July 28th, 2010 by James Ferris

Little did we know, when we discovered a derelict Riva speedboat in a barn in California, that we would embark on a journey of discovery, research, and restoration, spanning more than 20 years. The actual restoration of PERLITA TOO only started in September 2007, but I think we had been mentally gearing up for it since 1990 !

And little did we know how it would all turn out when we asked Chris (Sea Sonic Boats) to visit Mr. Riva in Italy in January 2008.  This is the legendary Carlo Riva, who designed and built the fabulous mahogany Rivas, often called the “Ferrari” of speedboats.

Here are a couple of pix from my most recent visit with Chris at Sea Sonic Boats.

Nearly 700 linear feet of painstakingly hand-laid spruce  inserts…..can you say eye-strain?

Overview during final hand-fairing of decks

Hull still rough-faired; spray rails being test-fitted

Experimenting with the windshield shape….

…..great fun extrapolating exact shape & dimensions from 50-year old B&W photos!


Midway through the 2nd go ’round of reshaping the bow cap (after having spent over 40 hours massaging the surface and the shape the first time….)

Without doubt Mr. Riva would be very proud of what Chris is doing with Perlita Too.

Chris and Mr. Riva in Jan 2008

As promised some early shots of stain & varnish …….

I can’t believe we’re going to cover up this fabulous craftsmanship with gray paint……

…..but here it is, gray bilge paint covering it all up, never to be seen again….

First few coats of sealer after final fairing and sanding…..

Encouraging to see the finishing stage, after 3 years of painstaking restoration and reconstruction….

This is the eleventh entry in our series about the discovery, history and restoration of PERLITA TOO; starting with “BARN FIND RIVA” in summer 2008.

Perlita’s followers span the globe; everyone anticipating the completion and debut of PERLITA TOO. We hope you enjoy the story…and as usual…. we welcome your comments below, or email me at



3 Responses to “MAKING MR.RIVA PROUD”

  1. Brian Driggs Says:

    The rush of adrenaline as you consider the purchase of your amazing find.
    The thrill of loading it up on the trailer and dragging it home.
    The excitement as you begin your restoration.

    Every phase of a project like this is exciting in its own way. It seems Perlita Too has reached my favorite phase, though – looking closer to done than just begun! Simply amazing.

    I’m a thousand miles away in the middle of the desert, but I can almost smell the mahogany and the spruce. I can imagine how it feels to run my hand along the deck, feeling the soft, smooth surface nearly ready to be finished. There’s the feeling of sawdust and shavings under foot. Could you glide across the shop at the end of the day? We are six years old again.

    And there’s the zen moment.

    Standing in the doorway after the sun has set, the world around is near silent, a lone, fluorescent lamp casts soft shadows across the form of your prize, and you just stand there, taking it all in. You admire how well this looks and how that came together, feeling a sense of quiet, humble accomplishment. There are still concerns – how will this be resolved, and we never did decide what to do about that – but it is a feeling of relative peace. You are creating something unique and everyone knows, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

  2. Reg Down Says:

    James & Caroline – It’s so exciting to finally see Perlita at this stage of her restoration, and as expected, Chris’s workmanship looks exceptional.

    I look at the images of the deck and imagine how beautiful it will be with the hardware installed. We look forward to the day when the big V-12 goes back in, that will certainly make up for the gray bilge paint!

    As with any long restoration project, with the end in sight, this is always the stage of the project when I have trouble remaining patient, anticipating how it will look when it’s finally completed. I’m sure you are experiencing those same feelings – Baby Steps…

  3. James Ferris Says:

    Thank you Brian for your great “poetic” contribution. It made me think (as all your comments do) that I haven’t stopped long enough / often enough during the restoration to really appreciate those zen moments. However, the stain and first few coats of finish sure made me stop for longer than a moment ~ it’s such a difference and such a major step forward; the richness of the color (which really doesn’t show well online) is reward for effort.

    Yes Reg, those baby steps are supposed to make one less impatient…….OTOH, it’s just about 3 years now since Chris picked up Perlita from her barn on Lopez Island, and it’s almost exactly 20 years! from when we found her in another barn. With everything moving forward as it is now, she will be done (late) this year. Finally!

    My third response is to the aficionado who noted (by phone) that the cutouts for the deck scoops on Riva’s “have always been round, not scoop-shaped”. My thoughts are, 1) we have not seen another Tritone earlier than 1959, so very hard to extrapolate what may have been done in Perlitas’ construction in 1952 prior to ‘series’ production, 2) the hand-made detailing around the edges of all of the scoop openings seems like too much work to have been added at a later date if the holes were modified from round (easy) to scoop-shaped (harder), 3) they’re all detailed that way, even in the bow for the docking lights, not just the ones near the superchargers, defeating the argument that Reed changed them for greater airflow for the blowers, 4) no physical evidence around the cutouts of the “butchery” associated with other mods made in Perlitas’ later years. My vote is for ‘original'; until someone proves otherwise.

    Thanks to you all for your contributions. James