The concept Infiniti showed at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance this weekend may be a throwback to a 1930s Japanese race car, but it bears a futuristic element: a next-generation powertrain.
The Infiniti Prototype 9, a single-seat, fully electric retro-inspired race car created as an internal hobby project, runs on the same electric motor as the next-generation Nissan Leaf EV and a twin battery pack from Infiniti’s Q70 hybrid sedan. The 30-kilowatt high-voltage battery and electric motor have not been used on an Infiniti production vehicle.
“Our advanced engineers did a mix of things,” said Alfonso Albaisa, Infiniti Motor Co.’s senior vice president of global design. “They wanted the power that we’re getting from the next-generation Leaf so it has some oomph.
Nissan’s Infiniti luxury brand is not yet 30 years old, but a flight to Cuba last year started Albaisa wondering what an Infiniti barn find would look like and what Japanese engineers would have seen and heard when the mighty Mercedes-Benz W154 race car competed in its first Japanese Grand Prix at Tamagawa Speedway.
“At the time, it was probably the most physically impressive car,” Albaisa said. “That’s why they were called Silver Arrows. These cars were just wild – lightning in the saddle. That was an important part for us – to imagine that these Japanese engineers were so awed by these machines.”
Developed in less than a year, the soundless, electric car, which has only been driven by Albaisa and Nissan’s chief engineer, also awed crowds this weekend when Albaisa drove it into Carmel, Calif., where Monterey Car Week’s festivities are held.
“It was hilarious,” he said. “I was behind a Cadillac from the 1920s, and I’m so low that I could barely see above his bumper. When I came around on the street, I could see that people were surprised to see me because I’m silent and the Cadillac is quite loud.”
Prototype 9, which is designed to go more than 100 mph, will return to Nissan’s advanced engineering center in Sacramento, Calif., so that engineers can tweak its suspension and test it on the track before sending it to tour the world.