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

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
infiniti unveils gorgeous grand prix 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.

  • Inside Looking Out I see it as gladiator races - only one survives in virtual world.
  • Crown They need to put the EcoDiesel back in the Grand Cherokee. I have a 2018 and it has been the most reliable vehicle I ever owned. 69,000 miles and only needed tires, and regular oil and fuel filter changes.
  • El scotto Y'all are overthinking this. Find some young hard-charging DA seeking the TV limelight to lock this kid up. Heck, have John Boehner come up from Cincy to help the young DA get his political career going. Better yet, have the young DA spin this as hard as he or she can; I'm the candidate for Law and Order, I defied our go-easy office and leadership to get this identified criminal locked up. Oh this could be spun more than a hyper active kid's top.Now I'd do some consulting work for Little Kings Original Cream Ale and Skyline Chili.
  • El scotto Pondering if he has a clean brandy snifter. Well but, ah, I mean the original Grand Wagoneer was fully loaded and had a V-8. The original Grand Wagoneer had an almost cult-like following with a certain type of woman. Attractive, educated high earning women; or those that put on the appearances of being that way.Our esteemed HerR DOKtor Perfessor again shows how ignorant he is of the American market. What he deems "bread-vans on stilts" are highly coveted by significant others that are also highly coveted. The new Grand Cherokee with the new well engineered V-6 will sell as well as the ones from the 80s some of us get wistful over. The only real question will be: LL Bean or Orvis edition?
  • El scotto Well, I've had cats that are smarted than a great many members of congress. I rather doubt that any of the congresspeople Matt named are engineers, finance people or project managers. Ya know, professionals you call in to get a job done.Today is Wednesday, this will be out of the 36 hour news cycle by Friday. Oh it might get mentioned again on OCT 6. Unless there are cute animals to put on TV that day.