Right-ho, it’s politically incorrect time. I think it was Mel Brooks who asked, ‘Who won the beauty prize at the Polish picnic?’ – followed up instantly by the answer ‘Nobody’. He obviously hadn’t seen the waitresses at our local seafood restaurant. But among classic racing cars I’ve always had a soft spot for some of history’s renowned ugly ducklings. Perhaps the famous Cunningham-Cadillac ‘Le Monstre’ from Le Mans 1950 exempliﬁes this peculiarity. Having several times been entrusted with driving this magniﬁcent cross between a landing craft and a rubbish skip, I actually refuse to accept she’s ugly in any way at all. Instead ‘Le Monstre’ has a rare and sophisticated beauty which I maintain only the most discerning among us can appreciate.
But if we conduct a poll to judge on-circuit ugliness there are many more candidates which emerge. One which struck me recently is the extraordinary Dome Zero RL design that ran at Le Mans in 1979. Two such cars were ﬁelded, one shared by Chris Craft/Gordon Spice and its sister by Tony Trimmer/Bob Evans. Neither survived the ﬁrst four hours, the former going out with fuel feed problems and the other with a failed head seal. But these long-tailed aerodynes joined the long list of – for instance – Rory Byrne’s Toleman single-seaters by appearing to have been tailored to physical rules which somehow differed from everybody else’s.
Japanese constructor Minoru Hayashi had been dreaming of Le Mans entries since producing his ﬁrst Dome Zero prototype in 1976. He showed a ritzy road-going version of this ultra-low coupé at the 1978 Geneva Salon and followed up with a US market-modiﬁed Dome Zero P2, displayed at the Chicago and Los Angeles Motor Shows of ’79. The Le Mans appearance of his two Masao Ono-designed Zero RL coupés that year was to help promote the slightly potty and impracticable general-sale ‘supercar’.
The British crewed, slab-sided Dome Zeros with their peculiar cabin roof proﬁle were run by the experienced Keith Greene, but proved as disappointing as their looks. Dome would of course return to Le Mans, and thrive still, but the team’s ﬁrst Le Mans cars had certainly been struck with the ugly stick… no sophisticated beauty appreciated only by the most discerning there. Or do you know better?