Villa Erba

25 May 2013

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Lot 112

1960 Riva Tritone Special Cadillac "Ribot III"

  • Engine no. 1501 & 1502
  • Hull No. 132

€500.000 - €700.000

Two 325 bhp, 390 cu. in. Cadillac-Crusader Marine V-8 engines. Length: 8.30 m (27 ft. 3 in.)

  • The most powerful Riva built in the early 1960s; a true “one-off”
  • Built for champion sailor Achille Roncoroni and used on Lake Como
  • Beautifully restored and in outstanding operating condition

From 1953 on, Carlo Riva, today the most renowned builder of luxury wooden runabouts in the world, based his success on serialised production. Film stars, entrepreneurs, kings, and billionaires alike piloted boats selected from the Florida, Ariston, and twin-engine, top-of-the-crop Tritone lines, each beautifully handcrafted and finished to individual customer orders, but each were still a “production” craft.

The Tritone Special Cadillac offered here is the only truly one-off mahogany Riva boat ever built in its time. It was ordered in 1960 by Como industrialist and passionate champion sailor Achille Roncoroni, a customer in good standing who made a simple request: to have the longest, fastest, most powerful Riva boat of its time, built for him and no one else. Due largely to Roncoroni’s assistance in further establishing a Riva salesroom and boat service yard on Lake Como, the request was granted, and despite requests from such customers as King Hussein of Jordan, the Riva Tritone Special Cadillac Ribot III, hull number 132, remains the largest, fastest, and most powerful Riva runabout ever built in the early 1960s.

Outstanding features include a length of 8.30 metres, more than any other Riva of its era, and two Cadillac-Crusader Marine V-8s produce 325 brake horsepower each, some 100 brake horsepower more than the most powerful stock Riva Super Tritone. A marine conversion of the same engine that powered the Cadillac Eldorado, the Crusader was built by Calvin “Cal” Connell, of Cadillac-Crusader Marine in Warren, Michigan, who described it as “manufactured with the skill and precision to be expected of a product bearing the name Cadillac…The engines have been completely engineered for marine use and contain many features new to the marine industry. It is the lightest and most powerful standard production V-8 marine in the world. Between 1955 and 1960, it broke four international speed and endurance records”. In August 1961, the harshest offshore competition on the European side of the Atlantic, the Cowes Torquay race, was won by Thunderbolt, a small cabin cruiser driven by champion Tommy Sopwith, heir of the famous Sopwith aeronautical firm. Thunderbolt was powered by two “stock” Cadillac Crusader 325-brake horsepower, 390-cubic inch V-8s, exactly the same as the engines selected one year earlier by Carlo Riva and Achille Roncoroni for Ribot III. It was decided that in order to highlight the functional beauty of the red-painted Cadillac power units, the interior of the hull was finished in white rather than the usual grey, at Roncoroni’s order, so as to make the inner engine bay sparkle.

A unique lettering set had to be ordered for the hull and dashboard, as the word “Special” had never before been applied to a boat by Riva. The upholstery was designed in a unique scheme of blue, red, and white with split front seats, which allowed easy access to the rear and could be laid flat for sunbathing in full discretion. The dashboard is absolutely spectacular, with a full complement of chrome bezelled instruments, some of which had to be specially calibrated to this boat with higher marks than standard due to Ribot III’s higher performance. In addition, a Kelvin White compass was requested by experienced deep sea sailor Roncoroni and installed. A special certificate was issued to the craft by the Registro Italiano Navale, confirming the right to carry 12 persons aboard—two more than could be carried in any other of the largest standard Rivas

The Ribot III name itself has its own history. Named for a famed racehorse of equal breeding and power, Ribot I and Ribot II were launched by champion driver Guido Abbate, a boat builder who ran the big racing runabouts to wins in the classic Cento Miglia del Lario race on Lake Como in October 1957 and October 1958. Roncoroni was there and watching, and this likely inspired him to order up this Riva—and to have it christened appropriately.

Prior to delivery to its owner, the Tritone Special underwent test runs on the official international speed record base, located in front of Riva’s yard on Lake Iseo. The young and daring test driver Arturo Savoldi reached a stunning 96 km/h, a new house record for a Riva runabout powered by stock engines and propellers, and some 10 km/h more than the company’s fastest catalogued offering.

Achille Roncoroni drove Ribot III largely on Lake Como, as expected, maintaining it at Riva Boat Service Menaggio there. Once a year, in the summer, it was shipped to Sardinia, where the Roncoronis had a summer villa with a private mooring also housing their motor yacht, which had a wooden model of the Riva in its main saloon. It remained in his ownership until 1970, when it passed to the present owner, only its second from new.

During his decades of loving care, the owner has maintained Ribot III at his private dockyard on Lake Como. In the early 2000s, the craft underwent a complete restoration at the boatyard of Giacomo Lazzari in Sarnico, in which the original bottom of the hull, although still in good condition, was replaced for higher safety and comfort of use, with modern glues and resins employed to strengthen the hull to standards not known in 1960. The wooden structure is all-original and in perfect condition, as are the sides of the hull. The deck coverings had been aged by the sun, even after 50 years of meticulous care, and they were completely replaced. Precisely calibrated clear wood seals were cut from field maple and used to match the patina of the original walls with the new planking of the deck, and as a result, Ribot III appears exactly as it did in 1960, under 19 coats of varnish. The two original Cadillac-Crusader engines were thoroughly rebuilt, with all ageing parts replaced by original parts when available, or refabricated with the finest materials when not. The two engines were tested extensively on the bench at the BPM marine engine factory in Verona.

Since its exhaustive restoration, the most powerful Riva of its era, and the only truly one-off Riva ever built in the 1960s, has resided at the RAM yard in Sarnico, the historical maintenance and service yard still owned by the Riva family. It is difficult to express in words the sheer beauty and unforgettable performance of this Riva Tritone Special; the show quality of the restoration is correct in every detail, and the sheer effortless power from those two 325-brake horsepower Cadillac engines means that this one-off Riva is quite simply as good as it gets. A Lake Como original, it is presented here with great pride, ready for the third owner to enjoy it with the same zeal and style as Achille Roncoroni, a man who always wanted only the best for himself—and got it.

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