Former White House aide Lyn Nofziger told then-presidential counselor Edwin Meese III in April 1982 that "it would be a blunder" not to give the Wedtech Corp. an Army engine contract and suggested that Meese or President Reagan should step in to help the Bronx-based firm get the award.

Nofziger set down his views in an April 8, 1982, memorandum to Meese that special prosecutors put into evidence yesterday at Nofziger's conflict-of-interest trial in federal court here.

The note showed that Nofziger had met with Meese three days earlier when they "discussed briefly" Wedtech's efforts to win the $32 million contract despite opposition from the Pentagon.

Nofziger, who resigned as Reagan's director of political affairs Jan. 22, 1982, has been accused of illegal lobbying at the White House that year on behalf of Wedtech and two other clients. His partner, Mark Bragg, was indicted with him on one count of aiding and abetting.

The month before Nofziger met with Meese the South Bronx manufacturer hired his Washington consulting firm, Nofziger-Bragg Communications, to represent Wedtech, then known as the Welbilt Electronic Die Corp., according to court records.

"Welbilt appears to be well qualified to do the work," Nofziger wrote Meese, "but it is having some problems with the Army which wants to go back to the old supplier, even though awarding the contract to Welbilt would be a major first step in the president's commitment to revitalize the South Bronx."

In the 1980 presidential campaign, Reagan stood on a corner in the ravaged neighborhood where Wedtech was located and vowed to rebuild it.

He told his audience that Jimmy Carter had made a similar promise in 1976 but had done nothing about it.

"It being an Army contract," Nofziger continued in the note to Meese, "I suppose {Army Secretary} Jack Marsh would have the final word, but at the same time, I am sure he would listen carefully to {then-Deputy Defense Secretary Frank C.} Carlucci or {then-Defense Secretary Caspar W.} Weinberger or Meese or even Reagan."

Nofziger concluded by telling Meese, "Ed, I really think it would be a blunder not to award that contract to Welbilt. The symbolism either way is very great here."

Wedtech won the contract after Meese told his top deputy, James Jenkins, to make sure that the company got what Meese has called "a fair hearing."

Meese, now attorney general, is the subject of a separate criminal investigation of his conduct regarding Wedtech by Independent Counsel James C. McKay.

Nathan Lewin, an attorney for Meese, said "one should not infer" from Nofziger's April 8 memo "that there was any extensive discussion of Wedtech . . . . The matter was mentioned to Mr. Meese and he asked people on his staff to check into it," Lewin said.

Nofziger's note to Meese came up during questioning of Edward J. Rollins, former deputy to Nofziger who succeeded him as assistant to the president for political affairs. Rollins identified the signature on the note as Nofziger's.

Under questioning by McKay, Rollins also testified that officials of Wedtech met with members of Nofziger's staff in 1981 about their efforts to win the Army contract. Prosecutors indicated that a Nofziger aide, Pier F. Talenti, visited the Bronx company in August 1981.

Later, after correspondence between Nofziger and Elizabeth Hanford Dole, then-head of the White House Office of Public Liaison, Wedtech founder John Mariotta attended a Jan. 21, 1982, White House meeting on urban enterprise zones with Reagan, Vice President Bush and other top officials.

Rollins said that Nofziger continued to have easy access at the White House as a Washington consultant, meeting with the president for 15 minutes every month and frequently popping in at the offices of old friends such as Meese.

"When he came to the White House, it was usually at somebody's invitation," Rollins testified. "Obviously Ed Meese thought the world of Lyn. {National security adviser} Bill Clark did . . . President Reagan himself did."

Now bankrupt, Wedtech was formally awarded the no-bid Army engine contract under the Small Business Administration's minority business set-aside program.

On Nov. 2, 1982, Nofziger wrote then-deputy White House chief of staff Michael K. Deaver about a report that the president might be going to the Bronx "to present an award of some sort to the people at Welbilt."

"I am enclosing some information about Welbilt and about the contract Welbilt got, thanks to a lot of hard work by a lot of people including {Meese deputy} Jim Jenkins and {Army General Counsel} Del Spurlock and a few others," Nofziger told Deaver.

"I think that it would be a big plus for the president to go up there," Nofziger added. "I think, too, that we probably need to get a few other things done in the next year and a half.

"I certainly don't want some Democratic candidate standing where the president stood two years ago and charge that he has done nothing."

Reagan did not make that trip, but on a campaign visit to New York in March 1984, he singled out Wedtech founder Mariotta for special praise, calling him "a hero for the '80s."

Mariotta is now awaiting trial on racketeering charges in New York.