The rl sign means Happy Motoring!
In June 2010, Radio London webmasters Mary and Chris purchased this very attractive chrome-and-enamel Big L car badge from a private seller. Unfortunately, the artefact's owner was unable to tell us anything about it or where and when it had been acquired. The Radio London badge has no marks or serial numbers on the back. The enamelled design itself is protected by some sort of resin coating.
Extensive research has shown that the badge had been made by Renamel (AID) Ltd of London NW6, renowned badge manufacturers in the Sixties. It seems the company also manufactured the Caroline Club Car badge pictured on the Pirate Radio Hall of Fame, see link below. Both bear at the top, the Renamel company logo of a crowned letter 'R'. As far as can be established, the series of badges made by this company that come encased in a square-framed mounting with the crowned logo at the top, were known as 'Renamel M'. The same logo appears at different locations on other mountings and does not seem to be on all of the company's auto badges. Here, the crown appears without the 'R'.
Nothing else is known about either of these two offshore radio badges, but interestingly, the Caroline badge is for the Caroline CLUB, rather than merely for the station itself. This would suggest that it was perhaps offered exclusively to club members. Our rl badge promotes Radio London the station, rather than the Radio London Club.
We have sent the photo to former Big L DJs and staff to see if it jogs any memories, but so far only Norm St John has been able to tell us anything at all. "I do remember something about the badge, but I don't think any were actually produced. I believe it was too expensive, or else the quantity was too big for us to consider. I did see some artwork and from memory, it looked similar to the 'AA' (Automobile Association) members' metal badge. It was over 40 years ago and some details may be incorrect." All the same, it is encouraging to find someone who recalls something about the badge. Norm worked for Radio London between July 1966 and February 1967, so this narrows down the date of manufacture.
Norm's recollection does support the theory that our badge was made as a sample. Possibly, it was found in a drawer when someone cleared the Radlon Offices at 17 Curzon Street after the demise of Radio London. The Caroline badge could also have been a one-off for the same reason - the production cost of a batch of them was considered too high. Other than Norm's recollection, we can only speculate on a number of possibilities.
Renamel does claim in its Sixties advertisements to be able to manufacture small quantities of its products economically. Were a handful cast exclusively for the Radlon Directors? Could the badge have been designed specifically to adorn Radio London's purple-and-white racing car? Or is it one of a larger batch that went on sale to the public, or were offered as prizes? Neither we, nor any former listeners of our acquaintance, recall hearing sales promotions for car badges on Big L.
Were the badge to have been made as an item of Big L merchandise (like the teeshirts and identity bracelets, for instance) one of the DJs would surely have recalled reading a commercial for it, or at least hearing someone else announce it on air.
The fact that both stations' badges seem to be rather rare artefacts does gives the impression that very few were manufactured, but that may simply mean that because they were fitted to autos, hardly any were salvaged when the vehicles were sold or scrapped. Our badge does appear to have been fitted to a vehicle at some time, but is in very good condition.
Another possibility, although it seems unlikely, is that both the Caroline Club and Radio London badges could have been made by Renamel as samples for the respective companies. Possibly, the orders had not been fulfilled by the time the MOA was coming into force and Renamel was afraid of being prosecuted as an offshore supplier. Caroline was, of course, intending to continue, but Radio London hadn't given up the ghost entirely and there were still hopes of the station continuing to operate from abroad.
Renamel was known to have issued sets of badges in the Sixties on a related theme – one was signs of the zodiac. (See newspaper Christmas gift advertisement below, right.) It is possible that the two offshore radio badges formed part of an intended larger project, maybe an idea Renamel was thinking of pitching to other stations as well.
Hopefully, if our badge was an item of Radlon merchandise, several avid listeners will recall hearing a promotion for it and will let us know. Or perhaps someone still owns a vintage vehicle with a badge attached?
In July 2010, Chris Dannatt told us that a Caroline car badge had come up for sale recently on ebay. He gave up attempting to buy it when the bidding reached £120 and said that it eventually went for around £140.
Could this have been a resale of the previously-mentioned badge that's pictured on the Pirate Radio Hall of Fame? In 2003 it went for £77. From what little info we have unearthed about the badges, it seems quite likely that there may only have been samples made. The Caroline badge could well be a one-off and so could the Radio London one.
Geoff Pearson of the Radlon sales team in Curzon Street recalls a different version of the badge being produced, about the same size, but with the rl logo in black and red on a white background– perhaps made exclusively for Radlon staff?
"Yes, we did have a car badge, I can't remember if it actually went on sale over the air, but I had one on my Mini Cooper. Mine was white not black, with the black L and a red dot. It was metal and about 4 to 5 inches square. We had lots if products sent to us as reader offers, some made it others did not. Unfortunately I cannot remember if I ever scheduled car badges for on-air ads."
Left, is a mock-up of how the badge might have looked. The colouring of the words 'Radio London' is unknown, so we have left it in chrome, as it appears on our own version.
Update, March 2014
Hans Knot and his correspondent Peter Halls have kindly shared more info about the car badges. Peter found a Big L badge on eBay. Unlike the one we purchased, it came complete with fittings and has never been attached to a vehicle. Because the badge has a skyblue background, Peter speculates as to whether it is a recreation. It does not have the Renamel 'R' logo on the front, but Peter has photographed the rear side and the name appears there.
As these items are mass-produced, there must be a minimum batch size. It seems unlikely that a manufacturer would go to the trouble of creating a whole batch of Radio London badges. Perhaps these too were samples?
RL Badge with fittings
Rear of Badge with Renamel name
Peter has also photographed his Caroline Club and Free Radio Association badges. The Caroline Club one is not identical to the one on the Pirate Radio Hall of Fame (below left). Once again the Renamel 'R' is missing from the crown. What is also noticable about Peter's badges is that the lettering and designs are not outlined in metal. In both our Big L badge and the Caroline Club one from the PRHoF, the letters are outlined. Both of Peter's badges would appear to be a cheaper version of a similar design.
The FRA badge is a different shape
and has no Renamel logo
If anyone can tell us anything about any of the above badges, the one recalled by Geoff Pearson that we've mocked up, or the Caroline Club one, please get in touch. Perhaps someone who worked for Renamel, the company who produced the badges, could shed some light on the story?
Many thanks to intrepid researchers Fab Alan Field, Jon Myer, Chris Payne, Hans Knot, Peter Halls and John Sales.