Norman Dewis, the legendary Jaguar test and racing driver, has passed away.
“Today is an enormously sad day for the Jaguar brand, Jaguar fans worldwide, and for me personally. Putting Norman’s hugely decorated career aside, his friendly nature, captivating storytelling and unbridled enthusiasm made him exactly the kind of man you couldn’t help but want to spend time with. He will be sorely missed.– Jaguar Land Rover CEO Dr Ralf Speth
The Jaguar brand is synonymous with a number of big personalities: the founder, Sir William Lyons, the great designer, Malcolm Sayer, innovative engineer Bill Heynes, and of course, the great test driver Norman Dewis.
Without his contribution to the brand during his 33-year career, or as a global ambassador in his later years, Jaguar just wouldn’t be the same. So, I hope the world will join me and everyone associated with Jaguar Land Rover in saying: thank you, Norman.”
Norman Dewis started working at the Humber factory when he was only 14 years old. After a stint at Armtrong Siddeley he joined the RAF during World War II, where he served as a gunner aboard a Blenheim bomber.
After the war he joined Jaguar, where one of his first projects was also one of his most consequential: he helped develop the first disc brakes.
Dewis was a very fast gentleman. In fact, for a while he was the world’s fastest, at least in a production car. In 1953 he set the record of 172.412 mph (277.470 kph) in a modified XK120, on a closed off section of the high-speed autoroute between Jabbeke and Aalter in Belgium.
In 1955, Dewis raced in the Le Mans 24 Hours, putting him amongst drivers like Moss, Mike Hawthorn, and Juan Manuel Fangio.
One of his most memorable feats was when he drove a brand new Jaguar E-Type 700 miles through Europe to its first unveiling at the Geneva Motor Show in 1961. Norman only stopped for fuel and spent 15 hours behind the wheel. Imagine doing that today – taking a brand new model, driving it with no camouflage, no backup, and no support vehicle all the way through Europe, then displaying it for the entire motoring press and the world the next day.
Another memorable, if more infamous feat, was when Norman survived a high speed crash at MIRA in the only existing Jaguar XJ13 race car in 1971. The crash wasn’t his fault, it was caused by a damaged tire. Luckily, Norman was unharmed.
Norman was a friend of Jag-lovers, and we decided to tip our hat to him as best we could when we moved to our new web site in 2016. The web server containing these pages that you’re currently reading is named ‘Dewis’, in his honor.
We will all miss him. He was 98 years old.