Journal: Infiniti's Prototype 9 Is A Wonderfully Weird Reimagining Of Vintage F1

Infiniti’s Prototype 9 Is A Wonderfully Weird Reimagining Of Vintage F1

Alex Sobran By Alex Sobran
August 14, 2017
18 comments

Photography courtesy of Infiniti

You won’t often see an Infiniti on the virtual pages of Petrolicious (this is the first time we’ve had one in fact), but their recently revealed Prototype 9 is one of the most intriguing concepts to come from any manufacturer in recent memory, let alone one as young as the fancy version of Nissan.

Though the brand’s had their name on modern F1 cars for a little while now as a commercial partner to teams like Red Bull and Renault, there is no history of Infiniti that extends back to the days of the the sport’s early absurdity. With the Prototype 9—an anachronism of hand-formed steel and 148 horsepower’s worth of electric motors that together is half hot-rod, half-1930s/40s GP car from the future—they’ve taken an interesting approach to an era they weren’t a part of. This kind of project could have resulted in some malformed disaster of heavy-handed appropriation, but it keeps its balance between cutting edge and yesteryear without sacrificing much of either somehow.

It trades away combustion chambers for lithium battery packs (the 148hp, 236lb-ft power unit from the next generation Nissan Leaf), but it also lacks power steering, has a solid axle front end, and uses leaf springs for all four corners. It dons a statement-making Infiniti mask up front to announce its origins, yet it looks like it’s from a time long before the badge it wears was even a napkin sketch. The Prototype 9 is a lot of things at once then, and thanks to the design team’s adroit deployment of vintage and modern styling cues, it’s actually all somehow in harmony too. Of course, before the car entered the physical world it was a simple idea: what if we found a lost prototype Grand Prix car hidden away in the tangles of an overgrown barn in the Japanese countryside, what might be under the cover?

It’s not necessarily a novel concept at its core—there are plenty of “lost” artifacts—but the specific result of that early idea is an object that stands alone. Looking at the car, it seems wrong to attach the word “restraint” anywhere near it, but that’s just because you can’t really make something open-wheeled with a single-seat that doesn’t look at least a little exotic. There really is a lot of maturity and temperance in the Prototype 9; it will get you to 60mph in roughly five and a half seconds, not something ludicrous like below three; its modest power will push you to just over 100mph instead of the shiny side of 200; and its styling has just enough modern Infiniti hallmarks to place it in their design language’s dictionary instead of turning it into a lurid display of ham-fisted marketing.

I can see how people might label it as too long, too much, too awkward, too new, too late, too early even. But what I can’t come around to is any negativity toward its existence. Yes, this is more or less an art project serving the role of advertisement for a luxury sedan brand, but it’s a lot damn cooler than a TV commercial for a Q50, and at the very least we should celebrate that.

The Prototype 9 will be shown at Pebble Beach this coming weekend in Monterey, and since you’re likely not going to see one of these merging onto the highway in front of you anytime soon or ever, this may be one of your best bets on experiencing it in person. That is if you can break through the throngs of people with the same plan.

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Jonathan WC MillsTyson Ferrerluke holmesGeorge MaffettaNTONYOB Recent comment authors
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Jonathan WC Mills
Jonathan WC Mills

Wish it were more than a marketing effort – because it’s lovely and cool and a very intriguing way for the brand to position itself – homage to a past that never happened? Cool.

Tyson Ferrer
Tyson Ferrer

Saw it at Pebble. It’s beautifully executed and the proportions are wonderful but it’s just a marketing exercise. Having said that, I wish more auto companies undertook them versus meaningless drivel about how that 67 hp eco egg will change your life…..
..

luke holmes

IMO the best looking vehicle Infiniti have made. Why couldn’t these designers have worked on restyling the Patrol for Infinity?

George Maffett
George Maffett

I think from the cowl forward the body was designed by young Japanese designers while from the cowl back by retired British aeronautical engineers.

aNTONYOB
aNTONYOB

A Steam Punked 1955 Mercedes. Achingly beautiful

gmonsen
gmonsen

Good looking car, but apparently, manufacturers have completely forgotten that sound is a major part of the sports car experience.

Alan Robson
Alan Robson

I’ve always quite liked Infiniti’s concepts. From a design standpoint, they’ve always brought something interesting to the table. This is no different. I enjoy looking at this just as much as I enjoyed looking at the MINI Superleggera.

Rockdad
Rockdad

As for this particular vehicle, I like its looks but I must say that skinny tires and drum brakes are highly overrated and unsafe at high speeds. I do hope the “drum brakes look” is phony and that this vehicle has the capability to stop quickly or it would only be capable of driving slowly in parades safely.

Rockdad
Rockdad

Also, F1 has been called a “failing sport” for literally decades now, yet remains the epitome of engineering development. Maybe GS just wants the team sport to be more exciting, like “professional wrestling” or something.

Rockdad
Rockdad

Amazingly enough, I probably own more guitars than GS and have more experience with exotic cars than GS, yet I seldom feel the need to boost my ego by posting here. It is fun to guess as to his identity though.

Steven Kraft
Steven Kraft

My bet is that it’s no other then Jack Baruth.

Steven Kraft
Steven Kraft

Nicolas Moss well put. GS aka JB is only here to keep his creative juices flowing as he practices on unsuspecting participants. Don’t blame him really, the pool is ripe here. I do think his presence restores balance at the end of the day.

Nicolas Moss
Nicolas Moss

I am of the opinion that there is a right and a wrong way to provide a viewpoint. When done properly it improves the conversation, when done improperly it causes improper focus. I’m not trained in psychology, but know enough people who are that quotes from the DSM are not uncommon; from this experience I have formed the opinion that Mr. Slinger a narcissist, and does whatever possible to direct attention from the subject at hand to himself. Which is a real shame. He obviously has a lot of interesting knowledge and experience that could provide proper balance of opinions,… Read more »

luke holmes

I used to think that but JB knows how to laugh at himself and GS doesn’t. Agree that there are a remarkable amount of other similarities though.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

More like a pretentious cynical marketing exercise in the quest to boost a failing sport ( F1 ) as well as Infiniti’s waning sales . . worse yet is the Mercedes GP car Cut & Paste / Xerox job they did .

Disgusting sums this up nicely verging on the absurd .

Nicolas Moss
Nicolas Moss

Hopefully this is one in a series, where each one is from a different era of the sport. For example, something that would fit in alongside a Mercedes 300 SLR would be a nice continuation.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

The epitome of irrelevant expression and wishful thinking having bought hook line and sinker into a marketing exercise at its finest .

Which is to say … wake up and smell the fertilizer … Infiniti has no heritage to . continue . Damn … and here I thought Indian M/C had everyone snookered .. seems Infiniti’s now taking a page from their playbook .. manufacturing heritage and history

Nicolas Moss
Nicolas Moss

Ah… your endless ability to poop in everyone’s easter basket is so… unnecessary, unwanted, and unappreciated. We can only hope that someday you start donning the mental version of Depends and allow the automotive world to celebrate enthusiasm in all of its varied forms. Comment Tastefully.