January 23rd, 2012 by James Ferris

When your focus is on trying to achieve a ‘perfect’ restoration, as ours has been with Perlita Too, you quickly realize that real perfection is more than skin deep, and even the things that don’t show must be as perfectly executed as what can be seen. If you have been following our journey you will know Perlita Too is an historically significant Riva speedboat, with a well documented history, found in a barn 22 years ago. The Barn Find Riva

PERLITA TOO in 2011 in the water again after over 30 years. On the right PERLITA TOO in 1953

Our restoration has taken over four years yet the last 12 months have been a mind boggling experience of completing the many systems, re-confirming the previous 21 years of research for “1953 Italian correctness”, testing, and pushing everyone toward completion. Few are better at this than Butch Dennison’s team, with multiple Pebble Beach & Villa d’ Este awards, and a recent auction surprise. Butch has a keen understanding of the Italian automotive mindset of the period, and rapidly came up to speed on Rivas; intensively quizzing Sea Sonic’s Chris Casparis, and the ‘Riva Guru’ in Florida.

The talented guys at Dennison Motorsports can restore or make just about anything…….

The original docking lights. Beyond replacement, we assumed. Wrong……

We ordered ‘original’ replacements from Italy. They turned out to be molded plastic!! Not ‘perfect’ enough, so back to look at the broken & corroded original pieces. After some thought, Butch decided; “OK, we’ll just ‘repair’ these”. Many hours (and many $) later, we had our original lights back.

This kind of focus was typical of the past 12 months. Wiring, fuse boxes, fuel filter …… and speaking of wiring; every clamp was replaced, and each one hand-made, like the original ones we found, and just like the ones found in Italian cars of the period.

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So many of the intricate details, so beautifully executed, will never be seen…….

Of course, along with all these successes, we did have a few small, and one major FAIL, which caused us to miss our primary target: the Lake Tahoe Concours in 2011.

The issue was (and still is!!), replicating the correct original woven nylon upholstery. After dedicating three years determining the exact design and getting it blessed by Carlo Riva, searching to find a vendor, working with the vendor on many unsatisfactory attempts, we still have no Joy. In December SMS Auto Fabrics sent us this scan (right image below) showing a sample they had woven.

BELOW L>R: Approved by Carlo Riva, period advertisement, December 2011 from SMS.

Hmmmm, so much closer…lots, but after 3+ years of research, trail and error, and waiting, still not a “perfect” original.

Deadlines for international magazine photoshoots, important boat shows, and more all passed on account of the uncompleted interior….this is when any sane person might conclude “good enough” and implement something almost “right”.  Unfortunately, sanity was lost years ago……

 BELOW L>R:Original seats, new seat frames, “pattern” fabric on new seats……

In spite of all this, I have this dream that Perlita Too will make her debut on Lago Iseo in Italy, where she was born in 1953

RIVA INVITEMagnify Image

170 – 90 – 50 
In late August, a very special 2012 event will take place on Lago Iseo; a celebration of 170 years of the Riva yard; Carlo Rivas 90th birthday, and the 50th anniversary of the Riva Aquarama introduction. This is particularly significant because the Tritone model was the precursor to the Aquarama; in fact the first Aquaramas were built on modified Tritone hulls. Perlita Too was the prototype for a significant part of Riva history. The First Tritone.

It would be incredible to make this dream a reality.

So, in that relentless (and possibly ill-advised?) search for perfection, the obvious next step is find the original shipping crate that Perlita arrived in!

Who would have thought that almost 60 years later Perlita Too could be heading back to Italy!

Once again, that ever-present little voice in the back of my head asks: Would you do this restoration again? Knowing the true extent of the journey, would I give the years of time, the sometimes frustratingly hard work, and particularly the financial resources necessary, to accomplish this journey in search of that elusive ideal of ‘perfection’? Mmmm; will have to ponder that some more; perhaps another small scotch will bring clarity….

What is abundantly clear is that it never would have happened without the people; first in line of course is CASUDI (my business partner & partner in life), who not only managed the project, but encouraged me to begin it (and allowed me to continue it); Chris Casparis, wood worker extraordinaire, master engine man Jim McNeilly, Harmut Behrens, Alan Weinstein (the guru), Richard Frisch, Piero & Mariella Gibellini, the chroniclers of the Riva legacy, Butch Dennison and his team of magicians, and of course, Carlo Riva himself, the creator of the legend. Each one, and many others, have played an integral part in this drama/comedy. And course, the invaluable support of our global ‘virtual PERLITA TOO’ online community. Thank you, each and everyone of you.

HOLD THE PRESSES!….. it’s now July15 and we are so proud to show off the upholstery, a perfect duplicate of the original with the Saran fabric.

Will we actually be heading to Italy? Unfortunately this turned out to be a mere dream this time……….. but please check out more recent images on  JUST IMAGINE

Please leave a comment below or email me …….and see you in Italy (without PERLITA TOO this time!)



4 Responses to “QUALITY THAT SHOWS”

  1. Brian Driggs Says:

    James, you guys are positively insane. (I mean that in the best possible way.)

    You’re out to find the original shipping crate so you can ship Perlita Too back to Italy for this event? WOW. That’s dedication. I can’t imagine such a thing would still exist. If it did, no doubt you’d need to have it completely rebuilt.

    So how far along is Chris on Perlita Too’s crate? Haha.

    The story of Perlita Too is beyond inspirational. Keep going fast with class!

  2. James Says:

    Yes Brian, we may be certifiable…..jury is still out.

    Two versions of the story: first version is that Roland Reed broke up the original crate and carried it to Catalina Island to make bonfires on the beach!

    2nd version is that they used the crate as a prop for an episode of ‘Waterfront’ involving a runaway speedboat, which Reed was producing at the time. Any way, in the quest for provenance, truth can be stranger than fiction….maybe!

    By the way, we’re not the only ones infected with the disease of ‘perfection'; check out the story of Bob Mosier and Phil Hill at this LINK

  3. Christopher Korody Says:

    Bravissimo James –

    You have absolutely outdone yourself, and most certainly out done anything Carlo Riva ever did. After all he just made them that way because that’s what he had at hand – I am sure it never occurred to him that anyone would every try to reinvent 50’s Italian manufacturing in the 21st century.

    Congratulations on holding out for the perfect piece of fabric. which no doubt was originally selected so as not to stick to the bottoms of the lovely signorinas who were destined to ride shotgun…

    You are going to have a fantastic time in Italy. All you have to do is keep your sanity until Perlita Too is safely launched in the cool waters of the beautiful lago…

    Mille auguri amico mio!


  4. darnoc Says:

    This is an inspiring story of passion, skill and perseverance that brings to mind the words of Winston Churchill: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.”

    Lago Iseo awaits…..