Infiniti Prototype 9: Despite Throwback Race Car Design, It’s Not As Old-School As You Think

At first glance, the Infiniti Prototype 9 may look like your average grand prix racing car from the 1930s or 1940s. But despite that obvious throwback design hearkening back to the glory days of European auto racing, the new concept car actually breaks in some newfangled technology as an electric race car prototype, as well as some present-day design cues.

Earlier this week, Motor Trend offered an exclusive look at the Infiniti Prototype 9 ahead of the 2017 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance car show, praising the automaker for creating a vehicle that successfully captures the feel of grand prix racing of decades past. This was further explained by Alfonso Albaisa, Infiniti senior vice president of global design, in a press release quoted by the publication.

“It started as a simple thought – what if we found a car, down at the Southern tip of Japan, buried deep in a barn, hidden from all eyes for 70 years? What if in this car we found the seed of passion planted during our first Japanese Grand Prix and the power and artistry of Infiniti today? What would this discovery look like?”

The first-ever Japanese grand prix car was the Honda RA271, which was entered in the 1964 Formula One season. As Motor Trend noted, the Infiniti Prototype 9, had it been exactly 70 years old as imagined by its designers, would have predated Honda’s first foray into the world of grand prix racing by 17 years. But the publication added that Infiniti also referred to its present-day “Powerful Elegance” design language, giving the Prototype 9 a contemporary touch subtly visible amid the old-school design cues.

Under the hood, however, the Infiniti Prototype 9 showcases something that would have set it apart from its contemporaries, had it existed in the 1940s — according to Jalopnik, it is an electric GP race car that makes use of modern technology and a present-day powertrain. The Prototype 9’s engine is also decidedly far removed from those that power today’s Formula One cars, as it is the very same electric powertrain found inside the upcoming second-generation Nissan Leaf. As such, it produces only 148 horsepower and 236 lb/ft torque, going from 0 to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds and hitting a top speed of 105 mph.

Another drawback of the Prototype 9 is the fact that it’s only going to last a few laps on a typical racetrack. According to Engadget, the concept car is limited to 20 minutes driving time under “heavy track use.”

Its innards are clearly new-school, but the Prototype 9 makes use of vintage suspension and steering technology, which further keeps it consistent with the throwback vibe the automaker was trying to achieve. And while Jalopnik was critical of Infiniti’s attempt to “manufacture” its own history as a company that was launched as Nissan’s luxury brand in 1989, the publication had kind words to say about the Prototype 9’s design, calling it “beautiful and modern with a vintage twist.”

The Infiniti Prototype 9 will be making its public debut at the Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance, which kicks off on August 20, according to the event’s official website.

UPDATE [8/13/2017, 3 p.m. ET] – Information on Prototype 9’s maximum driving time, via Engadget.

[Featured Image by Harold Cunningham/Getty Images]