Classic EVs? Infiniti’s Prototype 9 Retro Racer

Imagine a world where lithium-ion batteries were discovered in an earlier century and electric motors took precedence in development from manufacturers over the internal combustion engine. What could we have come up with? What would a 1940s Grand Prix car be like with an electric motor and a battery?

Well, Infiniti took the ‘what if’ question and came back with an answer in the Prototype 9.

INFINITI Prototype 9 - Build

It does take some leaps of the imagination to envision then actually build a race car like this, but truth be known, the first electric car was created just a few decades before the ’40s, nearly alongside the first gasoline-powered cars. At the time there was a grave concern for scaring horses that were sharing the roads during early automotive development. So, the idea for Infiniti in this design experiment was set.

INFINITI Prototype 9

You can’t deny that the Infiniti Prototype 9 is an amazing looking car from the outside. It’s period correct in every way, save for the lithium-ion battery and electric motor that puts out 148hp and 236-lb/ft of torque. Otherwise, it uses a rigid axle front end, De Dion rear axle on transverse leaf springs and hydraulic rotary dampers. The wheels are center-lock wire spokes in 19-inch diameter with 450-19 and 650-19 tires front and rear respectively (this old sizing would put the widths at around 3.5-inches front and about 4.5-inches rear).

Despite the all metal bodywork and batteries, the Prototype 9 weighs in at 1,962lbs (890kgs) with a 43/57 weight split front to rear. It gets up to 62mph (100km/h) in 5.5-seconds, which would trounce the road cars of the era. If you’re asking if it would rival Grand Prix cars of the era, that would be up in the air since standing acceleration is a more modern measurement and top speed was more important then.

INFINITI Prototype 9

When you look at a car like this, you do have to ask if doing EV conversions on classic cars would be the next big thing. It’s not unheard of as Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers owed a 1967 Chevrolet Camaro with an EV conversion. There’s also Neil Young’s LincVolt, a hybrid conversion on a 1959 Lincoln Continental that uses a Capstone Microturbine using biomass ethanol fuel to generate power while a 150kW UQM motor drives it. Then there are the builders out there that have done conversions on all sorts of Porsches and Beetles throughout the US and the rest of the world.

So, with battery prices coming down and EV conversions becoming cheaper, would you want to see a classic car turned into an EV? Sound off below.

Words by Justin Banner
Instagram: jb27tt
Facebook: racerbanner
Twitter: RacerBanner

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28 comments

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1

Short answer, no. I don't prescribe to a lot of modernization of classic cars to begin with, but removing an internal combustion engine from something like a classic sports car would rob it of the essence of being classic... and sporty (but I'm sure some of you would disagree). What you're creating is no longer a thing to be driven and enjoyed as it was -- instead you've created a theme park ride and might as well make it autonomous while you're at it.

2

It's not robbery at all. This car is brand new.

3
Matthew Dockery

The question posed at the end of this article was whether or not we would be willing to swap an EV powerplant into existing classic cars.

"So, with battery prices coming down and EV conversions becoming cheaper, would you want to see a classic car turned into an EV? Sound off below."

4

It doesn't specify swapping. The Infiniti featured is my evidence. Whatever though

5

Hey, John, Matthew is correct. I asked about swapping ICE in a conversion to full electric.

6

Fair enough. In that case, no I don't think you'll see a ton. Maybe an uptick, which is probably what made you ask the question to begin with. People tend to like to keep classics as is, and I can really agree. If shock value is the only value in the swap, then why bother right?
I would, however, be more interested in seeing more of what Infiniti has just done.

7
Matthew Dockery

How else would you turn a CLASSIC CAR into an EV? The car pictured above is not a classic, it simply can't be if it's a brand new production car.

9

Short answer: Yes of course! In the not too distant future, all internal combustion vehicles which haven't been converted will become giant paperweights; waiting for a possible conversion and most likely rotting away because they (makers and users) were too slow to make the logical move.

10

What is the logical move?

Electric powered cars are not logical. Logic would be to fix the way we make electric FIRST, then make electric cars. Not the other way around.

11

No, the point about electric vehicles is that they take the power they are given;
Point 1. The internal combustion engine (yes, the diesel one in my A6 and the petrol ones in my 9-3 and my Supra) wastes a massive amount of energy by design. When it is MOVING it PEAKS at 30% efficiency in the most modern best of breed examples.

All of the time you're idling you're wasting energy for nothing. When you're accelerating hard, not at peak power output for your gear, turning hulking great automatic gearbox, braking, letting it warm up before you "rag it"... You're wasting energy by being at less than peak efficiency.

An electric car takes basically the average energy on the grid when it charged: Coal, wind, natural gas, solar, with a little oil mixed in - but whereas I'd have to bin my TDI A6 to make it any more efficient, an electric car gets incrementally better for the environment every time you plop a solar panel - and what's more, you can have your OWN panels, charge your own car and be completely self reliant.

12

the way electricity is made won't change until there is enough demand. So you do have to make the cars first

13

I think its a chicken and the egg senario. If you sit there and wait for the powers that be to clean up the electric grid then you will be waiting a very long time. The politicians need a push in order to start really working to clean up the power grid and the current issues with power generation. Thus I believe that electric conversions are quite logical as well as OEM electric cars, quite simply because if we were to hold off on them then the time for them would never come. The people who are currently in charge of the way that power is generated do not want things to change and as long as the market for demand doesnt change then they have no reason to change them selves. By putting more and more electric cars on the market thus increasing the need for new power generation which would then be in the greener and cleaner arena. Your logic is flawed as in almost everything the demand drives the supply.

14

Here is a conundrum: I am a car nut, and there are many iconic vehicles with sweet mechanical combustion systems, yet fuel will not last forever and will become even harder to access in due course (not to mention the detrimental effects of drilling and burning fossil fuels). I look forward to electric being the logical choice, while I shake my head at those who find themselves stranded by holding onto antiquated ideas which could never be sustained. I am watching electric drive becoming a phenomenon of note...

15

I was not saying we didn't need electric cars but more rather saying we need to fix the way we make electricity to run them. THe fossil fuels that run the ICE cars of today also run the majority of power plants that create electricity. At least here in America. So if we don't fix those then we will not have electricity to power cars.

I for one do not like electric cars but I do see a need for them. I have driven them several times as rental cars with a couple of times being a Tesla product. While they do accelerate quickly they all feel like a Toyota Corolla to me. Too quiet, and not very engaging for the driver(remember, this is my opinion on car feeling) Rather than electric replacing the ICE, I see them as running beside them. In America, Electric cars will have a hard time getting past metropolitan areas until they can make battery life last longer, travel further and recharge quicker. Plus, there are no recharge stations out in the woods.

Since we are a very technologically advanced civilization there is no reason we can't make a renewable fuel source to run in ICE cars that is cleaner than petrolium while also having Electric cars. Audi already started the process.

People saying the ICE should be done away with in my opinion are just as dumb as people saying we don't need electric cars. There are many more factors to both that the world overlooks because we are too busy trying to tell each other we are wrong and sell people on one or the other.

16
Rich E Wavy Kariuki

What a stunning looking beast!

17

Damn I love the look of that car. But with those power figures it would be laughed at for even showing its face to the pre war silver arrows.

18

On the business end it seems like a no-brainer; it's worked with the Challenger, the 86, and countless others. We're going to see more modern day interpretations just built around electric parts instead. I guess it's easier to resurrect an old model than come up with new stuff.
Personally I welcome stuff like this particular car. I read about it somewhere else briefly yesterday, and I'm glad it made its way to SH. Makes you think about what kinds of motorsport we can get back into with new hardware.

19

Though I'm not a fan of open-wheel cars, but this one really made me fell in love. Gorgeous styling!

20

"would you want to see a classic car turned into an EV?"

How about a third option: I would like to see electric replicas of classic cars. Don't go chopping up existing metal but follow in the footsteps of the car in this article and create replicas or cars heavily influenced by the classics.

21

Not going to get into electric vs. ICE on this one but would like to comment on the car itself. I would drive the hell out of this. I would daily it. Id sit in traffic in a hurricane with it and would not care. Honestly, when did Infinity learn how to make cool cars? The only negative comment i have is that the retro racers they are trying to emulate here, were crafted by hand and riveted together in most cases and you can easily tell that this was sculpted in a wind tunnel.

22

I'm 34 so I'll probably be long dead before electric vehicles completely replace IC engines. I'll just keep enjoying my thirsty Hemi as long as I can or whatever car may replace it. Electricity is moving forward but, I just can't imagine getting excited to drive a high powered car that makes no sound out all.

-Alex

23

I say yes, as long as you aren't chopping a clean example to do it. To me, it's exactly the same as swapping a modern V8 into an antique Corvette or an old Jag or s30. If the base car is mint, clean, rust free, and matching numbers, then it doesn't matter what you're swapping into it: it's still a waste/shame. But if the car in question has been abused and is being rescued from a junkyard or barn, or has a blown engine and needs to be upgraded anyway, then go nuts! Electric is just another way to modify a car, so as long as you aren't cutting up a pristine example, I'm fine with it!

And just because I can't keep my mouth shut: Generating power in a coal/gas plant is still more efficient than thousands of gasoline engines running around. I agree that it's not ideal, but people are acting like the pollution for a power plant is a 1:1 tradeoff with gasoline cars. It's not. Even if you can't get rid of pollution, you can still *reduce* it by driving electric.

24

I want my Tesla with a carbon fibre 46 Cadillac body. I think custom one-off coach work for EVs will be a big thing in the near future. Geothermal electrical generation is the next wave of alternative power. We will look back and wonder why we even bothered with solar.

25

I'm genuinely intrigued by cars like this, I'm not into the regular electric cars (leaf) for one reason or another, I could see one of these or the Morgan EV being my local backroad commuter.

26

Initially, I liked the design but I believe this is nothing more than Infiniti showing us the new grille on all their upcoming vehicles. It is completely out of place on a car that reminded me a bit of the pre-war Mercedes Grand Prix cars.
As far as the EV questions go, I don't see the feasibility. The price of lithium batteries isn't low enough to warrant a shade tree mechanic to turn it into a sort of hot rod with some sort of conscience. The disposal of those batteries at the end of their life cycle is a concern as well. Gasoline isn't going anywhere anytime soon. We went from the 70s with 10 to 14 mpg as fuel efficient to an average of close to 40 with new cars now. Emissions are at a fraction of what they were with the smog of the 60s.

27

Don't see how one is any better then the other. Gas powered cars cause issues for the environment. So do ev since the batteries cannot be recycled. Power grid is run on coal, nuclear and various solar systems that damage the environment as well.
To be honest as long as it's not boring to drive doesn't really matter to me what it's power source or fuel. I however love my rotary. My biggest fear is computers driving me everywhere and motorsports going away as a result.

28

Would/Wood.

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