Inspired by an emerging era of Japanese motorsport, Infiniti’s Prototype 9 has been brought to life as an after-hours endeavour by a passionate and enterprising team of employees from across Nissan Motor Corporation.
The car is powered by a prototype electric motor and battery from Nissan’s Advanced Powertrain Department. This nod to the future contrasts with the traditional materials and techniques applied for Prototype 9’s manufacture, including panels hand-beaten by a team of takumi – Nissan Motor Corporation’s master craftspeople.
Where existing and future Infiniti models adhere to the company’s “Q” and “QX” nomenclature, Prototype 9 represents something different. Echoing the company’s origins, the number 9 is pronounced “kyuu” in Japanese – similar to the anglicised pronunciation of the letter Q, which is used for all of the company’s production cars.
Finished in a bare sheet-metal skin, Prototype 9 is the result of countless hours of careful construction. The designs of the brand’s contemporary road cars are characterised by deep-stamping production methods, which enable the creation of sharply defined lines and smooth body surfaces. Far from production plants, this out-of-hours project required similarly technical yet more traditional crafting methods.
The vehicle’s stunning bodywork is made from steel body panels wrapped around a steel ladder frame. The panels were hammered into shape by the takumi. For Prototype 9, panel beaters incorporated Infiniti’s signature design elements,such as the double-arch grille, “shark gills” aft of the front wheels, a single-crease hood, and sharp lines that stretch from front to rear.
In every other respect, the car is unashamedly inspired by retro aeronautical designs. Prototype 9 is defined by its smooth, aerodynamic surfaces, long bonnet and short overhangs, an exposed cockpit, and open-wheeled layout. 19-inch centre-locking wire-spoke wheels at each corner are even wrapped in period cross-ply competition tyres.
As uniquely Japanese in design and craftsmanship as the bodywork, the cockpit adheres to Infiniti’s contemporary approach to interior design. Articulating the same sense of advanced human artistry of the Nissan division’s production cars and near-production concepts, Prototype 9’s cabin has been handmade by the company’s interior design teams.
With this fine attention to detail and finish, the cockpit is wrapped in black leather with contrast red stitching, sewn and finished in such a way as to echo earlier single-seater racers. Subtle Japanese flags are stitched into the integrated headrests of the deep single bucket seat.
In a cabin that features no distractions from the road ahead, the steering wheel rotates around a fixed central hub housing the driver’s instrument gauges. The hub itself finished in turned aluminium, an effect found on aircraft throughout the first half of the 20th century. Like the machines that inspired its design, the effect has been completed by hand, “turning” aluminium shavings into the fascia with the end of a cork. Inspired by the project, this was a finish that the interiors team had not previously had the opportunity to explore.
With a single-minded focus on driving, the cabin features minimal switchgear, with those that remain modelled on aircraft cockpit switches.
Prototype 9 is the first Infiniti to be powered by a new electric powertrain – a 30kWh high-voltage battery paired with a prototype electric motor, one not yet seen on a production vehicle.
The motor produces 120kW (148bhp) of power and 320Nm of torque, driving the rear wheels via a single-speed transmission. Prototype 9 has a top speed of 170km/h and sprints from 0 to 100km/h in 5.5 seconds, with a maximum EV range/operation of 20 minutes under heavy track use.
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