The evolution of number density, size and intrinsic colour is determined for a volume-limited sample of visually classified early-type galaxies selected from the Hubble Space Telescope/Advanced Camera for Surveys images of the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey (GOODS) North and South fields (version 2). The sample comprises 457 galaxies over 320 arcmin with stellar masses above 3 × 10 M in the redshift range 0.4 <z <1.2. Our data allow a simultaneous study of number density, intrinsic colour distribution and size. We find that the most massive systems (≳3 × 10 M ) do not show any appreciable change in comoving number density or size in our data. Furthermore, when including the results from 2dF galaxy redshift survey, we find that the number density of massive early-type galaxies is consistent with no evolution between z = 1.2 and 0, i.e. over an epoch spanning more than half of the current age of the Universe. We find large discrepancies between the predictions of semi-analytic models. Massive galaxies show very homogeneous intrinsic colour distributions, with nearly flat radial colour gradients, but with a significant negative correlation between stellar mass and colour gradient, such that red cores appear predominantly in massive galaxies. The distribution of half-light radii - when compared to z ∼ 0 and z > 1 samples - is compatible with the predictions of semi-analytic models relating size evolution to the amount of dissipation during major mergers.