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 clue? 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 1969. Both are sporting coupés, roughly the same size, presumably fairly evenly matched in performance as well – and they even display a somewhat similar design language. Nevertheless, one was based on a model already six year old and went absolutely nowhere, while the other was a sign of things to come.
Yes, the Toyota EX-1 beat Lancia Fulvia GT Competizione – at least in my opinion. Partly because I find the Japanese car looks more finished, more carefully thought through – more consequently executed, one could say. Partly also 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.
The deroute of Lancia was already written on the wall: On the rallyepistes the Fulvias were beaten by newer rear-engined competition, and in the market the road cars were having a hard time – Lancia was bleeding and soon taken over by Fiat. Considering their struggles at the time, it is understandable that prototypes looking to the future were not of the highest 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 the main strength of a design house is not design, then what is it? No one should be better to see the future – but nevertheless, the hands of Ghia did not help Lancia.
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 has that special Japanese gift of incorporating something just not quite right or even downright strange or simply wrong in the design – but on the EX-1 they are few, and on the whole it works remarkably well.
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 too early. I like the fact that it does look lighter and somehow more dynamicly elegant that the Toyota. But I also can’t overlook that its sheer unfinishedness seems to suggest that it is somehow waiting to collapse. I equally wonder about the name: Competizione GT? In 1969 it would not have stood a chance anywhere. Besides, Lancia already had the Fulvia Sport, which Zagato had finished years earlier.
When viewing these two today, we have the benefit of hindsight – which really is too easy. But we need not linger in the past: What do you think of the two 1969 prototypes today?