Cujo might be familiar to some – you may have seen it on Instagram and unknown to others. Simon Kidston, one the world’s leading classic car dealers purchased the yacht at Retromobile in February 2020 for an astonishing sum. Now Cujo has a fantastic history, linked to royals, hollywood stars and amazing cars.
Originally commissioned by John von Neumann – not the von Neumann who worked on the Manhattan Project but the John von Neumann, a racing driver who ran one of the first Volkswagen facilities in America, owner of the California Sports Car Club and lets not forget owned and raced Ferraris – a 1957 TRC, one of the most successful privately campaigned Ferraris in history. He had a penchant for speed and the same was to be of his yacht. When it was commissioned in 1972 from Baglietto, von Neumann asked for it ‘to be the fastest thing floating in the world.’
Baglietto has been in the shipbuilding business for over 165 years, starting off in 1854 building small fishing boats before specialising in the design and building of yachts. Over the decades, Baglietto yard designed and built boats for the Pope, Italian government, Spanish Royalty and movie stars all along the way breaking records and implementing new production techniques.
Baglietto happily obliged with the request and Cujo was fitted with two V18 turbo diesel engines putting out a combined output of 2,700hp, enough for it to hit 40 knots on open water. When cruising, Cujo was able to travel across the Mediterranean in all direction – 460 miles. John enjoyed Cujo for a number of years before the need for speed bit again – so he ordered a bigger and faster yacht.
From there Cujo was sold to Mohammed Khashoggi (related to the journalist that was assassinated at the Saudi consulate in Turkey) who passed it on to his first cousin, Dodi Al-Fayed. Dodi was smitten with Cujo, had it refitted in a more opulent fashion and was then seen in St Tropez on it constantly, moored opposite Cafe de Paris. The yacht could easily be mistaken for a military ship, not just for its speed but it is painted in a gunship grey.
Al-Fayed, an executive producer on a couple of Hollywood films was known to welcome stars on Cujo – Bruce Willis, Tony Curtis and Clint Eastwood to name but a few. It was the guest in 1997 that really got people’s attention – Princess Diana.
Lady Diana spent many time on Cujo during August 1997 before her and Dodi’s untimely deaths in Paris. Unfortunately for Cujo, the vessel fell from grace and was used as a personal water taxi and lifeboat for Mohammed Al-Fayed’s larger yacht until 1999. It was then decommissioned and left in dry storage for many years.
Thankfully, Moody Al-Fayed, Dodi’s cousin and owner of the Harrods liveried McLaren F1 GTR, chassis 06R, that placed 3rd at the Le Mans 24 Hours, driven by Andy Wallace, Derek and Justin Bell, couldn’t stand the sight of it in disrepair and spent an astonishing €800,000 to restore it to its former glory. He enjoyed it for two seasons, with it being seen across the Amalfi coast and Sardinia until family commitments took up the boating time.
When Moody offered Cujo for sale, he had one request – the new owner needs to have as much love for the yacht as Dodi did. I think Moody has truly found the man that will respect and cherish this boat as much as its previous owners.