A bold assertion, the word ‘definitive’, but such is the subtitle of this production, and if its two hefty volumes don’t back up the claim then something is wrong. No complaints here though; Page has done this precious car good service, while a staggering number of photographs covers not only every car built but, I assume, every event they ran in. While volume two covers individual cars, volume one takes us through the world championships the car was built to contest, following each entry with all its results and generous illustrations, such as a dramatic shot of Tommy Hitchcock gazing at the upturned remains of his GTO bang in the middle of the Karussel banking.
The development tale is of course already well told, so Page gets pretty smartly on to its competition life: the works years, gloriously illustrated from Sebring, the Nürburgring, Goodwood and Spa, and the great European hillclimbs, plus the privateer undertakings. The declining period as the now-outdated machines drift down the pecking order to minor sprints and climbs comes in volume two, devoted entirely to complete and utter histories of the 36 cars plus the half-dozen 4-litre examples.
Page quotes owners’ personal memories, many of them pained ones about how cheap these things were to buy for a while and how much they regret selling. One was even given away – donated to a school for use in its auto mechanics programme and later left to rust out in the open by someone who ran a company called Motor Cars Masculine, which perhaps tells you a lot. Thankfully it was rescued in time. That’s one of the photos that make you wince along with many a racing accident; quite a few of these cars now wear replacement bodies – that’s what happens in racing. During the 1960s one GTO, having been bought for $8500, was refused shipping insurance because “there was already too much bodywork damage to catalogue”. Volume two is a fund of such small but telling stories, making what could be a mere list eminently readable, and complementing the whole.