1999 Daihatsu concept EZ-U, Tokyo Motor Show
Of course there were certain cars on display at the show that were absolutely worth pushing through the crowds for. In addition to the aforementioned ItalDesign/BMW pair, there was the unexpected polished-aluminum Audi Avus making its world-premiere alongside the brilliant Fuji Orange Audi Sport Quattro which had been the hit of the Frankfurt Motor Show the month prior, as well as the long-awaited production version of the Jaguar XJ220 also making its world premiere. Daimler-Benz even brought a magnificent 1937 540K from their museum in Stuttgart for display on their stand. These machines were the types of concepts and limited production cars that you'd never see at your local U.S. Motor Show and could only read about in the glossy pages of the motoring magazines of the era.
Another intriguing feature of the Tokyo Show was that, unlike your typical U.S. Motor Show, Tokyo had a rather wordy theme: "Discovering a New Relationship: People, Cars and the Earth as One." This wasn't too much in evidence until one entered the building that was designated as the "Theme Hall," where the exhibitors displayed concepts which had all been built in support of the show's theme. This is where one would find the Mazda with the hydrogen-powered rotary engine, the solar-powered Honda and the Toyota with electric motors in each wheel hub, the gasoline/methanol-powered Nissan as well as the sleek electric coupe, built by GM and sponsored by TEPCO, which was essentially a four-seater prototype of what was to eventually become the GM EV1.
I must admit that at the time, I didn't pay very much attention to these prototypes since the idea of an electric or hydrogen-powered car seemed so unreal and remotely futuristic at the time - yet it's interesting to look back and realize that these seemingly wacky Japanese concepts, and not the glorious V-12 Europeans, were probably among the most relevant of the many exhibits I would view that October day 20 years ago, as one could reasonably argue that the theme of the 1991 Tokyo Motor Show may well have provided the inspiration upon which the Japanese automobile manufacturers began development of such innovative real-life eco-machines as today's Toyota Prius, Nissan Leaf, Honda Insight and FCX Clarity and Mitsubishi iMiEV.
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