Once a classic car show for the rich and famous, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance held annually on the outskirts of Monterey, California, has become a venue where high-end automakers go to strut their stuff. The action this year will include a brand-new Infiniti concept inspired by the cars that tore up race tracks in the 1940s and 1950s.
After teasing a couple images of its retro concept, Infiniti has released a full set of images and information about the ‘Prototype 9.’ The elegant single-seater has a narrow, brushed metal body, thin, exposed wheels, a grille that looks like the guts of a piano, and Infiniti’s “powerful elegance” design language, as seen on the QX50 concept. To put the Prototype 9’s footprint into perspective, it is 3.5 inches shorter and 0.6 inches wider than the new Infiniti QX30. Overall, we really dig its throwback style.
As the teasers suggested, Prototype 9 won’t use a traditional gas or diesel engine. Instead, it is powered by an electric powertrain good for 148 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. This same setup will appear in the next-generation Nissan Leaf and gets the concept to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds.
Weighing just under 2,000 pounds, the Prototype is made from a steel ladder chassis and has handmade steel body panels. It’s also leaf sprung and without power steering. Talk about the intersection of old school and new.
“It started as a simple thought: What if we found a car, down at the southern tip of Japan, buried deep in the barn, hidden from all eyes for 70 years?” explained Alfonso Albaisa, Infiniti’s senior vice president of design, in a statement. The Retro Prototype is hailed as a celebration of Infiniti’s pioneering spirit.
The company’s decision to pay homage to classic racers is a little bit puzzling at first. Nissan launched the Infiniti brand in the United States in November 1989, so it certainly doesn’t have seven decades’ worth of heritage to draw upon like older brands. It’s a bold move on the company’s part. We applaud the originality, and we’re looking forward to seeing the concept basking on the lawn in Pebble Beach.
Infiniti hasn’t revealed what the future holds for the Retro Prototype. If we were to guess, we’d say it’s a one-off model developed and built to turn heads at the Concours d’Elegance and on the auto show circuit in the coming months. It wouldn’t be impossible to put into production, but it would be extremely costly and Infiniti isn’t a brand known for building bespoke cars.
Updated: Added new photos and full details on Prototype 9 concept.