Infiniti reveals Prototype 9 retro-racer

Posted on Aug 15, 2017 by

Nissan’s luxury arm reveals Prototype 9, a stunning ‘what-if’ concept inspired by race cars of the past 

Infiniti prototype 9 1

We did think it was a bit strange for a brand founded in 1989 to be celebrating motor sport heritage with a retro concept inspired by 70-year-old race cars, but now that Infiniti’s Prototype 9 has been revealed in its full glory we’re glad Nissan’s luxury arm is treating Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance visitors to this car.

Infiniti’s design boss Alfonso Albaisa says the idea for the Prototype 9 started with a discussion, by imagining what would happen had Infiniti been around in the 1940s to race around Japan’s Tamagawa Speedway.

“We discussed the idea of ‘chancing’ upon an unrecognised race car, hidden away for decades in a barn, deep in the Japanese countryside,” said Albaisa.

Infiniti prototype 9 1

“We wanted to explore what this looked like, what it would have been made of. Open-wheeled racers of the age were beautiful machines, elegant and powerful and with a wonderful purity of purpose. It’s an automotive fantasy, but the notion captured our imaginations enough to put pencil to paper.”

Things quickly moved from that initial discussion to a sketch, and that’s how the reimagining of a nonexistent old race car began.

“The sketches were stunning and the idea so compelling that we had to produce a prototype,”  says Albaisa. “As other departments became aware of this, they volunteered their time to create a working vehicle.”

With a total of 148 horsepower and 320Nm of torque it’ll get up to 170km/h and sprint from zero to 100km/h in 5.5 seconds.

Powered by Nissan’s latest electric motors and battery pack, the Prototype 9 is a zero-emissions vehicle packing an EV drivetrain not yet seen on a production vehicle, so not entirely to period specifications…

Prototype 9 weighs 890 kilograms, and with a total of 148 horsepower and 320Nm of torque it’ll get up to 170km/h and sprint from zero to 100km/h in 5.5 seconds, meaning it doesn’t hang about. A full charge will give you 20 minutes of hard track use, provided you can stay with it on narrow tyres and 19-inch cross-spoke wire wheels.

Infiniti boss Roland Krueger says the project took on a bit of a skunkworks appeal from the team, as they sacrificed their weekends and after-hours to work on Prototype 9. 

“Our designers and engineers were excited by the notion of creating a past vision, a nod to our origins. They volunteered their own time, more and more staff became involved,” said Krueger.

Infiniti prototype 9 1

To keep the car secret, the model of Prototype 9 was moved from Infiniti’s Japanese design studio in Atsugi to a Nissan research facility 50km away, where the car was constructed of steel body panels wrapped around a steel ladder frame. The panels were hand-beaten into shape by takumi craftsmen, and the cockpit hand-stitched in black leather and contrasting red accents. 

The retro design study is just that for now, but you can keep an eye out as Infiniti makes closer and closer ties to Nissan’s racing heritage and its predecessor brand Prince, in an attempt to enrich the brand with that most necessary ingredient for success in the luxury segment: tradition.

 

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