I wonder if ANYONE in the Sixties had seen the Japanese coming? Did everyone really believe that everything was under control? Or could these two prototypes maybe have been a clou? They really are quite similar – but in my humble opinion Toyota beat Lancia!

Back in 1969 nobody in their right mind would mention Lancia and Toyota in the same sentence. But look at these two: Both are prototypes from the year of 1969. Both are sporting coupés, around the same size, presumably quite matched in performance as well – and they even show somewhat of the same form language. Nevertheless one was based on a model already six year old and went absolutely nowhere and the other a sign of things to come.

The Toyota was really quite extraordinary for a Japanese car of 1969…

Yes, Toyota EX-1 beat Lancia Fulvia GT Competizione, then – at least in my opinion. Partly because I find that the Japanese car looks more finished, more carefully thought through – more consequently executed, one could say. Partly because history shows that the Toyota did go somewhere – or at least inspired to something: There is a clear line from the EX-1 to the later production-model Celica.

…especially when compared directly with a very similar concept from Lancia and Ghia: The Japanese car is doing quite fine, thank you!

The deroute of Lancia was already written on the wall: On the rallyepistes the Fulvias were beaten by newer rearengined competition, in the market the road cars were having a hard time – Lancia was bleeding and soon taken over by Fiat. Considering the times it is understandable that prototypes looking to the future were not that high a priority. Indeed the Fulvia GT is not the work of Lancia themselves but of Ghia – and some might find the comparison unfair: A small independent designhouse against a big manufacturer? Well, I would disagree: If not the main strength of a design house is design, then what is it? No one should be better to see the future – but nevertheless the hands of Ghia did not help Lancia.

There is a lovely lightness to the lines of the Fulvia by Ghis…

Toyota did their own homework, and pulled it off quite well: The EX-1 is more muscular, more wholesome, more like a real car than the Fulvia. Sure, the Toyota still show that special Japanese gift of incorporating something not quite right or even downright strange or simply wrong in the design – but on the EX-1 they are few and the whole works remarkably well.

…while the EX-1 has more muscle and more futurism. I like both…

The Ghia Fulvia also work well – it’s just that those sharp lines seem not quite finished, as if it left the studios a few days early. I like the fact that it does look lighter and somehow more dynamic-elegant that the Toyota. But I also cannot overlook that its sheer unfinishedness seem to suggest that it is somehow waiting to collapse. Or wonder about the name Competizione GT? In 1969 it would not have stood a chance anywhere – and besides: Lancia already had a Fulvia Sport, which Zagato had finished years before.

…but for me the Toyota is the winner: As the Celica it spawned actually did when it hit the market.

When viewing these two today we have the benefit of hindsight, which really is too easy. But we need not stop in the past: What do you think of the two 1969-prototypes today?

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