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Infiniti builds retro electric race car

Latest electric powertrain propels concept racer.

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Infiniti is joining the manufacturer rush to electric racing cars – except that its new model looks as if it has come straight out of the 1940s.

The open-wheeled Prototype 9 has been unveiled as a concept at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in the USA. It is described as “a journey back in time” and a “fusion of advanced technology with traditional hands and hearts of hundreds of craftsmen.”

Nissan’s next electric

Underneath the retro exterior, however, the Prototype 9 boasts the latest electric powertrain from Nissan, expected to be unveiled in production form in the next Nissan LEAF at the Frankfurt Motor Show. It pairs the electric motor with a 30kWh high-voltage battery, putting 148hp and 320Nm of torque through the rear wheels which gives the car a 0-62mph time of 5.5 seconds and a 105.6mph top speed.

Built as an after-hours project by a team of employees from across Nissan, the car is even of traditional construction – weighing in at just 890kg, it has a steel ladder frame covered in hand-beaten steel panels in a bare finish, leaf springs behind the 19-inch wire wheels, a De Dion rear axle and no power steering.

Infiniti design elements are incorporated – the double-arch grille, the single crease in the bonnet, and the ‘shark gills’ behind the front wheels. Even the figure 9 in the title relates to the Q motif used in Infiniti cars – 9 in Japanese is pronounced ‘kyuu’.

There is no chance of the Prototype 9 reaching any form of production, the brand’s global design head Alfonso Albaisa effectively admitting that it imagines a heritage Infiniti doesn’t have. “Prototype 9 celebrates the tradition of ingenuity, craftsmanship and passion of our forebears at Nissan, on whose shoulders we stand today – 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?”

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Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.