Riva Line-Up
Riva Line-Up
2012 Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance
Photo by Stephen D. Griffitts

In 2012, the Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance featured the Riva Aquarama as its Marque class. With 33 Rivas on display, it was perhaps the largest presentation of Aquaramas ever assembled for display. In addition to the Aquarama, Aquarama Special, Super Aquarama, and Aquarama Lungo models on display, there was also a good collection of other Riva models, including the Super Tritone, Ariston, Super Ariston, Super Florida, Junior, Olympic, Iseo, and Ruby Super.

The year 2012, represented the 50th anniversary of the iconic Riva Aquarama, which came into existence in 1962. Subsequently, Motorboat & Yachting Magazine named it number one of the top 100 best boats ever!

Laura
Laura, 1964 Riva 26’4″ Aquarama, Twin Chris-Craft 8-Cyl 250-hp (each) Engines, Daniel Morehead, Palo Alto, CA
2012 Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance
Photo by Stephen D. Griffitts

In 1962, Carlo Riva built the prototype of the Aquarama based on the Riva Tritone, which had been inspired by Chris-Craft runabouts. The boat’s speed, beauty, and craftsmanship earned it praise as the “Ferrari of the boat world.”

Liberta
Liberta, 1970 Riva 28′ Super Aquarama, Twin Riva Crusader 8-Cyl 320-hp (each) Engines, William & Janet Cronk, Lafayette, CA
2012 Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance
Photo by Stephen D. Griffitts

For the Aquarama, Carlo Riva added a different bow piece with built-in vents, raised mopboards around the perimeter of the forward covering boards, and an anchor housing mounted at the bow. He split the front seats for ease of passage. The driver’s seat sported a flip-up seat section so the driver could pilot the boat in a standing position. Additionally, he built picnic trays into the backs of the seats. Carlo added a crossing area at the transom to ease the boarding of bathers from the stern ladder. Carlo fitted the boat with twin Chris-Craft 8-cylinder, 185-hp engines. He personally tested the boat extensively and, once satisfied with the design, ordered full production to start in 1963.

Tiger
Tiger, 1969 Riva 27′ Aquarama, Twin Riva Crusader 8-Cyl 220-hp (each) Engines, David & Diane Paul, Los Angeles, CA
2012 Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance
Photo by Stephen D. Griffitts

Riva built hull numbers two and three plank-on-frame, the same as the Tritone models of the time. Hull number four was the first model to employ the “armor laminate” triple-planked laminated sides. Riva sheathed the Aquarama’s hull mahogany and then varnished it to accentuate the beauty of its natural wood grain.

Capriccio
Capriccio, 1967 Riva 27’9″ Super Aquarama, Twin Riva Crusader 8-Cyl 320-hp (each) Engines, Richard Niello/The Niello Company, Sacramento, CA
2012 Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance
Photo by Stephen D. Griffitts

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. Riva often mounted a swim ladder in the stern.

Viking, 1968 Riva 27’9″ Super Aquarama, Twin Riva Crusader 8-Cyl 320-hp (each) Engines, Jeff Qvale, Kentfield, CA
2012 Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance
Photo by Stephen D. Griffitts

All versions were twin-engined, with top speeds of 45 to 50 knots, depending on engine choice. Power varied from 185 hp to 400 hp per engine, delivered by Riva ‘tuned’ Cadillac and Chrysler motors, among others.

Disco Volante
Disco Volante, 1966 Riva 27’4″ Super Aquarama, Twin Riva Crusader 8-Cyl 320-hp (each) Engines, Martin Feletto, Sacramento, CA
2012 Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance
Photo by Stephen D. Griffitts

The Aquarama continued in production until 1995, when Riva completed hull number 784, resulting in a total of 769 boats completed. Of these, 288 were “normal” Aquaramas, fitted with small block engines; 203 were Super Aquaramas, fitted with big block engines; and 278 were Aquarama Specials, representing the final design of the boat and built from 1972.

Riva Line-Up
Riva Line-Up
2012 Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance
Photo by Stephen D. Griffitts

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 Sixties, echoed in its sweeping wrap-around windshield, conjures images from another time.

BoatXchg.com would like to express our appreciation to Herb Hall, President of Sierra Boat Company in Carnelian Bay, California, for providing much of the content for this article.