The exceptional achievements of legendary 94-year-old former test driver Norman Dewis have been recognised and rewarded in Her Majesty’s New Year Honours List, with Norman receiving the award of an Order of the British Empire (OBE).
Norman Dewis OBE’s career as a Jaguar test driver and works racer spanned 33 years and, during that time, he developed no less than 25 significant Jaguar cars – he is widely regarded as Britain’s greatest test driver. His automotive CV is remarkable: he developed the multiple Le Mans-winning C-type and D-type racing cars, the pioneering XK 140 and 150 sports cars, the classic 2.4/3.4 and Mk II saloons, plus the Mk VII and Mk VIIM models, the legendary E-type (including the Lightweight E-type), the XJ13 mid-engined prototype, the world-class XJ saloons, the XJ-S and the ‘XJ40’ models.
Dewis was also co-driver to the British racing hero Sir Stirling Moss in a C-type in the 1952 Mille Miglia and, in 1953, set a 172.412 mph production car speed record in a modified Jaguar XK 120 on a closed section of the Jabbeke highway, Belgium. He also drove a 190 mph works D-type in the dramatic 1955 Le Mans 24hr race and competed in the famous Goodwood Nine Hours in the 1950s.
At 94 years old, Dewis is one of the last living links to the golden era of the British Motor Industry; those post-World War II years when Jaguar rebuilt itself into a champion sports car maker.
During his long career, Dewis completed more than a million test miles at an average speed of 100 mph-plus and survived high-speed crashes in the days before seatbelts, without ever breaking a single bone. He also played a vital role in developing the revolutionary Dunlop disc brake.
During 2014, Dewis spearheaded Jaguar’s 60th anniversary celebrations for the race-winning D-type. Wherever Jaguar was during the year, Norman was present too, chatting with fans and friends, wearing his distinctive bootlace tie and cowboy boots. At the 2014 Goodwood Revival, Dewis drove one of the D-types, his speed illustrating that he hadn’t lost his touch behind the wheel.
Of all the cars he worked on, Dewis considers the D-type to be the best. ‘I got that car up to 192 mph on the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans,” he says. ‘Well, I had to pass [Karl] Kling in the Mercedes.” Jaguar’s star driver at the time, Mike Hawthorn, had such faith in Dewis that when he was asked to attend a test session and saw that Dewis was already there, asked the team manager: ‘Why am I here? If Norman’s satisfied with it, I’m satisfied.”
Dewis is working with Jaguar Land Rover Special Operations’ newly established Jaguar Heritage Business organisation to help showcase its capabilities and vision. He is supporting the opening of the new Heritage workshop at Browns Lane, the extensive classic Jaguar parts offering, the launch of the new Jaguar Heritage Driving Experience in Warwickshire, and the brand-new Lightweight E-type, which he helped develop originally in the early 1960s.
John Edwards, Managing Director, Jaguar Land Rover Special Operations, and Chairman of the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust, said: ‘Jaguar owes a huge debt to Norman Dewis. His incredible skills have resulted in some of the finest cars this company has ever made – whether they were designed for the road or the racing circuit. The Norman Dewis of today is the same quietly confident and modest man of the 1950s – he remains a world-class Jaguar ambassador. It is fantastic to see his contribution to Jaguar, and to British engineering, recognised in Her Majesty’s New Year Honours List, with the award of an OBE.”
Jaguar has now released the short video below to mark Norman Dewis’ award of the Order of the British Empire – the film features tributes from peers such as Sir Jackie Stewart and Sir Stirling Moss.
Sir Jackie Stewart, three times Formula One World Champion, said: ‘Norman Dewis is one of the real characters, not just of the British motor industry but also British Motorsport. He’s one of the backroom boys and sometimes they don’t get the accolades they should. Her Majesty the Queen and the honours office have very much done the right thing in awarding Norman Dewis an OBE.”
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