Black & Decker Workmate and Lotus Elan designer dies

Lotus car designer and inventor Ron Hickman, who has died aged 78, transformed the world of DIY with the Black & Decker Workmate.

He was largely credited with the design of the classic Lotus Elan under Colin Chapman, who had moved the business to Hethel, near Wymondham, in 1966.

Mr Hickman, who was born in South Africa and came to Britain when he was 22 years old, invented the Workmate. He had also played a leading role in the design of the Lotus Plus Two as well before he left Lotus to develop his new workbench.

He had always maintained that the original idea came following an accident when he had sawn through an expensive chair while building a wardrobe in 1961.

His brainchild was to sell millions around the world and by 1981, more than 10 million had been bought. And it is estimated today that more than 60m have been sold over the years.

But his initial idea was rejected by tool companies including Stanley. Black & Decker also turned it down initially because they did not think that it would appeal to DIY enthusiasts. So he set out to make his Workmate himself and sell it at trade shows around Britain.

Black & Decker signed an exclusive licensing deal in 1972 for Mr Hickman's Mark II and started mass production. As the EDP reported at that time, the potential market in Europe was thought to be ten million DIY enthusiasts and professionals.

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He lived in St Brelade in Jersey for many years but suffered a fall about five months ago.

He leaves a widow, Helen and three children.