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Infiniti Builds an Electric Retro Race Car

Prototype 9 looks like it could attack Spa — way back in the day

Infiniti is a relatively new automotive manufacturer. Its genesis can be traced back not centuries like other marques such as Ford or Audi, but a mere three decades to 1989 and Nissan’s decision to produce more luxurious automobiles.

As such, it never produced a Pre-War race car or has any history of production during that period. That, however, hasn’t stopped the company from envisioning what an Infiniti Pre-War race car would look like if it had an Audi-like history. Meet Prototype 9.

Set to be unveiled during this year’s Monterey Car Week at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the Prototype 9 “represents a reimagining of a 1940s race car” that Infiniti could have built if the company was around during that era. The car itself is the product of several designers’ after-hours endeavors throughout Infiniti and Nissan.

The initial conceptual sketch was based on the idea of “What if?” “We discussed the idea of chancing upon an unrecognized race car, hidden away for decades in a barn, deep in the Japanese countryside,” said Alfonso Albaisa, Nissan Global Design Senior VP.

“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,” furthered Albaisa.

After the concept took shape, it was quietly shown to Infiniti’s production team, which then seized the moment and started building the real thing. Unlike its modern lineup that’s built with automation, Prototype 9 required “more traditional crafting methods.” Wrapped in a thin steel shell, there’s a steel ladder frame that gives Prototype 9 its structural rigidity. The end result is the gorgeous piece of metal you see before you.

Keeping Prototype 9 grounded, Infiniti used period-correct cross-ply competition tires as well as a leading-arm rigid axle with transverse leaf spring for the front suspension, and a De Dion axle with transverse leaf spring at the rear. Steering is non-power assisted, as are the brakes.

However, while the rest of Prototype 9’s switchgear, wheels, tires, interior, and suspension use technology that could be from the 1940s; its power plant is decidedly modern.

As the project gained momentum, a team of powertrain engineers brought the Prototype 9 team a proposal; fit the car with a prototype next-generation EV powertrain. Powered by a 30kWh EV motor, it produces 148 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque which is sent to the rear wheels via a single-speed transmission. According to Infiniti, these stats mean Prototype 9 can hit 62 mph in just 5.5 seconds, has a top speed of 105.6 mph, and a maximum range of 20 minutes of heavy track use.

“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. They volunteered their own time; more and more staff became involved, stated Roland Krueger, Infiniti Chairman and Global President.

“Our teams have proven skills in manufacturing, engineering, design, and advanced powertrains, yet they wanted to bring their own traditional craftsmanship to the project. They made Prototype 9 a reality, a result of their ingenuity—they recognized and realized the past, powered by a future-centric electric powertrain at its heart. Prototype 9 blends modern technology and hand-crafted details paying tribute to the forebears of Infiniti.”

Prototype 9 will make its public debut and be on display later this week at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

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