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From Lotusespritworld:

The first black nose badge was made in 1967 for the Elan of the Sales Director at the time Graham Arnold. It was a one off. A year later the badges were placed on all cars made for a month, after the death of Double World Champion Jimmy Clark in a Formula 2 race. Once this batch had been used up, Lotus should have reverted to the green and yellow colours. But for reasons shrouded in mystery a batch of black badges was still occasionally ordered and fitted to cars at random as they left the factory. These later badges carried no special significance, although unfounded stories were quick to circulate that 'black badge' cars were special versions with better engines or suspension.

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There is quite a bit of controversy on this. Some say that it is in memory of Jim Clark.

I can tell you the real story as it came from the horses mouth so to speak.

At LOG 14 in Danbury CT....we were talking with Ron Hickman. Ron was the person that designed the Black and Decker workmate and before that was the chief develop and designer of the Elan.

He told about 5 of us...we were standing in a circle....that one day he noticed that they were running out of badges. It was his job to order them. He put out bids and the cheapest one was black. Rons exact words to us were " and when I told the old boy (Chapman)...they were cheaper...well he was certainly on board with that".

Ron then said it really was just a matter that he thought a change would be nice and black came out the cheapest. He said there was no significance to the black badges.



Edit...after reading the above post....it may have been Graham Arnold we were speaking to. We spoke to a lot of Lotus guys that weekend...and both were there as I recall. If they were not both there (I know Ron was)...then it was Ron.

But...the conversation really took place...it was matter of fact....but I really have no proof other than my recollections and words.
 

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Obviously my story goes completely 180 degrees from what the other poster said.

I know there was a story to the later black badges on the Esprit...but you cannot extend that to the mid 60's change.

I dont care what other sites say...and you can sometimes tell the wrong story long enough that it eventually seems to be true...but either it was Arnold or Hickman that told us the real deal. I wish i could remember the guys that were with us in the group of 5. I am sorry...I cannot.

Oh...yeah...one other thing he said was that there was no rhyme or reason as to what went on which car. They just dumped them in the bin and what you grabbed is what went on the car. Honest! That is what he said.
 
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