Infiniti has outdone itself in the lead up to the 2017 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance kicking off August 20, unveiling Prototype 9, an electric race car harkening back to the designs of 1940s grand prix cars.
The brand says it envisioned the project as if its designers had stumbled across a forgotten Infiniti race car from the past, essentially creating a faux barn find.
Infiniti says Prototype 9 is “emblematic of INFINITI’s entrepreneurial spirit and passion for stunning design,” and that it loosed its best craftsmen, and pulled from parent company Nissan’s talent, to make the car a reality.
Perhaps most impressive is the car’s hand-beaten steel skin, which was shaped and installed on the car using techniques mastered by race car manufacturers some 70 years ago and largely forgotten since.
The sharply styled steel skin is fastened to a steel ladder frame, which is much stronger and lighter than frames of yore, but ultimately shares its design with vintage race cars.
Tipping the scales at only 890 kilograms, the Prototype 9 is very light, particularly considering its use of an electric powertrain.
In a nod to tradition, the concept car was fitted with leaf springs, a rigid front axle, and manual, unassisted steering.
The Prototype 9 is a “love child” to some degree, given that it was conceived out of passion for motorsport by genuine automotive enthusiasts who design and create Infinitis for a living.
“What started as an after-hours idea grew into a fully fledged prototype; 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 Roland Krueger, Infiniti chairman and global president.
“Our teams have proven skills in manufacturing, engineering, design and advanced powertrains, yet they wanted to bring their own traditional craftsmanship to the project.”
The retro race car blends classic build techniques with a modern EV powertrain, sourced from Nissan’s advanced powertrain department.
The electric motor installed in the Prototype 9 is a prototype itself. It produces 148 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque, drawing from a 30-kWh high-voltage lithium-ion battery.
Power is sent to the rear wheels by way of a single-speed transmission, enabling the car to accelerate to 100 km/h from naught in a respectable 5.5 seconds before achieving a top speed of 170 km/h, which is roughly on par with the performance of vintage 1940s-era race cars.
Infiniti says its classically styled electric race car can lap a racetrack flat-out for 20 minutes before running out of battery juice.
The Prototype 9 is the first vehicle to be equipped with this newly-developed EV powertrain; it’s likely we’ll see this electric motor and battery pack show up in future Nissan and Infiniti vehicles.
Unlike most concept cars and design studies, the Prototype 9 is a fully-functioning car, and can be driven on road and track, making it particularly special for the brand, and Pebble Beach attendees at this year’s concours.
“While the essence of the INFINITI Prototype 9 is rooted in the past, it runs on a next-generation EV powertrain which looks squarely to the future. It is an excellent example of the ingenuity, craftsmanship and entrepreneurism that characterizes the teams across our company. Prototype 9 comes to life as a dynamic, drivable prototype vehicle at Pebble Beach,” concluded Krueger.