Infiniti has unveiled an open-wheeled electric retro-roadster prototype at the 2017 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in California.
Sitting on 19-inch centre-locking wire-spoke wheels and finished in a bare sheet-metal skin, the design study, called Prototype 9, represents a reimagining of a 1940s race car, and is further powered by a prototype electric motor and battery.
“Prototype 9 celebrates the tradition of ingenuity, craftsmanship and passion of our forebears at Nissan, on whose shoulders we stand today. 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?” explains Alfonso Albaisa, Nissan’s senior vice president of global design.
Albaisa says he initially created a sketch of the vehicle that was shared only with close colleagues. Featuring sleek lines and aeronautically-inspired bodywork, the drawing is reported to have soon caught the attention of Infiniti’s design team at large – with a “significant number” calling for the vehicle to be brought to life.
More designers at the brand’s design studio in Atsugi, Japan, then began making their own detail contributions – the shape, design and materials that could feature in the cockpit, for example.
The vehicle was subsequently transformed from a sketch into scale design studies in clay. Full-size models were soon formed. Although still a secretive ‘passion project’ at this point, word seeped into other parts of the company and throughout its parent company, Nissan.
“The creation of the real world Infiniti Prototype 9 was entirely and coincidentally organic. As we started work on a physical model, word spread beyond the core design team, and other departments started checking in and offering assistance. Eventually, the production team became aware of the project – and brought with them the desire and skills to build it,” adds Albaisa.
While the essence of the concept car is rooted in the past, it runs on a next-generation EV powertrain – a 30 kWh high-voltage battery paired with a prototype electric motor, one not yet seen on a production vehicle.
Nissan engineers claim the motor produces 148 bhp and 236 lb-ft of torque, with drive being sent to the rear wheels via a single-speed transmission. Top speed is listed at 105.6 mph, while 0-to-62 mph is said to take just 5.5 seconds. The car is capable of delivering a maximum EV range of 20 minutes “under heavy track use”.