INFINITI’s Prototype 9 Reimagines a Vintage Grand Prix Racer
Marc Howe posted on October 18, 2017 |
Prototype 9 merges vintage design with modern electric vehicle technology.
(Image courtesy of INFINITI.)
(Image courtesy of INFINITI.)

Unveiled by Nissan Motor Corporation and its luxury automotive brand INFINITI, the Prototype 9 represents a contemporary reimagining of the 1940s Grand Prix race car using the latest electric engine technology.

According to Alfonso Albaisa, SVP of Global Design for INFINITI, Prototype 9 originated as an after-hours project developed by a diverse team of Nissan staff.

“It started as a discussion: What if INFINITI had created a race car in the 1940s?” said Albaisa. “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?”

Albaisa produced a sketch of the initial racer, which featured an elegant, retro aeronautical chassis with a skin of bare sheet metal. This initial concept round eventually led to the involvement of other departments at the automaker, and the development of a fully functioning prototype.

“The sketches were stunning and the idea so compelling that we had to produce a prototype,” said Albaisa.  “As other departments became aware of this, they volunteered their time to create a working vehicle.”

“As we started work on a physical model,” Albaisa continued, “word spread beyond the core design team … eventually, the production team became aware of the project—and brought with them the desire and skills to build it.”

(Image courtesy of INFINITI.)
(Image courtesy of INFINITI.)

The production team employed traditional crafting methods to create the racer, rather than the deep-stamping production methods that are more typically employed for modern road vehicles.

A team of panel beaters hammered the steel body panels into shape, incorporating signature INFINITI design features such as a double-arch grille, single-creased hood and distinctive “shark gills” behind the front wheels.

The end result is a sleek, opened-wheeled vehicle, with a retro aeronautical design reminiscent of the vintage racers that roared across speedways during the early days of Japanese motorsports.

While the exterior of the vehicle may evoke a bygone era, under the hood lies a next-generation electric vehicle (EV) powertrain.

The Prototype 9’s EV powertrain is composed of a 30-kWh high-voltage battery and a prototype electric motor that has yet to be installed on any production vehicle. The motor is capable of producing 120 kW (148 hp) and 320 Nm (236 lb ft) of torque, in order to provide rear-wheel drive via a single-speed transmission.

The EV powertrain can propel Prototype 9 to speeds of up to 170 kph  (105.6 mph), with acceleration from 0 to 100 kph (0 to 62 mph) in 5.5 seconds and a maximum EV range of 20 minutes under conditions of heavy track use.

For more concept car news, read Renault Concept Car Envisions the Future of Formula 1

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