Infiniti's Irreverent Sense of Humor Manifests Faux Heritage Prototype 9 Racer For Pebble Beach

Infiniti

Prototype 9 captures current Infiniti design language. Presenting this mythological vintage racer at Pebble Beach is downright brazen, an expression of cheeky humor.

Infiniti possesses no century of excellence to match the best European brands, no gravitas borne of a storied racing heritage or legacy of engineering greatness. For Infiniti, there is no remembrance of things past to inform and inspire design language of 21st Century luxury performance cars. Fact is, the brand has stumbled along for several decades, always a stunted comparator for the market success of Lexus.

Infiniti

Prototype 9 reminds of the 1939 Mercedes-Benz W165 voiturette that won the Tripoli Grand Prix, perhaps a nod to the current technology partnership with Mercedes.

Yet this coming week, Infiniti and its leader, Roland Krueger, will present a mythological Infiniti race car from a non-existent past right square in the middle of the year’s most elevated celebration of automotive heritage and achievement, the Pebble Beach Concours and Rolex Motorsports Reunion at Laguna Seca Raceway. It’s just the sort of brazen stunt I love. This Krueger fellow, a former head of BMW product planning, is one cheeky devil.

Infiniti

Prototype 9’s grille is a 1940s interpretation of Infiniti’s current Torii gate grille, which is the very best non-European front grille currently on offer, not only handsome but also culturally significant. The sides of the grille and the leading edge of the hood form the Torii gate, and the bottom of the strakes emulate the gate’s reflection on the water.

Prototype 9 falls into a decades-old Nissan tradition, reimagining the automotive past with the power of Japan’s advanced technology and refined industrial craft. As a “boy editor” of a sports car magazine in the late 1980s and early ‘90s, at the height of Japan’s “Bubble Economy,” I sought every chance to drive the clever retro microcars the Japanese produced. My favorites were the Nissan Figaro, Suzuki Cappuccino and Honda Beat. But there was also Nissan’s S-Cargo, a kitschy Japanese sketch of a Citroen 2CV delivery van (Get it? Escargot?), and Nissan Be-1 and Pao, both less intriguing riffs on 1960s European design. Though not a microcar, the Nissan Saurus was something like a mid-rear-engined Lotus 7 with a one-make race series built around it. Thanks to federal law that allows importation of non-US-compliant vehicles more than 25 years old, all these little delights can now be brought to America. Headquartered for decades in the Ginza district and thus immersed in the highest forms of Japanese artistic achievement, Nissan has always been culturally literate. Any company that can design, name and market a vehicle as flat-out ridiculous as the S-Cargo has a sense of style.

Infiniti

Prototype 9 is powered by an electric motor. Perhaps a funny way of hinting at the next Nissan LEAF.

Prototype 9 embodies Infiniti’s current and future design language, which here comes off very well. It retro-interprets the brand’s excellent Torii gate grille. The car is a whimsical evolution of 1930s and ‘40s Italian race cars like the Maserati 6CM that Gooding will auction this coming week. One can do far worse than crib the best work of the Maserati brothers.

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Infiniti

Prototype 9 captures current Infiniti design language. Presenting this mythological vintage racer at Pebble Beach is downright brazen, an expression of cheeky humor.

Infiniti possesses no century of excellence to match the best European brands, no gravitas borne of a storied racing heritage or legacy of engineering greatness. For Infiniti, there is no remembrance of things past to inform and inspire design language of 21st Century luxury performance cars. Fact is, the brand has stumbled along for several decades, always a stunted comparator for the market success of Lexus.

Infiniti

Prototype 9 reminds of the 1939 Mercedes-Benz W165 voiturette that won the Tripoli Grand Prix, perhaps a nod to the current technology partnership with Mercedes.

Yet this coming week, Infiniti and its leader, Roland Krueger, will present a mythological Infiniti race car from a non-existent past right square in the middle of the year’s most elevated celebration of automotive heritage and achievement, the Pebble Beach Concours and Rolex Motorsports Reunion at Laguna Seca Raceway. It’s just the sort of brazen stunt I love. This Krueger fellow, a former head of BMW product planning, is one cheeky devil.

Infiniti

Prototype 9’s grille is a 1940s interpretation of Infiniti’s current Torii gate grille, which is the very best non-European front grille currently on offer, not only handsome but also culturally significant. The sides of the grille and the leading edge of the hood form the Torii gate, and the bottom of the strakes emulate the gate’s reflection on the water.

Prototype 9 falls into a decades-old Nissan tradition, reimagining the automotive past with the power of Japan’s advanced technology and refined industrial craft. As a “boy editor” of a sports car magazine in the late 1980s and early ‘90s, at the height of Japan’s “Bubble Economy,” I sought every chance to drive the clever retro microcars the Japanese produced. My favorites were the Nissan Figaro, Suzuki Cappuccino and Honda Beat. But there was also Nissan’s S-Cargo, a kitschy Japanese sketch of a Citroen 2CV delivery van (Get it? Escargot?), and Nissan Be-1 and Pao, both less intriguing riffs on 1960s European design. Though not a microcar, the Nissan Saurus was something like a mid-rear-engined Lotus 7 with a one-make race series built around it. Thanks to federal law that allows importation of non-US-compliant vehicles more than 25 years old, all these little delights can now be brought to America. Headquartered for decades in the Ginza district and thus immersed in the highest forms of Japanese artistic achievement, Nissan has always been culturally literate. Any company that can design, name and market a vehicle as flat-out ridiculous as the S-Cargo has a sense of style.

Infiniti

Prototype 9 is powered by an electric motor. Perhaps a funny way of hinting at the next Nissan LEAF.

Prototype 9 embodies Infiniti’s current and future design language, which here comes off very well. It retro-interprets the brand’s excellent Torii gate grille. The car is a whimsical evolution of 1930s and ‘40s Italian race cars like the Maserati 6CM that Gooding will auction this coming week. One can do far worse than crib the best work of the Maserati brothers.

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