From gliders to the prestigious boats made in wood, all plastic heat-formed boats, to modern cruisers in fibreglass – the story of a business, that in fifty years of existence, has created schooling of Italian Style world-wide
In 1961, Luigi Scarani – a lover of fine boats – decided he and his wife would spend their honeymoon in the French Riviera. When they came back, after spending much more time studying yachts and marinas, than enjoying France, the Scaranis made a decision: their passion would no longer be just a hobby.
They founded a shipyard and named it Aeronautica Rio, as they originally planned to produce both boats and gliders. Still, the yard concentrated primarily on speedboats – made from the same wood as gliders, mahogany – and soon developed their iconic models Colorado, Espera, Parana and Bonito (all names were inspired by Mr. Scarani’s other passion; South America). This golden era ended in 1965, with the fabulous Rolls Rio wooden speedboat powered by the same Rolls-Royce L410 V8 engine that powered the legendary Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow.
As the 1960s ended, Scarani decided to follow the trend – the yard partnered with AINC and ENI to start building boats in plastic, ending the era of wooden boats. Gliders became a thing of the past as well, and the yard dropped the Aeronautica part of their name. Rio first focused on smaller boats; day cruiser ideal for fishing trips, powered by outboard engines. Although not as glamorous as their wooden predecessors, those boats were a huge hit, especially the Rio 310, sold in 50.000 units.
Around the same time, Rio, this time partnered with Italian scooter maker Piaggio, made the first European jet-powered boats. Toward the end of the 1970s the yard began building larger plastic boats: especially popular were models Rio 11.50 and Rio 14.20, luxury fly bridge cruisers of significant size for the era. In the 1980s the yard expanded their portfolio with open cockpit cruisers, the most popular boat type of the decade, opened 440 dealerships and production plants in Spain and France and started their annual dealers’ meet-ups.
In the 1980s, one of their models, the Rio 400 Goal, was made in Croatia, on the island of Vis. In 1986 Rio debuted their innovative model Rio 12.90, with a cockpit closed by a movable roof – the sunroof, as it was called back then. That model later became the basis for the yard’s largest model, the 16.90.
In the 1980s Rio became one of the main suppliers of Italian police boats, and to this day they have delivered more than 200 boats to the carabinieri. In the 1990s, Rio began producing closed cockpit fishermen, which turned out to be a real hit on the domestic market, but the most popular of all was the 13-meter long open-cockpit Rio 1300 Cruiser.
In the 21st century, mid-2000s Piergorgio Scarani took over from his father and almost immediately changed the name of the yard to Rio Yachts. Under the new motto ‘Navigare alto’ (Sailing with class), Rio Yachts entered the luxury segment of the market. New series ART (open cockpit), AIR (hard top) and BLU (center console cruisers) were all based on that new philosophy.
In 2011 Rio Yachts celebrated their first fifty years with new versions of their classics Colorado, Espera and Parana, as well as brand new models Colorado 54 (16-meter hardtop) and Espera 34 (center console sport cruiser).
With their new models, equally fresh and innovative now as their namesakes were fifty years ago, are evidence that Rio Yachts is still powered by the same passion as when it was founded and equally dedicated to excellence in design and building techniques.