Giovanni “Gianni” Agnelli was often described by the press of his time as “the most elegant man on Earth”. Federico Fellini wrote: “Put him on a horse and he will look like a king”. This was certainly true of everything the handsome and influential President of Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Lancia and Ferrari could touch, from fine art to unique automobiles and yachts, three of his lifelong major passions. Chased by paparazzi, he was able to keep his luxurious lifestyle of a true sportsman with some discretion, at the helm of his wonderful classic or modern sailing yachts as well as at the wheel of his racing speedboats and fast motor cruisers.
About a decade prior to 1968 and the launching of the “G. Cinquanta” commissioned by Gianni Agnelli, another “revolution” had already taken place, due to the invention of the deep-V hull by the American naval architect Raymond Hunt of Boston, Mass. This new hull shape designed for speed in high seas was to change the face of the nautical world. But, as soon as 1960, a boat designer by the name of Renato “Sonny” Levi decided to go even further in the definition of the fast “offshore” hull.
Born in Karachi, Pakistan, educated in France and England, and a flying officer of the RAF in 1944, he settled in Italy at the time of the economical boom of the early 1960s. In Italy, his designs were primarily intended to meet the needs of wealthy people with a penchant for speed who were looking for a yacht design ahead of its time. Since then, Renato Levi’s Delta hulls with their typical long overhanging bows scarified by longitudinal steps have made history, with a golden book full of signatures of clients like Count Corrado Agusta, Prince Karim Agha Khan, Roberto Olivetti. Renato Levi also designed boats for prestigious boatyards such as Baglietto and Riva and also designed Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic Challenger II.
The first experience of Gianni Agnelli with a Levi designed boat took place as early as 1962 with Ultima Dea built for the first offshore race in Europe from Cowes to Torquay, England. This racing cabin cruiser was powered by nothing less than three Maserati 450 S engines (5.4-litre V-8s), followed by Ultima Volta, another “Delta” racing machine built in 1966. One year later, in 1967, Agnelli commissioned Renato Levi to change course and design for him a “fast pleasure craft” further to the following criteria: “Fast, reliable, able of negotiating mixed weather conditions with an acceptable degree of comfort” while, for safety reasons, sustaining a reasonable speed in case of mechanical problem. The answer was the 37 ft. (11.28 m) “G. Cinquanta” of G50 powered by four BPM legendary 8.0-litre, V-8 Vulcano engines totalling 1,280 hp. Selecting BPM engines, Levi chose the same dependable and light V-8 used on the Italian Coast Guard Fast patrol boats to chase the cigarette smugglers in the Adriatic Sea, who, by the way, also used V-8 BPM engines. BPM continue to this day to power many racing boats and yachts. Transmission was entrusted to four independent drives, shafts and propellers settings, able to push the boat at some 25 knots with two engines running only.
This safety speed was half of the proposed running speed of 50 knots (92 km/h) which gave its name to the G50, the “G” standing for Gianni. This much original design included two separated engine rooms, in front and at the rear of the cockpit where the central command console and cabin was due to the talented pencil of Sergio Pininfarina. The boat was perfectly built by Cantiere Delta in Anzio, the hull being strongly made in four cross-plies of laminated mahogany-epoxy sandwich, with a mechanical resistance to torsion higher then steel, with a deck in teak from Burma.
Even the paint including silicone parts was an innovative development made with the Veneziani company to obtain a glossy and very efficient surface able to reduce drag. Being a gentleman’s fast commuter, the G50 had her engine compartment extremely well insulated to make sure the roar of the engines would not cover too much the beauty of the sound of speed while surfing on the Mediterranean waves. The Pininfarina designed cabin features two bunks as well as a toilet, sink and shower, making G50 highly usable. While at anchor, shade is provided for the cockpit and aft by white Bimini sunroofs and of course, there is the original stern ladder to go bathing, all in all making G50 highly usable.
Not long after her launching, G50 was described by a nautical journalist as “the best way to follow up an offshore racing event while arriving ahead of the winner…”
Gianni Agnelli took the wheel of his new boat, clocking some 2,000 miles over the first year, without complaining about anything on the G50, except for the efficiency of the windshield at high speed, affecting the capacity of the driver standing, four gas levers at hand, to keep his eyes wide open. Renato Levi returned to the drawing board and that was it.
Agnelli’s newly designed boat promptly inspired Count Corrado Agusta to commission Renato Levi to build Barbarina, then Hidalgo for Roberto Olivetti, followed by Corsara for Karim Aga Khan. In the meantime, the current owner, in his early twenties at the time, was a relative and close friend of Gianni Agnelli and was struck by the beauty of G50. He first thought of commissioning Renato Levi to build a sister-ship then went for a more affordable Maltese Magnum. However, in 1975, the current owner, who also later owned the fascinating pre-WWII “J” Class America’s Cup sailing yacht Astra, luckily received G50 as a present from Gianni Agnelli, keeping Renato Levi’s unique design achievement immaculate over the course of the last forty-five years, as such a first-hand masterpiece deserves and residing in the same stable as Corsara for the last 30 years!
Having been revised with four new BPM V-8 Vulcanos, which have logged in all just over 100 hours, “G. Cinquanta” is running at perfection, totally original from deck to bottom, ready to fill the original commission criteria defined in style by Gianni Agnelli to obtain a very usable boat: “a fast pleasure craft, reliable, able of negotiating mixed weather conditions with an acceptable degree of comfort”.
This lot is one of over 80 on offer in RM’s Open Roads, The European Summer Sale online auction. Lots are open for bidding now, and begin closing 21 July.