Between 1962 and 1990 Italian boat manufacturer Riva, produced some of the most iconic speedboats and yachts in the world. The world was at the height of La Dolce Vita and Italy was ground zero, the place where Brigitte Bardot, Marcello Mastroianni and Ferruccio Lamborghini converged. The jet set was becoming a catch phrase, and everything Italian was greedily consumed. From fashion to movies, the Italian lifestyle was the epitome of a wonderful elegance, decadence, and glamor, and in the middle of all this, Ferruccio Lamborghini wanted a boat.
1842 Pietro Riva started the company, restoring fishing boats, and from such humble beginnings, the company went from restoration to manufacturing, growing throughout the years, and during the 20’s and 30’s, Riva racing yachts scored many wins and set numerous sailing records in national and international competition.
Nearly a century after Pietro, grandson Carlo made the name Riva iconic in the heady days of the 1950’s and 60’s, as Riva boats became a status symbol and lifestyle choice among the rich and famous A-listers. A place where it was just as important to arrive in style as it was to attend.
Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Ferrari, and new arrival Lamborghini, were the cars to be seen in, and now just as importantly, speed boats and yachts played an important part of the good life.
1962 saw the arrival of the all-wood, hand crafted Aquarama, The name was taken for the boat from its wraparound windscreen, a design image copying the popular film format Cinerama, a process in which three synchronized movie projectors each project one-third of the picture on a wide, curving screen.that was popular when the boat was designed.
An instant success, suddenly everyone cool wanted a Riva, especially an Aquarama, which literally became a brand within a brand.
Also caught up in the desire for a Riva Aquarama, Ferruccio Lamborghini ordered hull #278 in May of 1968. You could get the Aquarama in many different engine configurations, but none to Señor Lamborghini’s liking, so he pulled two 350 bhp 4.0 V12 Lamborghini engines from a Lamborghini 350 GT and with Carlo Riva’s help, adapted them for use as marine engines.
Turning the ignition key and pressing two starter buttons brought the enormous engines to life, and the Lamborghini motors made hull #278 the fastest Aquarama ever built.
Ferruccio Lamborghini enjoyed his fabulous Aquarama for over 20 years, finally selling it to a close friend. When that friend passed away, hull #278 got lost in the shuffle, ending up in storage, eventually covered and forgotten. The Lamborghini motors ended up in the Lamborghini Museum and the boat was set to rot when discovered by a passionate Riva collector, Sandro Zani. Mr. Zani decided to restore the long lost boat back to its original configuration and with the help of the Lamborghini Museum and Riva, brought #278 back to life.
Riva estimates there are about 650 Aquaramas left in the world, almost all have been carefully restored, and handed down through generations of owners. A few come up for sale from time to time, and the latest listings I could find are here.
Ferruccio Lamborghini’s famous hull #278 is exhibited on special occasions or events, and is currently owned by an Italian shipowner and can be visited in the Riva Collection of Bellini Nautica in Clusane, near Iseo, Italy.