August 3 would have marked the 100th birthday of Jaguar test driver Norman Dewis. During his 33-year career with Jaguar, which began on January 1, 1952, Dewis was responsible for developing some of the most iconic Jaguars ever: saloons from Mk1 to XJ, sports and racing cars including multiple Le Mans 24 Hours-winning C-types and D-types, the E-type, and mid-engined XJ13 prototype. He also played a pivotal role in the development of the then-revolutionary Jaguar/Dunlop disc braking system.
Dewis was considered too valuable to risk as a works racing driver, but did take part in a number of high-profile motorsport events for Jaguar including the 1952 Mille Miglia – as navigator for Stirling Moss in a disc-braked C-type.
In 1953, Dewis set a 172.412mph production car speed record in a modified Jaguar XK120 on a closed section of the Jabbeke highway in Belgium, and in 1955 he raced a D-type at up to 192mph during the Le Mans 24 Hours. It’s estimated he completed more than a million test miles at an average speed of 100mph+. When Jaguar needed an extra E-type to be driven overnight from Coventry to support the car’s launch at Geneva in 1961, there was only one man for the job.
After retirement in 1985 Dewis continued to be a global ambassador for Jaguar, which saw him undertake projects such as consulting with the Jaguar Classic team on the 2014 launch of the ‘missing six’ continuation Lightweight E-types, a car he originally helped develop in the 1960s. In recognition of his services to Jaguar and the British motor industry, in December 2014 Norman Dewis received the Order of the British Empire (OBE).
Dewis hoped to celebrate his 100th birthday by driving a Jaguar at 100mph once more, but he died sadly on June 8, 2019, aged 98.