THE ERA OF CARLO RIVA: A LEGEND IS BORN (1950 - 1970)
In 1950, control of the Riva Boatyard was officially transferred to Carlo, Serafino's son, who understood the needs of the time and turned Riva
into a synonym for elegance, status and perfection.
In the decade after the second world war, characterised by the Italian industrial revolution and dominated by the myth of speed and racing cars, Carlo Riva arrived on the scene with an immense passion for boats and a modern entrepreneurial and industrial vision. These two character traits were what changed the destiny of the Sarnico-based Shipyard once again: Carlo Riva understood the spirit of the age with brilliant intuition and in the 1950s began producing a line of wooden boats with an unmistakable design. The first runabouts joined the racing boats and the next step was series production: Corsaro (1946), the first; Ariston (1949), the progenitor of the brand's motorboats; Tritone (1950), the first twin engine; Florida, whose name pays tribute to the United States and magical Florida.
Carlo Riva with his friend Gino Gervasoni. In the background, the bridge at Sarnico, 1947.
The boats produced under Carlo Riva's leadership anticipated demand and launched fashion trends, driven by a unique and timeless focus on details that make the difference.
In 1956, he began working with designer and architect Giorgio Barilani, whose graphic and design expertise became a Riva exclusive. He went on to make a decisive contribution to the birth of the legend, with the presentation in 1962, at the third Milan International Boat Show, of the Aquarama. Test driven for the first time by a young Gianni Agnelli, the motorboat became the symbol of Riva and a brand within the brand. The boat's name was inspired by American 'Cineramas' (experimental widescreen cinema screens) and it would be with this masterpiece that Riva came to symbolise boating around the world. 21 Aquaramas were delivered in 1963 and the Super version was created the year after, followed in 1971 by the Special. 765 Aquaramas were produced, of which 306 Aquaramas (1962-1971), 175 Aquarama Supers (1963-1971), 7 Aquarama Lungos, and 277 Aquarama Specials (1971-1996).
In this period, Riva personified Italian excellence around the world and was a go-to brand for the international jet set. The choice of fine materials, meticulous care and attention to detail, and time-honoured craftsmanship made these magnificent boats objects of desire for kings and queens, actors, businessmen and champions. Peter Sellers, Brigitte Bardot, Sofia Loren, Anita Ekberg, Jean Paul Belmondo, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton are just a few of the superstars who chose Riva.
Official opening of the new Riva Yard, marking the real start of series production, 1954.
The first series produced wooden boat, Corsaro was the name given to various Riva models over the years. The compact silhouette, the single cockpit set in a forward position, the steering wheel and the dashboard were inspired by the automotive industry of the time, and specifically the Gran Turismo models popular in that period. Powered by a 210 hp BPM engine, the Corsaro reached a top speed of 70 km/h. With an overall length of 5.29 metres, it could accommodate three people in the cockpit, plus one in the rear seat, which could be closed with a hatch when not in use. Highly manoeuvrable, it had an autonomy of about four hours provided by a 100-litre fuel tank. 1955 was the last year of production and a total of 40 units were built.
Shipping the boat by rail, 1955.
Corsaro n33 mod AR dis n72, 1950s.
Powerful, safe and fast, but also large in size and spacious, Tritone could be used to go on short cruises in complete safety. 8.02 metres in length and 2.62 in the beam, it could accommodate up to 10 passengers in the cockpit and two below deck in the cabin. It was Riva's first twin-engine boat, with two 177 hp Chrysler 8V's driving it to a top speed of over 70 km/h. High-capacity fuel tanks provided nine hours of autonomy, while its superlative seakeeping ensured maximum safety during high-speed cruises and crossings. The boat was given a boost in power with the Super version in 1956, which was fitted with two 250 hp engines. Riva stopped producing the Tritone in 1966 and the Super version a year later. A total of 258 units were built (both versions).
A Tritone and a Florida leave the Sarnico Yard on a special Riva trailer.
Shop floor, 1950.
Model at the wheel of a Tritone, 1960s
Aerial view of the boat with three people in the cockpit.
Shipping the boat to New York.
Stern section of the second series Tritone.
A Tritone in the Riva stand at the 1959 Texas Trade Fair.
A Tritone in the Riva stand at the 1961 Geneva Trade Fair.
Created for more demanding customers, this boat reprised the Corsaro formula but on a larger scale, with a length of 6.52 metres and two rows of seats in the cockpit accommodating six passengers. The lines are essential, measured and without any exaggerated flourishes. The 220 hp engine drives the boat to a top speed of about 70 km/h. In 1968, the Super version was presented, featuring a general upgrade, particularly in terms of its engine and therefore its speed: 80 km/h. The Ariston had what was to become a hallmark of Riva: the solid wood gunwale. Other innovative features were the optional sun lounger on top of the engine compartment and the possibility of adding an automotive-style soft top, giving the boat its classic Riva elegance and style. Production began in 1950 and ended in 1976, with a total of 1,012 units built.
Stern view of an Ariston (left) and an Aquarama (right) with three people in the cockpit and two on the sundeck; the "Lipicar" Aquarama belonged to Carlo Riva.
Three-quarter stern view of a Super Ariston.
Detail of the Ariston logo.
In 1952, customer demand convinced the Boatyard to produce a wooden model that was easy to use for water skiing. The result was the Florida, 5,59 metres in length and powered by a 95 hp Chris Craft 8V engine. It had a classic design, with the forward driving cockpit separated from the sunpad by a wooden partition between the two side walls. The interior finishings were of finer quality than on the Corsaro and the new 1950's American car style steering wheel made its first appearance. As did the ogival-shaped, chrome-plated horn, which emitted a high-pitched sound that from then on would be a distinctive feature of all Riva boats. In this case too, the Boatyard produced a Super version, with upgraded engines, speed, length and fuel tanks. Both versions could accommodate up to six people and reach a speed of over 70 km/h. Florida went out of production in 1964, while the Super version was produced until 1968. A total of 1,029 units were produced.
A Florida, port side, with a villa and landing stage in the background.
A Super Florida, three-quarter view, starboard side, with three people on board.
a Super Florida, port side, at a private landing stage.
1962 saw the birth of the Aquarama, which was often compared to a Rolls Royce or Ferrari because of its appeal and elegance. Over the years, the model was upgraded on several occasions. The first was 8.02 metres in length and fitted with two Chris Craft 8V engines rated 185 hp each, while the subsequent versions were all 8.25 metres in length and equipped with two Riva 8V engines rated 220 hp each. Later in the 1960s, the even more powerful Super version was introduced, with a length of 8.45 metres and engines rated 320 hp each. Aquarama Super's performance moved up to the superlative category, with a top speed of almost 90 km/h. In 1971, architect Giorgio Barilani introduced a modification to the boat's transom, adding a corridor that made it easier to climb back up from the swim ladder. This new version, christened Aquarama Special, was a full 8.75 metres in length. The boat's two engines were also increased in power to 350 hp each, with 6 hours of autonomy allowing longer cruises to be undertaken. Taken out of production in 1996, Aquarama was the company's crowning achievement, with a total of 765 boats built.
Detail of helm station and instrument panel; model standing in bow.
Bow-on view of boat, wide-angle and cropped; reflections on the deck and chrome plating suggest a photo taken in the yard (the photographer is reflected in the bow cap).
Detail of helm station and instrument panel; model reclining in bow.
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Registered Office Via Irma Bandiera, 62 – 47841 Cattolica (RN) Italy
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