Infiniti Unveils Gorgeous Grand Prix 'Heritage' Prototype, Ignores Its Own

infiniti unveils gorgeous grand prix 8216 heritage prototype ignores its own

Infiniti designed a heritage-inspired Grand Prix racer to show off at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance this year. However, it’s not technically a part of Infiniti’s heritage, as the concept vehicle’s 1940s-era styling predates the automaker’s existence by over four decades and Nissan’s own serious entry into motorsport by nearly the same margin. It also uses technologies unlikely to be found in a mid-century race car, like an electric motor — instead of an internal combustion one.

Although, the updated internals don’t amount to some impossibly fast track monster. The open-wheeled racer, dubbed Prototype 9, makes an alleged 148 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. While not terrible for something in a sub-2,000 pound weight class, it would still lose plenty of ground to any pre-war Silver Arrow on a straight. It also tops out at 105.6 mph and is capable of around 20 minutes of track-use before needing to be recharged.

Prototype 9 is definitely an example of glorious form over utilitarian function. It represents Infiniti getting into the spirit of Pebble Beach more than anything else. But celebrating craftsmanship for its own sake is something we should all get behind.

Beyond the electric engine, the rest of the car is about as retro and “artisanal” as one can imagine. The bodywork was even designed in clay and its steel panels hand-beaten into their desired form. Everything else is period-correct, too — exposed wheels, narrow tires with plenty of rubber, wire spokes, leaf springs, short overhangs, tapered tail, and a very long nose.

“Prototype 9 celebrates the tradition of ingenuity, craftsmanship and passion of our forebears at Nissan Motor Corporation, on whose shoulders we stand today,” said Alfonso Albaisa, senior vice president of Nissan’s global design, in a statement. “It started as a discussion: What if Infiniti had created a race car in the 1940s? If one were to imagine an open-wheeled Infiniti racer on the famous circuits of the era, such as Japan’s Tamagawa Speedway, what would that look like? The sketches were stunning and the idea so compelling that we had to produce a prototype. As other departments became aware of this, they volunteered their time to create a working vehicle.”

Frankly, the end result is absolutely gorgeous. But it is a strange choice for Infiniti to have made, since vintage Grand Prix racing has as much to do with the automaker as tricorne hats do with Levi Strauss. Still, it would be interesting to see them take a stab at it and don’t begrudge the Japanese automaker for doing the same.

“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,” said Roland Krueger, company chairman and global president. “They volunteered their own time; more and more staff became involved.”

Despite the heritage disparity and the unnecessary use of a next-generation electric powerplant, there’s nothing here to deride. Infiniti suddenly found itself in a position to build a gorgeous vehicle and ran with it. It doesn’t really matter that the carmaker only dates back to 1989, they’re not fooling anyone at Pebble Beach — they’re just giving them something exceptionally handsome to muse over.

[Images: Infiniti]

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  • S2k Chris S2k Chris on Aug 14, 2017

    I think it's cool as heck and I don't care it serves no point or relate to Infiniti in any way. Hating this is like hating fun.

    • Krhodes1 Krhodes1 on Aug 14, 2017

      As long as you like your fun 20 minutes at a time, evidently.

  • Lightspeed Lightspeed on Aug 14, 2017

    Like it mostly. Would have preferred to see the body unpainted, polished metal. More importantly, would have preferred a hybrid powertrain related to their Renault/Infiniti F1 car.

  • ToolGuy @Matt, let me throw this at you:Let's say I drive a typical ICE vehicle 15,000 miles/year at a typical 18 mpg (observed). Let's say fuel is $4.50/gallon and electricity cost for my EV will be one-third of my gasoline cost - so replacing the ICE with an EV would save me $2,500 per year. Let's say I keep my vehicles 8 years. That's $20,000 in fuel savings over the life of the vehicle.If the vehicles have equal capabilities and are otherwise comparable, a rational typical consumer should be willing to pay up to a $20,000 premium for the EV over the ICE. (More if they drive more.)TL;DR: Why do they cost more? Because they are worth it (potentially).
  • Inside Looking Out Why EBFlex dominates this EV discussion? Just because he is a Ford expert?
  • Marky S. Very nice article and photos. I am a HUGE Edsel fan. I have always been fascinated with the "Charlie Brown of Cars." Allow me to make a minor correction to add here: the Pacer line was the second-from-bottom rung Edsel, not the entry-level trim. That would be the Edsel Ranger for 1958. It had the widest array of body styles. The Ranger 2-door sedan (with a "B-pillar", not a pillarless hardtop), was priced at $2,484. So, the Ranger and Pacer both used the smaller Ford body. The next two upscale Edsel's were based on the Mercury body, are were: Corsair, and, top-line Citation. Although the 1959 style is my fav. I would love a '58 Edsel Pacer 4-door hardtop sedan!
  • Lou_BC Stupid to kill the 6ft box in the crewcab. That's the most common Canyon/Colorado trim I see. That kills the utility of a small truck. The extended cab was a poor seller so that makes sense. GM should have kept the diesel. It's a decent engine that mates well with the 6 speed. Fuel economy is impressive.
  • Lou_BC High end EV's are selling well. Car companies are taking advantage of that fact. I see quite a few $100k pickups in my travels so why is that ok but $100k EV's are bad? The cynical side of me sees car companies tack on 8k premiums to EV's around the time we see governments up EV credits. Coincidence? No fooking way.