Set to appear at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the Infiniti Prototype 9 Concept answers an intriguing hypothetical question: Suppose Infiniti had existed in the 1940s and had created a Grand Prix racer that embodied its current design sensibilities. To complement its classic visuals, this exercise in possibility thinking also would include a state-of-the-art electric powertrain.

Styled for speed

“We discussed the idea of ‘chancing’ upon an unrecognized race car, hidden away for decades in a barn, deep in the Japanese countryside”, noted Alfonso Albaisa, Infiniti’s Senior Vice President, Global Design. “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.”

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Born from a sketch by Albaisa and developed by a broad-based team of in-house Infiniti creative types, the Prototype 9 Concept transitioned from two-dimensional image into a series of clays and finally full-scale models before being transformed into this dramatically rendered one-off that “represents a combination of artistry, craftsmanship and commitment to a romantic notion of our heritage.”

Classic charm

Built around a steel ladder frame, this aerodynamic single-seater is wrapped in hand-hammered steel body panels that match period-correct aerodynamic influences with current Infiniti cues.  The shape is highlighted by well-defined character lines, a retro take on Infiniti’s signature double-arch grille and a “shark gill” element aft of the front wheels. The Prototype 9 Concept features a solid front axle and a De Dion rear end -- both supported on a transverse leaf spring while stopping power is supplied by unboosted front-disc and rear-drum brakes. It rolls on handmade 19-inch wire wheels with knockoff center hubs that are wrapped in period-correct bias-ply racing rubber.

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Inside, the Prototype 9 Concept’s minimalist cabin reflects a retro-modern character dominated by a three-spoke steering wheel with a turned-aluminum fixed center hub containing all of the key gauges. The racing seat is wrapped in black leather set off with red stitching and also features Japanese flags embroidered into the headrest. 

Advanced electric powertrain

While Infiniti didn’t reveal full details about the Prototype 9 Concept’s drivetrain, the automaker’s Chairman and Global President Roland Krueger, stated it’s “a next-generation EV powertrain that looks squarely to the future.” At its heart is a prototype electric motor that develops 148 horses and 236 lb-ft of torque, sufficient to send the 1,962-pound Prototype 9 Concept from 0-62 mph in 5.5 seconds and let it top out at 106 mph. A 30-kWh lithium-ion battery pack holds enough charge for about 20 minutes of heavy track use–although our Infiniti sources indicated there’s little chance of seeing the Prototype 9 Concept do any real hot-lapping in the immediate future.

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