Meet the Arno XI: Ferrari’s Only Racing Hydroplane Boat

F1-inspired supercars maybe Ferrari’s most iconic vehicles, but the Italian automaker has made more than just. It’s created GTs like the 456, 911-fighting sports cars like the 308 GT4, and even some police cars. However, it’s usually not associated with boats. But, like Lamborghini, Ferrari has dipped its toes into the aquatic world. And its greatest experiment, the Ferrari Arno XI hydroplane, is now up for sale.

What’s different about a hydroplane boat?

Donald Campbell's blue Bluebird hydroplane rests on its stand in front of a sunlit Scottish lake
Donald Campbell’s iconic Bluebird on the waters of Loch Fad. It was on the water for the first time for 50 years on August 8, 2018 in Rothesay, Scotland | Martin Barraud via Getty Images

Hydroplanes belong to the broad category of racing boats. However, they’re shaped very differently than a Boston Whaler or a typical pontoon boat. They arguably have as much in common with jet fighters as they do boats.

Like other boats, hydroplanes have a rudder, a hull, and a propeller, H1 Unlimited reports. But that hull doesn’t have a traditional keel, H1 Unlimited explains. Instead, it has 2 ‘sponsons,’ V-shaped projections at the front of the enclosed cabin/cockpit. These, along with the canard linking them, are what give the hydroplane lift.

However, hydroplanes are often going so fast, only the rear parts of the sponsons touch the water. The most extreme examples have kerosene-powered turbine engines that make up to 3000 hp. As a result, these boats blitz along at 200 mph or more. That’s why the cockpits are enclosed and feature built-in roll cages and racing seats with HANS devices.

In a way, it’s fitting that Ferrari made a hydroplane. They’re kind of like the Formula 1 cars of boats.

How Ferrari built the Arno XI

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The Ferrari Arno XI isn’t the only boat the Italian marque has released, Hagerty reports. In the 90s, it partnered with the Italian boat company Riva to create some speedboats. But the Arno XI is just a bit speedier.

The red-and-mahogany 1952 Ferrari Arno XI hydroplane on its stand
1952 Ferrari Arno XI | duPont Registry

The idea of building a fast hydroplane boat was pitched by speedboat racer Achille Castoldi directly to Enzo Ferrari himself, Road & Track reports. Castoldi wanted to set the aquatic world speed record in the 800-kg class, Autoblog explains, and thought Ferrari would like the idea. Enzo was so taken, The Drive reports, he not only gave Castoldi an engine, but he also sent his chief engineer along to help tune it.

A view of the 1952 Ferrari Arno XI's supercharged V12 engine
1952 Ferrari Arno XI engine | duPont Registry

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And tune it they did. The Ferrari Arno XI has a twin-supercharged 4.5-liter V12 tuned to run on methanol. It also has an upgraded electrical system and two spark plugs for each cylinder. As a result, instead of 385 hp, it makes close to 500-600 hp, duPont Registry reports. All in a hydroplane made out of marine-grade plywood and mahogany with a metal subframe, RM Sotheby’s reports.

But the hard work paid off. In October 1953, Castoldi took the Ferrari Arno XI to a world record of 150.49 mph. And that 800-kg record still stands, The Drive reports.

You can own it

The rear 3/4 view of the red-and-mahogany 1952 Ferrari Arno XI
1952 Ferrari Arno XI rear 3/4 | duPont Registry

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If you’re intrigued by the thought of owning a Ferrari-powered hydroplane boat, you’re in luck. As of this writing, the Ferrari Arno XI is up for sale following restoration and certification by Ferrari Classiche, Hagerty reports.

Given that it’s literally one-of-a-kind, though, it won’t be cheap. It was previously sold in 2012 at an RM Sotheby’s auction, where it sold for the rough equivalent of $1,017,040.

An overhead view of the red-and-mahogany Ferrari Arno XI hydroplane 1:8 model
Ferrari Arno XI model overhead | Ferrari

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However, there is a significantly cheaper way to get your own Arno XI. Ferrari has a hand-made limited-edition 1:8 scale model of the hydroplane available today. Like the real thing, it’s made of mahogany and metal. But it’s not exactly inexpensive; it retails at $6445.

Or, if you want to get at least a taste of why hydroplanes are like, vintage models occasionally pop up on Bring a Trailer. Some of them have cost less than the Ferrari Arno XI model.

Still, how often does the chance come along to buy a boat which lets you un-ironically utter the Fast and Furious Ferrari line?

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