This Iconic Military-Style Speed Monster Was Built for an American Automotive Tycoon

Chato was John von Neumann's custom yacht and the world's fastest private yacht in 1987 15 photos
Photo: World Avenue Yachts
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It's hard to believe that this living legend is currently up for grabs for a ridiculous sum. Once the fastest private yacht in the world, Chato broke the norm with mind-blowing design and performance and will always be linked to the name of a prominent figure in America's automotive history.
John von Neumann is known as the man who brought Porsche to California and who played a major role in the overall Porsche expansion in the US market. His fabulous life story starts in Vienna, Austria, and continues in America, where von Neumann would eventually open Competition Motors, a legendary dealership in California's history.

Decades later, after selling his famous company, the trailblazing car dealer returned to the Old Continent, where he spent more time onboard his yacht instead of driving fast cars.

Still, a man like that couldn't have gone for any old yacht. Known as a loyal customer of the Italian Baglietto shipbuilder, he flaunted some of the fastest luxury boats at the time. The one that topped them all was Chato. Rumor has it that, by the mid-80s, von Neumann found his current Baglietto yacht that could hit 34 knots (39 mph) too slow.

Chato Yacht
Photo: World Avenue Yachts
That's when he commissioned an even faster cruiser. Chato was delivered in 1987 and became the fastest private yacht in the Mediterranean. Even 36 years later, it's still one of the world's fastest yachts.

What propelled Chato to the top? It was a winning combination between a unique hull design, the latest MTU V16 engines, and top-notch waterjets. Unlike today, when luxury yachts are all about monstrous dimensions, Chato drew attention with its ultra-sleek, aggressive silhouette. It was less than 26 meters long (84.6 feet), which would make it small by today's standards. Yet, its military-style ruggedness was unusual for leisure boats at the time, coupled with record-breaking power (almost 7,000 hp).

Baglietto had extensive experience in building navy ships. During both World Wars, the Italian shipyard founded in the 19th century had built powerful anti-submarine powerboats for the Italian Navy. Not only rugged, these military boats hit the waves at 50 knots (57 mph).

Chato "borrowed” the sturdy aluminum hull that had been originally designed for the Italian Navy's interceptor patrol boats. This translated to incredible seaworthiness even in the most challenging weather and sea conditions. Chato's iconic silhouette is linked to another legendary name – Alcide Sculati.

Chato Yacht
Photo: World Avenue Yachts
He would later be involved in another historic project, the Destriero yacht. In the early '90s, Destriero broke the Atlantic crossing record – 58 hours at an average speed of 53 knots (61 mph).

A battleship-inspired grey paint with vibrant red diagonal stripes on the sides perfectly matched Chato's warrior spirit and made it instantly recognizable to this day. With its sleek profile and shallow draft, Chato was ready to reach places that were inaccessible to other yachts.

During sea trials, it hit a recording-breaking speed of 62.5 knots (71.9 mph), becoming the fastest private yacht in the Med. It was thanks to a pair of MTU's latest V16s, boasting 3,480 hp each, coupled with KaMeWa waterjets.

The 16V396TB94 was MTU's most advanced version of its successful Series 396 engine program. It became extensively used in high-performance marine applications. In 1990, the May issue of the Maritime Reporter announced that the US Navy had selected the MTU 16V396TB94 engine for its "outstanding performance." The Californian Porsche king's new yacht sported the same engines as the US Navy ships.

Chato Yacht
Photo: World Avenue Yachts
When von Neumann passed away in 2002, the legendary Chato was no longer in the spotlight. Younger models had taken its place as the world's fastest yachts, yet the 1987 Baglietto would never be completely dethroned. In 2008, more than two decades since its debut, it underwent a comprehensive refit that aligned it to contemporary standards comfort-wise.

The Monaco Marine shipyard in the south of France carried out the refit, endowing the legendary yacht with two Cummins generators, a watermaker, a new sewage system, a modern radar, and satellite TV. The revamped pleasure craft sported an additional guest cabin with an en-suite bathroom and a new galley located on the main deck. It also features a new sun lounge in the flybridge area, and its old salon was upgraded with the latest bar amenities.

Although Chato's layout and amenities are nothing like today's superyachts, it's still considered remarkably spacious for a boat its size. All the cabins are located on the lower deck, including a master stateroom, a twin, and two doubles, all with en-suite showers. The crew quarters include the captain's cabin and two bunk beds with a shared bathroom.

With all the cabins on the lower deck, Chato boasts enough room on the main deck for an impressive salon. Today's upgraded version includes a well-equipped bar, a retractable TV, and a surround sound system. The galley is located forward on the same deck, together with the formal dining room. On the aft main deck, guests can enjoy a spacious area for dining under the stars.

Chato Yacht
Photo: World Avenue Yachts
The upper deck is dedicated to more outdoor fun, with sun loungers, a comfy seating area, and a surround sound system. The captain's control station is also placed on this deck, with the navigation and communication system on the bridge. A matching tender accompanies Chato at all times.

More than three decades after its glorious launch, this Italian legend is still looking for a new owner. Upgraded and ready to hit the waves at the same remarkable speed, Chato is a living piece of history disguised as a bargain. For less than $700,000 (€650,000), anyone could become the proud owner of what should be considered a collector's item – a custom pleasure craft that pushed the limits of luxury private yachting.
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About the author: Otilia Drăgan
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Otilia believes that if it’s eco, green, or groundbreaking, people should know about it (especially if it's got wheels or wings). Working in online media for over five years, she's gained a deeper perspective on how people everywhere can inspire each other.
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