May 28th, 2010 by James Ferris

Paraphrasing Mies; it’s the attention to the details that give a project, whether architecture, or a classic boat restoration, that special sense of perfection. You don’t need to analyze each detail in itself, but instinctively you know it is there, when something looks so completely and perfectly beautiful, accomplished and together; that sense of “just right”, perfection is in the details.

Many will conclude (and I know that some do already) that we have gone a bit overboard with our attention to detail on the restoration of Perlita Too. From the exceptional quality of the woodworking by Chris at Sea Sonic Boats, to the many other painstakingly researched and recreated components, and our obsessional attention to provenance, authenticity and originality. This can be challenging, when it is repeatedly proven that we can’t possibly be certain of some detail; because despite her position as the first series-built Tritone, Perlita remains very much a one-off and prototype for the Tritone series. This fact is yet another good reason why we are doing the over-the-top restoration we set out to do. Rarity has value, and Perlita is very rare.

Week after week Chris continues his great work: saving the original where he can, and seamlessly integrating the new when necessary…

Old Frames
new pieces painstakingly integrated into the original structure

nu dex
nearly 220 square feet of new decking

shame to paint
hand-riveting and woodworking so fine that it seems a shame to paint it all gray……

new tank
recreating a new tank platform for the new tanks

trial-fitting the platform & one tank

We’ve called on resources from around the world to help us with significant issues, and the smaller ones too.

High up there of course is the “Riva Guru”, Alan Weinstein in Florida; featured recently in Power & Motor yacht magazine, which calls Alan one of the most talented Riva restoration specialists in the world today, with a resume that features dozens of born-again Rivas.

Alan Weinstein
Alan in his element: roadtesting a stunningly restored AQ for his client

Historian and author Piero Gibellini, creator of the voluminous series of books on Carlo Riva and the yard, has patiently answered question after nit picking question, and consulted in person with Mr.Riva on particularly thorny issues.

#7 books on table
the absolutely indispensable research tools – the Riva series by Piero  Gibellini

One such nearly impossible to resolve issue was the question of the striped Saran upholstery, pictured only in a single period black & white image of Perlita on her launching day. It’s taken us over 2 years of scanning and magnifying the image, analyzing every pixel, to come up with something approved by all. Though it appears as two stripes, one dark & one light; in actual fact when the image was re-scanned at extreme resolution and viewed very close-up, it is composed of three similarly sized and colored stripes, which when viewed from a small distance away give the impression of two stripes, which a few will remember. Our very special “Molto Grazie” to Mariella Gibellini for all your patient and frequent emails, getting Piero to answer our most trivial questions, and sending the answers back to us so promptly.

who thought finding upholstery could be such an issue? OK, we’ll just make some…

The dark green vinyl or Vipla, was much easier to solve, as we were most fortunate to find a small piece of the original material behind a dashboard overlay last summer, and Doug at SMS Auto Fabrics in Oregon was able to replicate the correct dark green color and the graining of the original.

New Vinyl
pretty good match for 57 years later….very helpful when you can find a piece of the old…..

Richard at Queen City Plating in Seattle will be completing the chrome plating this summer, including plating the heads of the thousands of screws, which attach the eye candy hardware he chromed for us at the end of last year. Details again……

so, who’s up for buffing and wiring 1,000 tiny screws this week?

Bill and Jeannie at Southern Crown Boatworksin Georgia have been invaluable in sourcing the zillions of high quality fasteners for our restoration. It’s quite frustrating doing a restoration of something from an earlier time, when the needed components are either unavailable, or substandard, if they can be found at all.

Sometimes you just have to recreate components, as in the case of the missing gas tanks. Chris and Rick at Extreme Metal & Paint in Washington simply made some new ones for us (after I used up many sheets of plywood mocking up shapes until we had the correct size and proportions). The finished tanks are perfect replicas of original period Riva tanks, with great metal-working; it’s a shame we had to paint them, as in original!

Tank Straps
hand-formed & hand riveted, just like 1953……

It’s amazing when I think of all those who have offered their help; some from way outside the speedboat restoration business. Stefano Maggi, Managing Partner at ‘ We Are Social‘, a “conversation agency”, which specializes in research, social engagement and social media in Italy. Stefano was quick to translate Italian into English when we needed answers about an old electrical schematic instantly; and he made calls for us in Italy.

Stefano Maggi, our own ‘Italian Connection’

@CASUDI connected with @Stefanomaggi, a perfect stranger, on twitter…..who knew that “on-line social networking” would come to the rescue of a 50 year old boat! Stefano’s blog is Digital Ingredients

Butch and Darren at Dennison International are completing the most perfect steering wheel restoration, and will be “fettling” the boat when it arrives at his facility in August. Butch has mentored us in 1950’s Italian fabrication procedures, and the path we have taken with Perlita is “authentic” and original. Butch knows the rules; as a multi-time “Best in Show” winner of Pebble Beach and Villa d’ Este. Doesn’t get any better than that. Two more cars from his shop are going to Pebble Beach this year, and yet he always has time for Perlita-related discussions!  Thank you, Butch!

James and Butch conversing
Butch explains to James how they did it; just like in Italy 50 years ago…..and why it cost so much!

A dream of over 20 years will become a reality in a little over 90 days…. Why did I have this dream in the first place? Likely it was because I instinctively knew, when I first spotted Perlita in her makeshift container shelter in the Sacramento Delta, covered with dust and bird-droppings, that she was a very special, one of a kind lady.  Who knew I would be blessed with 2 very special, one of a kind ladies, in my life? Thank you to my business partner & partner in life; CASUDI.

CASUDI in Italy
CASUDI in her element – a glossy mahogany Riva flying across Lago Iseo

It was certainly ‘love at first sight’……and I do know that it took a life-threatening illness in 2007 to tell me that I’d better get Perlita ready for the grand ball,  before I ran out of time….

Comments?  The Perlita community loves comments! or email me directly….



8 Responses to “GOD IS IN THE DETAILS”

  1. Eric Says:


    The restoration looks like it is coming along well.

    I really like the play on words for the title of this entry…Although after spending countless hundreds of hours of Riva research myself, I think the devil in in there as well (wink).

    For the uninitiated, in comparison to a Chris Craft/Hacker/Garr Wood…the number of details in a large Riva is staggering, and the variations and evolutions in design and execution are countless. You’ve done a nice job working to retain as much original detail as possible.

    One of the details pictured above…. the fuel tank hold-down straps. Did you have originals to work from? How did you come to the decision that the originals were stainless steel, with brass rivets, and stainless cross barrels?

    The fuel tanks themselves…Were you ever able to find conclusive documentation as to the original design for #3 in particular or were they done as a period-faithful recreation?

    One of the other fuel details will be the plumbing from the tanks to the engine. This is something that I have looked at in great detail in early construction Riva boats… I know Alan has as well. What will you be using for a fuel manifold, filter and piping/tubing for this very important detail. And then a dilemma can pop up here as well… what was original may not meet coast guard specs for use.

    As always, good luck with continued success in your project and health.

    Nevada City, Ca

  2. Tweets that mention » Blog Archive » GOD IS IN THE DETAILS -- Topsy.com Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by CASUDI. CASUDI said: @stefanomaggi just published http://bit.ly/cMhPxj latest in Barn Find Riva story ~ Yes, we have quite a big Italian following ~

  3. Eric Says:

    I’m really looking forward to seeing Perlita in person soon!

    In my opinion, this will be the most significant, and valuable Riva in existence when it is complete…Or at least tied with the final production Aquarama Special of Ferretti.

    The undeniable “Bling factor” of the Scripps V12-300 series, the size & Power of the boat, the feeling/sound of a planked hull ripping through the water that only a large-single-engine boat can make, the documentation, attention to detail, age, as well as being one of the oldest Production Carlo Riva boats still gracing the water (or soon to be) are what elevates this boat above all other Rivas for me. Perlita is the ultimate Exotic, Sexy and Rare Riva.

    Perlita will be a sight to behold I’m sure.

    By the way, I may have a swatch of original upholstery in my files that turned up on one of my trips to Italy…Similar to the one you’ve shown. Your photo above brought it to mind. I’ll have to look for it this week. Interesting for sure. If I can find it, it is yours.

  4. Christopher Says:

    James – I am going crazy on this upholstery thing.

    Best as I can figure, you first tracked down the source for the image, camera, film and lens used, and corrected for the known aberrations of that lens with PTLens correction software?

    You then ran through some noise filter grain removal software – maybe Topaz DeNoise?

    Then used a curves adjustment in PS to bring out the contrast?

    Then did sub-pixel color sampling with a beta sharpener?

    What did I miss?

  5. CASUDI Says:

    Thanks Eric for your super comments. James will answer the more technical details when he gets back, however the possibility of finding a real piece of the original upholstery after searching for 20 years, is amazing. Though I am pretty confident that our magnification and extensive analysis of the photograph over the past two years will result in an authentic recreation; we must be right on if it put you in mind of something you have collected in the past in Italy. I can’t wait to see it. BTW if that upholstery sample matches up; can you picture yourself behind the wheel of Perlita?

    This kind of “find” proves yet again, the power of social media; the conversation facilitated by our Blog via email and especially as part of our Blog comments. The value of this conversation can’t be underestimated.

    Your on going support and interest is greatly appreciated.

    A note to Christopher (CK writes) you know how James works, perhaps better then most and you know how nothing but the best will do.

    And Yes, that WAS about the way it was….. much easier if we had had an original sample from Eric earlier in the game. Thanks so much for being a part of our Perlita community.

  6. Brian Driggs Says:

    Perlita Too continues to impress.

    It truly feels as though a kindred spirit is about to be reborn, resurrected from near complete abandonment in a random California shed. Initially, I was drawn to this project as a gearhead. My own endeavors at always putting things back together in better condition than they were taken apart stem wholly from the automotive sector and even then, on relatively common Japanese models. I’d been exposed to the requisite vintage Ferraris and Alfas and always admired the attention to detail involved in such restorations – machines as functional art.

    The warmth of the wood comprising so much of Perlita Too – original or otherwise – is so inspiring. It’s as if Perlita Too was named because she was more than just a wooden boat. Suddenly I see the reasoning behind the naming of ALL boats going back into time. These were machines built from raw materials which were once alive themselves! That’s it!

    Some of us might name our cars – I’ve been known to do so in the past – but cars are made from steel and aluminum and plastic. These are not as organic a material as wood and leather. With regards to the vintage Italian cars which many – myself included – believe to have souls, it is not the materials as much as it is the attention to detail which conveys the passions of the craftsman which imparts that breath of life to the machine.

    Which brings me to why I continue to follow this project and find myself able to prattle about with my best wordsmithing in the comments.

    At the end of the day, Perlita Too is just an old wooden boat. She is a damn fine wooden boat, with a blown Scripps V12 under the hood capable of endless shenanigans, and fasteners which glisten like a thousand tiny suns from stem to stern. She will turn heads, she will steal the show, and she will sail away with trophies, medals, awards, and the countless accolades of internet fanboys such as myself who will likely never possess the means to own such a thing.

    I keep coming back because I can’t get enough of the passion behind this project. James heard the song and the story on the wind that day outside Sacramento. Chris painstakingly selecting drill bits for rivets which will ultimately be hidden from view for decades. Jim obsessing over the proper color of paint for the engine. Everyone involved in this project has a story like these.

    It would be so easy to find individuals willing to provide fasteners or gauges or steering wheels or even “expert opinion” on how things ought to be done, but the culmination of the passions of all the individuals participating in Perlita’s resurrection are what make her more than just a boat. They are what keeps everyone else inspired to continue, to press on regardless, and to eventually (re)christen Perlita Too in all her original glory as a machine, as art, as an individual.

    Maybe I’m just drinking too much Koolaid, though. :)

  7. James Ferris Says:

    Eric –
    Thanks much for your comments, and also your vote of confidence! Yes, she is a very special boat, and what’s really rewarding is how everyone contributing to Perlita’s renewal feels the same way, and are going that extra mile.

    Regarding the gas tank straps; you’re right, they’re a result of discussions with ‘the Riva Guru’ and others. The straps we found on Perlita, on what we’re pretty certain were not the original tanks; were stainless, and were modified to fit these tanks. There were brass rivets also where the straps were attached to the platform, that looked way more authentic than the ones at the clasp, which were cruder then anything that would have left the Riva yard. Additionally, the steering linkage and throttle linkages in Perlita are all brass, and the pins in the linkage are what I replicated in the tank straps. Remaking everything in stainless like the newer boats IMHO would have made it look like a newer boat. In the end, a judgement call; which can be argued many ways……..

    Since we have not begun the fuel delivery system yet, any comments or suggestions you can offer will be appreciated. (the fuel line is complete on the motor…)


  8. James Ferris Says:

    Brian –
    Thanks! Your comments are always inspiring, and your contributions to the Perlita community are greatly appreciated. You so totally “get it”, even though Perlita is really your introduction to the world of Riva. However, you do understand “enthusiast”, and have seamlessly expanded your automotive gear-head “obsession” to the world of mahogany and water. I really appreciate the sentiment expressed in every word you write. We’ll have to synchronize our schedules at the appropriate time and invite you to come and experience Perlita in person, in her element, on the water. I look forward to it!