Italians are prone to exaggeration. But it’s not their fault. Collectively, the country is a nation of hot-blooded, impassioned personalities; fiery individuals whose embellishment and emphasis fuels their food, their art, their motoring. And it’s all the better for it. Case in point — that beautiful boat you just scrolled past.
“It’s like a Ferrari on water!” enthuses Giorgio Colombi, going wild over the restored MonteCarlo OffShorer. “One with sports suspension. It’s perfectly balanced, can do 56 knots and it cuts through waves. There is no wave that can touch this boat! I was out on the water the other day, and I could see these rib boats, 10 or 15 metre boats, being hit by waves. Taking terrible hits. But my boat? It was just going straight through the waves. Fantastic. And very easy handling — the centre console makes you feel like you’re in a Formula One car. Amazing!”
See? Passion! But can you blame Colombi? Just look at the thing. Sleek, chic and thoroughly stylish, it’s one hell of a day cruiser. There’s an impossibly roomy sundeck, racy retro livery and that inspired central driving position. But we shouldn’t be surprised it looks this fantastic — for it sprang from the mind of Carlo Riva.
Yes, he of Riva Boats. After the late Italian entrepreneur sold the Riva yard in the early 1970s, he crossed the pond and collaborated on a new ‘V-step’ hull design with Floridian naval engineer Bob Hobbs. After achieving the perfect balance between performance and control, Hobbs had the plans for his new hull — but no means to put them into production. Riva stepped in. Calling on Renato Della Valle, a businessman and three-time offshore powerboat world champion, the small group bought a shipyard in the Ligurian city of Ventimiglia, registered the PowerBoat brand in Monaco, and set to work.
“This hull,” rhapsodises Colombi, “is still the best hull that has ever been conceived for a nine metre boat. It has incredible performance! And the boat has incredible space. Four people can easily lay down — it truly is a unique boat.”
It certainly is. And, while the Offshorer didn’t look much like Riva’s earlier wooden runabouts, this was the 1980s. Men were throwing off their beautiful woollen suits for newfangled polyester. Traditional colours were thrown to the wind in favour of blazing neons. More was more — and this new design was sleeker, sexier and sportier than anything else on the water. Superstars, millionaires, playboys and the emerging elite were queuing up to buy a MonteCarlo Offshorer. James Bond even briefly took one for a spin in Goldeneye. And, during production, a whopping 343 were built.
This is where Colombi comes in. The 42nd MonteCarlo Offshorer to power off the production line was delivered to Colombi’s father, at his childhood home on Lake Iseo, in the late 1970s. That boat has remained in the family ever since — and Colombi, now a successful businessman in his own right, recently founded The Restorer; a project that will ensure the iconic design lives on for years to come.
It’s a simple enough idea — and one that the motor industry has been dabbling with for several years. Colombi will scoop up abandoned or maltreated MonteCarlo Offshorers, methodically repair and update them, and then throw them back into the Mediterranean waters in which they belong. It’s a practice that combines restoration and modification — affectionately called ‘resto-modding’.
“The whole idea to resto-mod the MonteCarlo Offshorer,” explains Colombi, “came from the fact that I’m tired of consumerism. All this buying and changing your boat every few years. It’s a philosophy of buying and throwing away things that seems to have developed in the last twenty years. And I’m tired of it.”
“It’s like a Ferrari on water! And one with sports suspension!"
But that wasn’t the only reason Colombi founded The Restorer. The MonteCarlo Offshorer, he says, was never wholly dependable — or even built to last. More than 30 years down the line, owners are starting to lose patience with their boats — and Colombi wants to make sure they get a fair second chance.
“The reliability of the original boats was pretty bad,” he explains. “That’s why, at The Restorer, we offer two kinds of boats. There’s the ‘Connoisseur’, which keeps the original boat and aesthetic — nothing changes on the outside — but the electronics, the hydraulics, all the technical components change. Except the engine. From a collector’s standpoint, some of our customers want to keep the original engine. The other option, the ‘Resto Mod’, changes the engine as well — we even offer an electric option.”
Briefly, the process itself is as follows: the boat is disassembled and all steel parts — from bollards to windscreen edges — are replaced. New mechanical, electronic and hydraulic systems are fitted, and the original instruments and controls are refurbished and refitted. The soft furnishings are reupholstered, and then the boat is taken for a test spin by the technical experts on Lake Iseo. Altogether, including the €30,000 for a donor boat if you don’t already own one, a trip to The Restorer will set you back between €190,000 and €230,000.
“There were 15 original colour schemes,” Colombi says, citing the repainting as his favourite part of the process. “And each is more beautiful than the last. Honestly, I would take them all if I could. The most rare of them was a full red — but that’s quite strong in appearance, especially when compared with the others. Most strike a balance; they are elegant yet aggressive.”
There’s an elegance and aggression to Colombi, too. His passion is clear — and he’s clearly ready to fight in order to keep these boats alive. In fact, he believes that the resto-mod market for boats is only just getting started.
“Of course it is! Because there are some really good boats out there from 20, 30, 40 years ago — but ones that have always had a problem with reliability. Owners have had such frustrations with these boats that they just forget them. Resto-modding is going to preserve the beauty and style of the period, but without the problems.”
Which brings us to the million-dollar — or should that be €230,000? — question: why should you buy a resto-modded MonteCarlo Offshorer when you can buy a new boat?
“Easy,” says Colombi. “Because there is no boat today like the MonteCarlo Offshorer. Even just the cost of materials — the fibreglass hull was so thick it would cost you €150,000 today to make that alone! And there’s lead in those hulls, which you can’t use today, but makes them stronger and more durable than modern boats.
“But mostly,” the Italian adds, “there’s just no need to build a new boat from scratch. Because there are MonteCarlo Offshorers still out there. They may be sitting in warehouses, forgotten even by God, but they’re still there!”
Want more nautical icons? Here’s how Magnum Marine changed the course of boating history…
Become a Gentleman’s Journal member. Find out more here.