GTO: Race to Oblivion

GTO: Race to Oblivion

by Roger Corea


Publisher SelectBooks

Published in Literature & Fiction/United States, Mystery & Thrillers/Thrillers & Suspense, Mystery & Thrillers/Mystery, Literature & Fiction/Contemporary, Mystery & Thrillers, Literature & Fiction

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Book Description

When the SS Andrea Doria sank near Nantucket Island in 1956, the manifest revealed something that devastated the car world--the invaluable Ferrari 250 GTO Prototype was listed among the cargo. Fifty-two years later a young financial advisor, Tommy Grimaldi, is leading a quiet, uneventful life in Fairchester, New York, when his best friend, Mike Bender, inherits millions. Suddenly Mike becomes a target of others' avaricious interests. Ensnared by a mysterious woman with unknown objectives linked to the GTO, Mike is about to be thrown into a perilous game--and Tommy along with him.

Sample Chapter


July 1956

Captain Piero Calamai of the ill-fated Andrea Doria, Italy’s most luxurious ocean liner, makes the following entry in his logbook for the ship’s manifest:

Departure Naples. Thursday, 19 July 1956. A total of 1,134 passengers (190 First Class, 267 Cabin Class, 677 Tourist Class), 401 tons of freight, 522 pieces of baggage, 1,754 bags of mail, nine automobiles parked in the general garage area, and two sealed in watertight auto containers. Cargo hold #1 has the container with the 1956 Prototype #9999CN Chrysler Norseman. Cargo hold #2 has the container with the 1956 Prototype 250GT 56Comp 001 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta.1

Seven days later, on July 26, 1956, the world watches as the Andrea Doria capsizes and sinks in the foggy North Atlantic Ocean fifty miles south of Nantucket Island. The damage done after being broadsided by the Swedish liner Stockholm is fatal. Fifty-one passengers lose their lives. It is the first maritime disaster to be televised live, and the only one where two priceless experimental automobiles are included in the ship’s manifest: the 1956 Prototype #9999CN Chrysler Norseman and the 1956 Prototype Ferrari GTO Berlinetta.

The Chrysler Norseman, a concept car built by Ghia in Torino, Italy, was truly a monument of automotive design technology. Chrysler was hoping to integrate the Norseman’s advanced and innovated design features into future production models.

The Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta Prototype, considered by many to be the most beautiful sports car ever made, was the first example of the thirty-nine eventually produced. Its aerodynamic design was a major technical achievement and a tribute to the genius of Italian design engineering. The Colombo all-alloy 3.0-liter V12 engine developed 300 horsepower and was the most admired engine in the world.

News of the cars being on board the Andrea Doria spreads quickly throughout the world of wealthy car collectors. Dive boats on Long Island and New Jersey begin to advertise dive expeditions to the Andrea Doria. Incentives to salvage the cars, fueled by rumors of actual sightings, escalate, prompting affluent collectors from all over the world to finance costly dive operations to locate and raise the cars.

But gaining access to the cars is very dangerous; they are down 240 feet inside the ship on forward Deck C. Drawn by the lure of fame and riches, divers take unnecessary risks inside the ship. Several get their lines tangled in the twisted metal of the wreckage and die of nitrogen narcosis. Some cannot find their way out of Deck C and drown. Several are still missing.

Collectors eventually abandon their quest to find the GTO. Not until fifty-two years later, when the bow of the Andrea Doria collapses, is interest in raising the GTO rekindled.

1Collision Course: The Andrea Doria and the Stockholm by Alvin Moscow. The information given in the captain’s logbook entry about the contents of the ship is factual with the exception of the listing of the GTO.


Enzo’s Ultimatum


July 17, 1956, Tuesday at 2:00 a.m.

High on a ridge in the western Alps near Torino, Italy, a 1956 Fiat Bartoletti auto transporter owned by Ferrari S.p.A. meanders south toward Genoa. Its oversized coach tires crunch the wet gravel of the Strada dell’Assietta, the treacherous thirty-five-mile road known for its soft terrain, steep hills, and sharp curves. While the rain has stopped, visibility is nearly impossible as muddy grime sticks to the windshield like mortar. The howling wind makes the transporter unstable and difficult to control.

Despite the turbulent weather, Antonio Grimaldi and Giancarlo Bandini are determined to complete their mission. One year ago, the longtime members of Enzo Ferrari’s inner circle were assigned a secret project to build the most beautiful and competitive sports racing car in the world. Built by hand for his personal approval, the car was designed for the racetrack as well as the highway.

However, the prototype never saw the production line. Il Commendatore, or Knight Commander, the official title and venerable sobriquet of the man who led the Ferrari autocracy, flatly and angrily rejected it. So now, under the cover of darkness, Antonio and Giancarlo are secretly transporting the car to the Port of Genoa for shipment to the United States aboard Italy’s most luxurious ocean liner, the SS Andrea Doria. Once it arrives in New York City, it will be placed in secret storage away from the public eye.

But navigating the Assietta is pushing Antonio’s driving skills to their limits. Moreover, the transporter’s 92-horsepower six-cylinder diesel engine provides only a small amount of torque, making it difficult to navigate the steep mountain grades of the road.

“You should slow down on the curves and hills, Antonio. When you touch the brake pedal, I can feel the tires slip!” Giancarlo says in a disturbed voice. His gangly outstretched legs push down hard against the floorboard as his bony fingers squeeze the armrests with a deathlike grip.

“Is this your first roller-coaster ride?” Antonio asks with a playful smile.

“This is no time to make a joke. We could get killed on this road!”

“Giancarlo, my friend, if I go any slower I’ll be in reverse. Just relax. We’ll be okay.”

Riding anyplace in any kind of weather with Giancarlo is enough to give Antonio a throbbing migraine. Even his good-natured taunts cannot calm Giancarlo’s uneasiness. They’re good friends, and most of the time good friends tolerate each other’s idiosyncrasies, if not their imperfections. But today, Antonio has his hands full keeping the transporter on the road. Today, he wishes Giancarlo would just shut up.

“This is not a smart thing that we do—to be on the Assietta in this kind of weather—it’s stupido!” Giancarlo’s wire-framed Ben Franklin glasses with foggy, oval shaped lenses keep sliding down his nose. “I’m not in a laughing mood,” he says, as he pushes his glasses back up where they belong. Sweat beads form on the wide bald patch on his head, saturating what little hair he has on the sides. “We should have waited for better weather!”

“When the boss says ‘go’ I go,” Antonio says without hesitation. “You have to trust him.”

Giancarlo cringes as small rocks bouncing under the front and rear wheel wells remind him of flak he encountered while flying a dive-bomber for Regia Aeronautica Italiana during World War II. One of the few Italian pilots who survived the war, Giancarlo still suffers from the trauma of air combat. It isn’t uncommon for him to become catatonic in stressful situations. His doctor calls it combat stress reaction. Antonio just calls it combat fatigue.

“I hear strange noises from the Berlinetta in the back. The straps seem too loose,” Giancarlo says. “If they come off, the car will be ruined, and so will we! And what if the sospensione breaks? We won’t be able to drive it off! Then what are we gonna do?”

“Stop worrying,” says Antonio. “The car is insured for one million. I placed the straps over the tires instead of the axles. That way, the suspension does all the work.”

“I don’t know, I still don’t trust it.”

“If we keep stopping to check it every time you hear something, by the time we arrive at Genoa the Andrea Doria will be halfway to New York. Then you know what happens to us?”

“What?” Giancarlo asks.

“You and me, we’ll both be working for Fiat!”

“I’ll never work for that company! I design beautiful racers, not tomato cans!”

Antonio smiles affectionately at his friend, then struggles to keep his eyes on the road. He is a tall, handsome man of thirty-four years with broad shoulders and a muscular build. His dark brown eyes are bloodshot from lack of sleep, and his long black hair, streaked with silver, is soaked with rain, since he has manually wiped the mud off of the windshield several times. His normally clean-shaven, angular face is starting to show signs of stubble from having spent the last two nights in the transporter.

“I can’t believe Enzo—to just shut down our project like that!” Giancarlo bursts out with chagrin. “Zero to sixty in 4.5 seconds, the quarter mile in 11.5 seconds, the best design and best engine ever made, and Enzo—he no longer wants to make the car!”

“I was there the first time he saw it,” Antonio says. “He slammed his fist on the hood and left the building.” Antonio hesitates, weighing his words, feeling an immense loyalty to Il Commendatore. “I told him I thought it was the most magnificent sports car ever made. He ignored me and said it would be the last time those bastards screwed him.”

“Ah . . . once you get on the wrong side of the International Automobile Federation, you pay a big price. Not even Il Commendatore can change the certification rules for racing, the omologazione.”

“But Giancarlo, the rules were changed after the car was built. Originally, he only needed to produce twenty-five cars to sell to the public. Now the rules say he must produce one hundred. That’s unfair! He intended to play by the rules until the IAF blindsided him.”

“He makes a big mistake! I don’t care what you say, Antonio!”

“Ah, but Il Commendatore—we should never question him. Remember how much he has done for us?”

“More for you than for me,” Giancarlo says somewhat defiantly.

Antonio thinks to himself how Enzo Ferrari graciously hired him after his release from serving five years’ prison time at Regina Coeli in Rome and Gorgona Island Penal Colony north of Elba. He was accused of stealing a new Ferrari Tipo 166 back in 1948 from the factory showroom in Modena.

“It still makes me very sad for you,” Giancarlo says.

“I’ve been out for two years now. Life goes on, my friend.”

“But you didn’t do it!”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Life is unfair.”

“Yes, sometimes it is.”

Giancarlo is finally quiet. Antonio’s unjust treatment upsets him. He finds it difficult to understand how Antonio can be so nonchalant about spending five years of his young life in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Life really is unfair. *


Excerpted from "GTO: Race to Oblivion" by Roger Corea. Copyright © 2017 by Roger Corea. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Author Profile

Roger Corea

Roger Corea

Roger Corea is a gifted author who writes about things, people and places he is passionate about. His first novel, Scarback, tells the story of a critical time in the life of a mentally challenged man from the Italian neighborhood of Roger's youth. The story centers on a highly eventful Northern Pike fishing expedition to Canada, but, as Roger says, "it's not really about fishing." It is, however, full of humor and a cast of vivid, real characters who seem to leap to life from the pages. The Duesenberg Caper, Roger’s second novel is a gripping crime thriller about two upstate New York teachers who entangle themselves in a dangerous plot to locate King Victor Emmanuel’s long lost and priceless Duesenberg SJ. The story is full of non-stop action and high stakes intrigue with thirty-two of the most legendary classic cars in the world participating in the action. Writing is a natural outgrowth of Roger’s formal education. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in English from St. Bonaventure University and completed graduate work in English at the University of Rochester. Before entering the business world with a large financial services company, Roger taught English literature at Canandaigua Academy and Penfield High School -- where he also served as assistant football coach. Roger lives with his wife, Mary Ann, in Penfield, NY. They have three children and three grandchildren.

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