They were popular in the 50s and 60s and could be seen at the playgrounds of the “rich and famous” in the Mediterranean and in Europe, beautifully finished, sleek, classic, mahogany speedboats. The best known at the time were built by Riva, a small family company located on the banks of Lake Iseo in northern Italy. Gerald Wyllie has always had a passion for classic boats.
His love affair with boat building began in Sydney in the 60s where he built everything from a small clinker skiff to a 60-foot flybridge cruiser. So when he retired to the Gold Coast he decided to build a boat that would capture the quality, romance and styling of a bygone era. He co-opted his son, Peter, who is also handy with the tools, and the result was the 6.3m Costa D’ora. As it so often happens when an enthusiast builds a boat for personal use they tend to want to improve it.
“I felt that the design could be improved even further,” said Gerald. “We set to work to refine the aesthetics, making it longer and sleeker and improving the configuration of the interior by increasing the space and making it more ergonomically sound.” And so the Super Squalo was born. Then when the first outsider to drive one wanted one, the Wyllie’s found themselves in the boat building business.
They have now set up a small factory in the industrial suburb of Ernst on the Gold Coast to produce the classic speedboats. They needed a name, so they coined the name Pegiva, based on their initials, and it is no coincidence that there is an Italian sounding ring to it. The Pegiva Super Squalo Classic is a work of art. Built in Brazilian mahogany, the 7.1m craft has the classic lines of the original wooden speedboats. The finish on the hull is flawless with 22 coats of clear Awlgrip that has been meticulously hand-sanded between each coat. In the classic style of the era the cockpit is small, with seats for five people and a removable table in the centre.
The dash and trim is finished in Canadian Rock Maple Burl and the upholstery is top of-the line leather-look marine vinyl that is more durable than real leather. Slide into the driver’s seat and it feels good. It has a true sports car feel to it. Mercury Smartcraft instrumentation on the dash monitors the MerCruiser, 5.7lt, 350 MPI Horizon engine with a Bravo I leg, the V8 looks a little lonely way down the back, and there is a switch panel easily at hand on the right-hand side. A modern innovation is the pop-up VDO GPS plotter that doubles as a DVD screen in the centre of the dash. Some 2000 man-hours have gone into the building of the hull alone. Steve Jones, who comes from the old school of boat building, has done much of the timberwork. “It gives me great satisfaction to build something in wood that does something,” he said.
NO ORDINARY BOAT
The Pegiva Super Squalo is not an ordinary run-of-the-mill sports boat. It’s like a classic sports car, an indulgence for those who can afford the close to half a million dollar price tag. The Pegiva is the type of boat an owner uses for a pleasant Sunday afternoon run with a couple of friends, up to Sanctuary Cove on the Gold Coast or to an exclusive harbour-side restaurant in Sydney for lunch, when the weather is right that is. It’s just like going for a drive in a top-of the line sports car with the top down. The boat does have a soft-top that folds into the back of the rear passenger seats, but cruising with the top up is not what this boat is about, it’s meant for what they say at Sanctuary Cove, days like these. This is a “wind in the hair driver’s boat” and, just like a pedigree sports car, it is a delight.
As to be expected the ride is smooth and because there are no strakes on the bottom of the hull the back can be hung out in a corner without the slightest hint of it breaking away. It’s a manoeuvre that will satisfy that little bit of “boy racer” in all of us. The Pegiva runs nicely with the MerCruiser at 3700rpm and a speed of 29kts (46.4mph), while wide open at 4800rpm the GPS recorded 44.6kts (71.3mph). Despite its 1.7 tonne weight it is no slouch. Knowing that they have entered a niche market with the craft, the Wyllies are looking to export to the United States and the Middle East. They have also produced a fibreglass composite model with mahogany inlays.
This one does have strakes moulded into the hull. It is decidedly cheaper than the mahogany boat while still retaining the quality of workmanship expected. The Pegiva Super Squalo Classic is designed for a niche market and an owner can be sure that there will not be too many of the same on the water. However, because of its superb finish and construction, you’ll need to take more care with her than with a production boat. If you ding it coming alongside a wharf or pontoon it will be expensive and not easy to fix.
Words by Kevan Wolfe