By on August 13, 2017

INFINITI Prototype 9

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. 

INFINITI Prototype 9

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.”

INFINITI Prototype 9

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.

INFINITI Prototype 9


INFINITI Prototype 9


INFINITI Prototype 9 - Build


INFINITI Prototype 9

[Images: Infiniti]

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36 Comments on “Infiniti Unveils Gorgeous Grand Prix ‘Heritage’ Prototype, Ignores Its Own...”

  • avatar

    Maybe if they didn’t show a car and instead showed a field of rolled hay it would speak more to their heritage.

    Thank You

  • avatar

    I’d be more interested if Infinity had a real racing program like Acura or even Lexus.

    • 0 avatar

      What heritage exactly?

      They started with the Q45.. the LS400 competitor that flopped.

      However the 4.5 V8 has a bit of a following for Nissan fans.

      Other than that I believe Infiniti was affliated with some LMP2 (???) teams with that motor and that badge engineering with Red Bull?

      I count myself as an Infiniti “fan” of sorts due to being a Nissan fan but eh… its slim pickings unless you feel Infiniti can steal some glory from Nissan?

  • avatar

    Still a thing of beauty though. I cannot but approve.

  • avatar

    Typos galore – yikes!

  • avatar

    It does a nice job of illustrating the inferiority of state of the art 2017 electric drivetrains to 1936 gasoline ones. Other than that? Not much.

    • 0 avatar

      Really? The drivetrain is from a 2018 Leaf, so the 1936 gas equivalent was maybe a Ford V8 at about 85 horsepower. Also, you might want to compare maintenance schedules.

      Modern ICE power can’t even hold a candle to modern electric drivetrains.

      • 0 avatar

        “It also tops out at 105.6 mph and is capable of around 20 minutes of track-use before needing to be recharged.”

        Put a flathead Ford engine in a light racing chassis and see if it can’t outrun and outlast this EV.

    • 0 avatar

      Or, you know, it’s there to look pretty and then get rolled into a museum so they just put a golf cart battery in it.

  • avatar

    “makes an alleged 148 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque”
    It’s the drivetrain from the 2018 Leaf which is 147 hp.

  • avatar

    So the fab shop guys built this gorgeous retro racer and they put a golf cart powertrain in it?

    Dude, where’s my Offenhauser?

  • avatar
    tod stiles

    Oh well, they just couldn’t resist the gulping fish grill that is mostly unused. It would have been neat if they recreated a car as it might have been in the 30’s if somehow battery technology had been better. Maybe a hill climb car?

  • avatar

    I am not sure this is a healthy obsession for infiniti to be entertaining itself with. Infiniti should look forward to what they can or could be in the future not back to what they never were a part of long before they ever came into existence but wish to fantasize about having been a part of.

    Nissan is playing Janus in cosplay sheet metal. Looking forward to formula E while looking back to a history of GP cars that never was only to arrive at a simulacrum that probably shouldn’t be. This thing tells a tale of a history that never was, much like many project cars I’ve seen over the years. The, hey wouldn’t it be cool to imagine for a moment if the following situation happened. This thing also speaks volumes of the desperation Nissan has for being compared to brands like Mercedes and Audi. Why else would they build such a car and in this color no less. Silver arrow envy much? I’m reasonably certain this thing pays no homage to the imbalanced levels of performance of those cars. The power to grip and brakes plus devil may care attitude towards safety makes this Nissan’s paltry 148hp seem wholly inadequate even if it were to match a 750kg curb weight which is about what a period GP car was at.

    • 0 avatar

      Well put. On the lookout for a new car I visited an Infiniti dealership last week. From being all Japan assembled, things like the QX60 are assembled in the US alongside Pathfinders. The finish is so-so, and the QX30 barfworthy to behold. The Q50s seem to straddle a market of nowhere in particular.

      Also, those German Mercedes and Auto Union racing cars had aluminum sheet bodywork, as did most Alfas. So does this Infiniti fake race car actually use steel? All those British specials like ERA also used aluminum, as five minutes googling would show.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      @qfrog: Agreed. This was an unnecessary waste of Infiniti’s resources, which should be spent developing real products.

  • avatar

    Yes! A cool car just for the sake of a cool car.

  • avatar

    This completely captures the Heritage of Infiniti:
    `We are Japanese trying to copy Germans.`

  • avatar

    It reminds of the movie Gattaca (1997.) Classic bodies on an EV platform. There maybe potential depending on future private ownership demand. Or it could be a fleet dial-a-car novelty. You know you get a 55 Silver Cloud ride in for a few bucks more. Next day a Studebaker and so on.

  • avatar

    Hideous. It would be okay except for that ridiculous grille and hood ornament.

  • avatar

    This is the kind of vehicle for a car collector like Ralph Lifshitz.

  • avatar

    Prince motor company, became part of Nissan, and Prince did make an Electric Taxi for the post war 1940’s Japan. (Tama)

    from Tama, begat Prince sedan
    from Prince sedan -> Gloria
    from Gloria, came 230, then 330 then 430 then Y30
    from Y30 came Y31, came Y32, then Y33 then Y34
    Y4 re-branded is Infiniti M

    so yes, Infiniti’s earliest DNA was the TAMA electric taxi

    I suspect this is basically a volunteers project, at a location with a lot of history and tradition for both EVs and Infiniti.

  • avatar
    Prove Your Humanity 2+9=?

    The Japanese “salaryman” works very long hours, 6 days a week. A good part of that time is spent socializing or just wasting time until the boss leaves, because you should NEVER leave before the boss does.
    Given the opportunity to work on a creative, artistic, fun project like this would have salarymen fighting each other for the chance.

    Personally, I love it. It’s gorgeous, from the tapered tail to the mini windshield to the spoked wheels with tall, skinny tires. And are these monstrous drum brakes hydraulic or cable operated?
    More automakers should express their creativity like Nissan did. To the naysayers – seriously, would you rather they had never built it?

  • avatar

    This is Infinitis “heritage?”, I could’ve sworn they began by building a ’91 Crown Vic knock-off, and selling a what just few slightly fancier Nissans. Nissan themselves having began cars by building British car knock-offs.

    Still, other than the forced family grille, I like this design. Heck I even like the powertrain too. A lightweight open-wheeled roadster could be a fun car.

  • avatar
    Shortest Circuit

    It’s excellent marketing, no more, no less. Spectators in Goodwood will be treated to a completely silent run up the hill, because you know, who needs sound, when photos snapped with upright held iPhones do?

  • avatar

    The Truth About Cars is seriously jumping the shark here. Bloviating about this hideous marketing creation. There is nothing “heritage” about this car – it has modern design features, starting from that ugly front maw, the flat hood, the slab sides with flaming. This is so pathetic and you, of all sites, had to call it out. But I guess you want more Q50s in your driveways for another inane test drive.

    • 0 avatar

      Not every pre WWII racer was as elegant as the Bugatti 35. Peter Mullin has some beautiful cars in his collection, including some 35s, but there are also 1920s and 1930s era racers in the collection that have flat hoods, large and oddly shaped radiator grilles, and slab sides.

      I will say that the grille makes no sense on a vehicle with an electric drivetrain.

  • avatar

    My guess is someone at Nissan/Infiniti has spent some time looking at the FWD V8 Fords that Harry Miller and Preston Tucker raced at Indy. I don’t find the Prototype 9 offensive, but I prefer the Miller-Ford.

  • avatar

    It was all well and good right up to that grill. They look horrible enough on the new cars, why did they stick it on a car that had so much potential to look classic. This looks like one of those 57/8/9 retro bodies on the new Corvette.

    Alas, I long for the old days with regular grills. Maybe that is why I like the Challenger and Mustang looks.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    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.

  • avatar

    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.

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