1980 Dome Zero RL 80 #12 Pilots: C. Craft, B. Evans Team: Dome Co. Ltd Race: 25th overall (fourth in S+2.0 class) at Le Mans in 1980 Spark (pw) - HACHLM40 (diecast)
Minoru Hayashi founded Dome in Kyoto city, Japan. He wanted to produce cars in small production runs, using racing cars to develop the projects. In 1978, they produced their first concept car, the Dome Zero, debuting it at the Geneva Motor Show. The car was a success with the public, however due to bureaucratic difficulties, they were not able to homologate the car for production in Japan. With that, Hayashi decided to promote the car abroad, as a racing machine. Therefore, Dome created the Zero RL (“Racing Le Mans”), specifically for the 24 Heures du Mans, and was ready for the 1979 race. Penned by Dome’s head of design, Masao Ono, the idea was to make the car fast by reducing drag. With that goal in mind, Ono designed the car long and with a narrow front. Powering the Zero RL 80 was a 2993 cm³ Ford Cosworth DFV V8.
However, those traits made the car difficult to drive, being unstable at high speeds. Dome took two Zero RL to La Sarthe in 1979, nonetheless both retired early. In 1980 they were back at Le Mans, this time though with only one car. The RL’s narrow glass canopy made the car very hot inside, and also hindered visibility and caused turbulence. To mitigate this, they simply chopped the roof off. This new car, called the Zero RL 80, also had issues, when the gearbox failed in the beginning of the race. Legend says that to keep the car running, Ono took the gearbox out of the car and to a local welder. The hastily repair job allowed the car to finish the race in last place. One of those stories that could only have happened at Le Mans…
In scale, the Zero is quite nice. Being one of the “24 Hours of Le Mans Cars Collection” models from Hachette, it is a diecast. It is the 40th model in the series – I found a list of them here (in Japanese, unfortunately). In the past, my experience with these models has been hit or miss. I have some very nice ones and a few that are definitively poor. Nonetheless, I am happy to say that the Zero is one of the nicer ones. In fact, the other option for this model is from Bizarre, and this Hachette looks very equivalent. However, while you can still find the Bizarre version on eBay, this one is MUCH cheaper.
I’m a HUGE fan of the “garagista-type” stories of La Sarthe. Taking a gearbox to a local shop to fix the car in the middle of the race 😯? Utterly fantastic! And bonkers. In summary, the car has a colorful history and the model is very nice. And available and not expensive. Therefore, if you fancy something quirky in your collection, this Zero is a GREAT option.