Norman Dewis, one of the most famous icons in British automotive history, passed away June 8th, 2019 at the age of 98. Dewis was directly responsible for developing some of the most iconic Jaguars ever made. Over a 33-year career, Dewis’ extraordinary talent and humble demeanor helped establish him not only as Britain’s greatest ever developer/test driver, but a legend and a dedicated friend to the Jaguar brand.
Dewis’ history with Jaguar is remarkable: he developed the Le Mans-winning C- and D-type racing cars, the classic XK 140 and 150 sports cars, the 2.4/3.4 and Mk 2 saloons and the legendary E-type and the world-class XJ saloons. Our local Jaguar dealer, Warren Henry of Miami, says without reservation, each and every one of these models remains legendary to this day for its impeccable blend of comfort, styling and performance.
Born in Coventry (England), Dewis began working on cars at age 14, fitting doors and hoods at the Humber factory. At just 15, he moved over to Armstrong Siddeley, where he spent time in the chassis department and first learned to drive while taking cars on their shakedown runs! During wartime, Dewis was drafted into the RAF, working the gun turret of a Blenheim bomber, and finally joined Jaguar after the war.
Besides the many cars Dewis helped develop in his career, one of his major automotive projects was the development of the disc brake. Working with Dunlop, Dewis was the driving force behind development of the revolutionary braking system, famously debuting in a Jaguar C-type at the 1952 Mille Miglia with Sir Stirling Moss in the driving seat and Dewis navigating.
Working with Dunlop, Dewis was the driving force behind development of the revolutionary braking system, famously debuting in a Jaguar C-type at the 1952 Mille Miglia with Sir Stirling Moss in the driving seat and Dewis navigating.
In an era without seatbelts or crash safety, Dewis was a fearless test driver. In total, it’s estimated he completed more than a million test miles at an average speed of 100mph-plus. In the years before his retirement Norman built up a small but highly dedicated vehicle proving department which he headed until his retirement in 1985.
Prof. Dr. Ralf Speth, Jaguar Land Rover Chief Executive Officer said the following at Dewis’ funeral: “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.
It is a shame that we will no longer witness Norman’s 100th birthday wish – he promised his many Jaguar fans and friends from around the world that he would drive a restored C-type to 100 mph to celebrate his 100 years and love of the brand. Norman with his trustee Jaguar ‘leaper’ walking stick would have done it in style. Thank you Norman Dewis!