new technology that Riva and Pirreli developed together, are introduced.
During the year a total of 24 boats are built including three of the Super model. Just as the Super Tritone the Super Aquarama is an extended version (20 cm) with larger fuel tanks and Big block engines (Chrysler M413D Golden Lion, 290 Hp). The Super model use the same color scheme as standard Aquarama.
The first boat is # 26 and it is also the first Riva in series production that is equipped with the new instruments from VDO designed specifically for Riva. Before being approved, Carlo tried them out for several years in different tests, including the prototype Lipicar. This boat (#26) is currently located in Sweden and the instruments are still functioning impeccably!
A total of 36 Aquaramas are built this year included nine of the larger Super model. An odd boat is # 38 which is actually built as a Super Tritone for Mr Ernst Petschek from New York, who cannot accept that the Tritone is out of production.
Starting from #34 the Aquarama get a slightly increased midships bottom angle to provide a smoother ride. The length increases 1 cm to 8.03 m (Super 8.23).
According to Piero Gibbelini’s latest book the cabin was changed this year with a shelf on the port side for drying clothes etc. This meant that the ice cooler no longer fitted and where moved to the starboard floor storage space in front of the rear seat, though no picture of such an original cooler in the floor has never been showed.
The price is $17,580 for the a Aquarama and $19,990 for the Super, which is almost exactly the same as for a brand new Rolls Royce Silver Cloud.
This years production reaches a staggering 60 Aquaramas which is more than the production line for the final assembly is capable of. The result is that 13 boats have to wait for delivery until 1966. No major changes are done during the year except for the increase in price. The Super Aquarama is now more expensive than Rolls Royce’s most exclusive car.
A special boat is # 65 (Super AQ) that becomes a test boat named Lipicar II. In this boat Carlo tries two V8s from Crusader at 280 Hp each. The reason is that Carlo again search for alternatives to Chrysler and Chris Craft as engine suppliers. He have found it increasingly difficult to gain support for desired modifications of these major manufacturers. With the Crusader company, and its dynamic owner Cal Connel, he finds a supplier that is willing to develop an exclusive line of engines for use by Riva.
This year there will be a lot of changes to both hull and engines. Boat # 124, actually the prototype boat Lipicar II from 1965, is extended to 8.23 m and gets twin Crusader V8 at 220 Hp. These engines, later named Riva 220, are installed in another 12 boats this year.
Boat # 129 is also a prototype with a sleeker and more sloping bow bow line. From midships and to the stern the bottom angle is increased somewhat. While this boat gets the Crusader 220 engines the majority of the standard Aquarama (17 boats) still have twin Chris Craft 8V 283 installed . They are also built with the shorter hull (8.03). The last Aquarama with the Chris Craft engines is #157 and have been cruising in Sweden for many years and is owned by one of the formers of the Swedish Riva club.
Boat # 141 is a Super Aquarama with shipping address Stockholm and the famous Bonnier family. The boat is still in Sweden and the present owner has recently restored it to perfect original condition and appearance.
Boat # 125 and the following three are all of the Super model, now grown to 8.33 m and also with a deeper V of the hull. Super #125 is shipped without engines to the U.S. where its new owner Cal Connel (Crusaders owner) provides it with two Crusader of 400 Hp each. Carlo Riva choose the slightly weaker Crusader 320 for 18 of the Super Aquaramas this year.
Last built Aquarama for this year (#178, the 174-177 is not yet built) is a prototype for coming changes and gets a steeper V-bottom with an aft angle of 9° and 28° 5m up-front. The bow is also made more sloping and length increases to 8.25 m and becomes the new default for subsequent boats.
Total production for the year only ends up to 51 Aquaramas, including 21 Supers, because of the capacity problems on the final assembly line.
The production of the year starts with three Super Aquarama (In an odd order: #219, 176, 177) with the new length of 8,45m, more sloping stem and the deeper bottom, while the width of the hull is reduces to 2.60. The hulls from 1967 will be considered as series 2 of the Aquarama model.
After these three boats follows #174 which is a standard Aquarama with a new color scheme for the upholstery. Now the seat and backrest are in cream (ivory) ribbed vinyl with turquoise décor fields and cushions/footrests in cream. Also the seats is of a new design with a more rounded shape of the backrest panels. The padding in the cockpit connection to the deck sides is made wider and in a vertically ribbed cream vinyl. The same applies for the padding around the edge of the sun bed.
From this year the Super model get its own color scheme, where primary colors are cream/lobster (red-orange). It is now easy to distinguish a Super Aquarama from a standard Aquarama.
The erlier 4-part pads of the sun bed (sewn 2 by 2) are replaced by 6-part pads (also 2 by 2) with a narrower center section that align to the gangway in the aft deck and in creme color. The pads on the sides have the same color as the model color of the upholstery (turquoise for Aquarama and lobster for Super).
All Supers are equipped with twin Riva 320 big block engines while the standard Aquarama Riva 220 small block engines. The engines are manufactured as previously said by Crusader based on engine blocks from GM.
Boat # 234 is another Super Aquarama with shipping address Stockholm and this time it is the Mercedes dealer Philipson who stands as the buyer. The boat is sold after a while to a new owner in Stockholm who take very good care of the boat for many years until 2009, when it is sold to a new owner in Norway.
Super Aquarama # 239 was not a new boat since it was built from the hull of #163 from 1966. It thus differs completely in terms of engines and upholstery from other -67’s.
Total production this year ends up to 30 Aquarama and 36 Super Aquarama. This is accomplished thanks to the new line for final assembly, rebuilt to handle larger volumes.
The year begins with Aquarama # 241 getting a new mirror and propeller shafts in stainless “Armco” steel. From #256 the yard returns to the older type of “Monel K” steel. Otherwise there are very few changes during the year. All together 65 boats are built included 30 of the Super model.
An odd boat is #278 delivered to Ferruccio Lamborghini. He replace the two Riva 220 engines with 2 powerful Lamborghini engines, but the result doesn’t meet his expectations. The Lamborghini outputs more power but has a lower torque at low revs and is outperformed by the standard Aquarama at acceleration up to planing speed.
The third generation of the Aquarama is launched this year and the design change with a much more sloping bow, a brand new bow nose fitting with a larger air intake (known as “the Shark”). The chromed guard plates at the stem is also mad longer and wider.
Bottom also gets a slightly modified design with a higher chine line in the bow from #316. The aft deck gets a straighter line of design thus making the stern 9 cm higher making room for larger fuel tanks. With this hull, recognized as the series 3, the last step in the evolution over the years is reached and will so remain for all future Aquarama models. The new hull allow a more dry crossing of the waves which is welcomed by any owner of previous models. The range also increases thanks to the larger fuel tanks but many thinks that the beautiful lines is somewhat lost with the higher stern.
Aquarama # 359 will be the last Aquarama with the cab material of waterproof cotton fabric. From # 360 the new plastic material “Dacron” is used instead. Total production for the year is 36 standard Aquarama and 27 Supers.
During this year the production reaches its peak measured in number of boats produced (30 standard and 40 Super) The length is slightly increased with 5 cm (Aquarama 8.30 m / Super Aquarama 8.50 m) but otherwise there will be no changes, except for the Super Aquarama # 393, which is a unique boat.
Boat # 393 is ordered by Ernst Petsheck from New York, who previously owned Tritone # 189, and later in 1964 convinced Carlo to make an new Super Tritone out of Aquarama #38 (see 1964 Aquarama). He obviously prefers the Tritonen design with a full aft deck without the sun bed. With the help of Monaco Boat Service (MBS) and an extra large bag of money he once again manage to persuade Carlo Riva to build a “closed” Aquarama and the classical one piece front sofa, just like a real Tritone.
Aquarama # 418 is named Lipicar III and recorded at Carlos’s wife Licia Vigani. Carlo has always preferred the standard Aquarama, which he believes has a better relationship between weight and engine power and run quieter than the Super model.
With this boat an automatic electric bilge pump in the bow and a manually activated at the stern also is introduced as standard. Earlier boats had “automatic” siphon pumps that suck water from the bilge whenever the boat is moving. This was an old invention that Chris Craft and others used already in the 20’s, and worked well as long as all the parts were OK. If the check valve was clogged the boat could instead become “automatically” water filled!
Boat # 427, named Claudius III by his first owner Claudio Carrére, will be of special importance. 1972 it’s sold to Gianfranco Rossi, born in Sarnico but living in Monte Carlo, with the intention to attend the “International Power Race”. This is an endurance race, starting in London followed by a journey across the open sea all the way around the Iberian Peninsula. The finish line is the port of Monte Carlo in the Mediterranean Sea.
To cope with the difficult course he reinforce the boat in various ways and the entire interior of the cockpit is taken out in favor of an extra 500 l fuel tank. The steering position and all controls are moved aft to storage behind the engines.
With its new name, “ZOOM” and with all the odds against him, since most of the contenders boats are larger and built for offshore races, the race starts in London on the 10th of June. The contest last for 14 days and the weather is anything but good. Only six of the 25 starting boats manage to get across the finish line. ZOOM’s average speed during the race is 32 knots and Gianfranco Rossi comes 1st in class and 2nd overall.
The boat is still alive with its name Zoom but is now restored to the original design by the Monaco Boat Service.
Production during the year will end up to 25 Aquarama and 21 Supers. Hull, engines and color scheme is the same as previous year. The only change made during the year starts with Super Aquarama #444, which will have a new design of the engine ventilators on the sides of the hull. These are larger than the old ones and now only two ventilators are mounted on each side of the boat. From # 447 they are also introduced on the standard Aquarama.
The last boat for the year will be Aquarama #486 thus being the last Aquarama built on the classical design by Carlo Riva. The boat is registered at Carlos’s wife and is named Lipicar IV. This is also the last Riva produced with Carlo Riva as the president of the yard, allthough he sold the shipyard to the new American owners already in 1969. Lipicar IV is still in Carlo Rivas possession and has over the years been treated with love and care, still in almost “Mint condition”.
Carlo Riva is no longer responsible for the control and operation of the yard. The CEO is now his nephew Gino Gervasoni. Beginning in the summer of 1972 seven boats are built with the same dimensions as the Super Aquarama, but equipped with the smaller Riva 220 engines. These boat willhave the model name Aquarama Lungo.
From 1972, the new design Aquarama Special takes over and will then be the only Aquarama in production. This model is not designed by Carlo Riva, even if he was in charge when it was developed. It’s designed by his former staff designer Giorgio Barilani that Carlo hired in 1957 for his qualities as a talented artist and designer.
More info about the Aquarama Special will follow later…
Sources of facts:
- Carlo the Legend, Riva the myth. Book I-IV by Piero Gibbelini
- Carlo the Legend, Riva the myth. Book V-VI by Piero Gibbelini.
- Viva Riva. Riva Historical Society quarterback magazine.
- Pictures from my own and others archives, RHS and other miscellaneous sources.
Riva Club Sweden