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The day that Ferrari broke the Speed Record ... on Water

Arno XIOn October 15, 1953, Achille Castoldi sat in his boat on the water of Lake Iseo nestled between its more famous siblings Lake Como and Lake Garda. Surrounded by dense woodlands and soaring peaks, the lake remains the least known of Italy's Lombard Lakes, but Achille was not there to enjoy his surroundings. He was there to travel faster in an 800kg boat than anyone had before him.

For this, he had the help of Enzo Ferrari. The power behind the record attempt was one of Ferrari’s Grand Prix Tipo 375 V12 racing engines.

Achille Castoldi along with the help of his brother was a powerboat champion who in 1930 set a world speed record in a boat designed by his brother Luigi. Most of his boats were powered by Alfa Romeo engines but after a break with the firm in 1951, he commissioned the leading boat building firm of Cantieri Timossi di Azzano to build a new boat under the watchful eye of Castoldi’s personal mechanic, Luigi Allione.


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According to the auction house, Sotheby’s; Castoldi’s record preparations began in 1952, when he traveled to Maranello with his two close friends, famed racing drivers Alberto Ascari and Luigi Villoresi, to order a Formula 1 specification V-12 engine from Ferrari. The blessing of Il Commendatore, Enzo Ferrari, was virtually assured since Castoldi had earlier managed to save several Alfetta 158 race cars during the war, keeping them hidden from the occupying German forces at his factory in Abbiategrasso, near Milan.

Arno XIThe hydroplane featured a solid wood-framed structure skinned by marine-grade plywood with a mahogany veneer, a strong separate metal subframe chassis to cope with the enormous power and the engine cover and cockpit exterior appropriately finished in Rosso Corsa (Racing Red).

4,493.73 cc Ferrari Tipo 375 F1 V-12 engine with twin superchargers and twin four-choke carburetors and fueled with methane produced 600+ bhp. The Timossi di Azzano three-point racing hydroplane hull had a length of 6,200 mm (245”) a beam of 2,470 mm (97.24")

The boat named the ‘Arno XI’, broke the speed record in the 800 kg class with a two-way average speed in the flying kilometer of 241.708 km/h (150.19 mph). Later that day, Castoldi followed up with a new record in the 24 nautical mile event by achieving an average speed of 164.70 km/h (102.34 mph).