Unusual Vehicles is a segment that looks into the history of a strange vehicle and examines how it was created. We’ve covered European designs, like the Unimog and the Oeuf Electrique, and now we’re looking into Japanese cars. There have been plenty of unconventional cars to come out of The Land of The Rising Sun, such as the Dome Zero concept car.
In 1975, Minoru Hayashi founded DOME to build a line of super vehicles for a new generation of car enthusiasts. Hayashi intended to compete at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which led to him coming up with The Dome Project. Work began in 1976, with the company devoting every resource to creating the vehicle. According to DOME, the process was gruelling, with craftsmen from all over Japan staying in hotels near DOME’s Osaka shop. They had to sort out windshields, custom body work, pop-up headlights and brake calipers.
Fortunately, the Dome Zero was finished in time for the 1978 Geneva Auto Show. The attendees were in awe of the car and it became the star attraction of the show. The Dome Zero had a 2.8-litre L28 SOHC straight-six engine. Its futuristic, sleek design ensured it received a lot of attention from investors. However, homologation rules were strict in Japan, which led to the Dome Zero failing to meet the standards and meant it couldn’t be produced on a large scale. DOME also didn’t have the money to go through the expensive homologation process either.
The failure led to the development of a second car called the Dome Zero P2. Made for the international market, the P2 had various modifications, including large front and rear bumpers. The car was shown at the Chicago and Los Angeles motor shows in 1979, where it received high praise.
Hayashi came to the conclusion that a high profile could be gained by creating a racing version of the Dome Zero. The Dome Zero RL was raced at the 1979 24 Hours of Le Mans, but it didn’t finish. In 1980, the RL came last in Le Mans. By this time, DOME halted the Zero projects in favour of other vehicles.
It’s a shame that the Dome Zero was never able to take off as the car itself was well received by the public. Its unusual appearance added to its appeal and though the Dome Zero can’t be considered a supercar, it was a huge step forward for the Japanese automotive industry.