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2014 London Boat Show: A ’64 Riva Ariston

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Welcome to the revival of the much loved Motorboat Monday tag which has been missing in action for quite a while. Too long, really.  Due entirely to the fact that I’ve just returned from this year’s London Boat Show, the first international boat show on the Calendar, I thought I’d subject you to let you share my show experiences. Let’s start the ball rolling and begin with something iconic and unforgettable.

Riva. Assuming you can overlook the ’80s Ladas which bore that name, Riva is synonymous with all the very best bits of the world of the marine hoon. Of course, Riva have built a vast number of very varied floating things since they opened the floodgates, but it’s the little wooden ones we all seem to love the most and I’m pretty sure you’ll find this one especially delightful.

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The most famous Riva is the bigger, later Aquarama, characterised by a sunbed sunken into the rear deck space. They’re the sort of craft that a millionaire playboy might use to transfer from his Benetti superyacht to whichever island casino he felt lucky about on a given Mediterranean evening. This one is an Ariston. Built initially in 1964 it has been painstakingly restored recently and, in my eyes, is better than new. Please take a few minutes to drink in the details, the proportions and the elegant simplicity.

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Pretty, ain’t it? Going under the name of Lady Lina, this is quite a famous boat and a lot of people who obviously know what they’re talking about have gone on record as declaring it the most beautiful Riva ever built. It’s a tricky claim as that boatyard put out precious few dogs, but I’m not going to argue.

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The Ariston is a smaller craft than the Aquarama, and closer to a runabout in nature, but somehow the thought of this boat skipping across a millpool-flat Lake Garda is worthy of a greater job title than that. This boat did not simply run about. It glid.

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Within that handsome and slender abdomen sits a single 283CI Chris-Craft V8, rated at 185hp so the chances are that 30 to 40 knots should be a cinch on kind waters. And all the while accompanied by a wonderful baritone roar. Incidentally even the people displaying it were stating the engine as being 283hp. Which is wrong.

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I see beauty and rightness everywhere I look on this boat, and the dashboard and cabin which very obviously have automotive parallels, makes me pine for the days when less-is-more design was the rule and not the exception. For a truly drool-worthy example, take a look at the transparent centre of the wheel, with the model name and that miniature propeller behind it. That, Ladies and Gents, is art.

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For me this restoration, where you can still smell marine varnish and epoxy if you press your nose into the right crevices, holds more appeal than the perfect original for precisely that reason. The original, with mirror finish lustre and everything production fresh, hasn’t yet lived. This one wears the noble uniform of a boat who has earned her keep and been lovingly preserved to continue to do so. Fortunately, a new owner has the chance to do just that very soon, Lady Lina is soon to be auctioned. Guide price: 105,000.

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[Images: Copyright 2014 Hooniverse/Chris Haining]

  • That, my friend, is the absolutely most beautiful boat at this show, bar none. I couldn't agree more about the steering wheel center that is art. Thanks for capturing that bit of detail and sharing it with us. Now about what goes on in Plymouth….

  • stigshift

    If I owned that, I would have to live somewhere that I could use it to commute to work. That would be a most enjoyable commute, indeed.

  • skitter

    The display makes me think of the Jack Rabbit Slim's restaurant in Pulp Fiction.

  • Mark T. Jordan

    The steering wheel is upside down, and some idiot put the center cap with the Riva script in it that way.
    Pretty basic resto mistake. What's up with that?

  • dukeisduke

    A 283 Chris-Craft – does that mean it's really a SBC, or did Chris-Craft design and build their own 283?

  • dukeisduke

    It's beautiful, right up there with the best Chris-Crafts.

  • Alcology

    Wowsas.

    On a side note, does anyone know how much of a wooden boat you have to start with during a restoration to still keep the same name? It's a really low percentage but I don't remember it.

  • Brian

    You can see photos of the restoration in http://www.finewoodenboats.co.uk