Infiniti should win the grand prix in concept cars after it unveiled the fantastical Prototype 9 roadster at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in California. The handcrafted roadster evokes an imagined past for the automaker, evoking German and Italian race cars from the 1930s and 40s.
Infiniti brand wasn’t established until 1989 and doesn’t have any roots in the racing world, but the design and production teams decided that they wanted to build something that looked like they were there in the golden age of car racing. Infiniti senior vice president of global design, Alfonso Albaisa, says that the car was inspired by the fantasy of finding a secret race car hidden away after the 1940s in a barn in the Japanese countryside. This fictional ‘barn find’ could reach back and emphasize Infiniti’s ancestral DNA as a dedicated race shop. The result is an exaggerated and airplane-like aesthetic. The open wheels, spoked grille with sculpted blades, and open top give it the air of a forgotten time when there truly were open roads to take this bad boy out and open it up.
What makes the Prototype 9 even more remarkable is that this was a skunk works project and teams from multiple departments worked on their own time. Infiniti rallied around building an exciting piece of their imaginary history and, more importantly, help set the tone for the brand going into the future. It might look like it’s from the past, but this roadster is all-electric with the next-generation 148-horsepower electric motor with 236 pound-feet of torque, and a 30kWh battery. Drivers might find this powertrain in the 2018 Nissan Leaf.
The car was unveiled at the annual Pebble Beach car show in Monterey to high-end shoppers, owners, and designers from major and custom manufacturers.