Legendary Jaguar test driver Norman Dewis has been awarded the OBE in the Queen’s new year honours list. In a 33-year career, Norman was instrumental in the development of every Jaguar model from the Le Mans winning C- and D-Types, through to the XJ40 saloon at the end of his career.
Norman was also part of Jaguar’s factory racing team, co-driving a C-Type with Stirling Moss on the Mille Miglia in 1952, and sharing a D-Type with Don Beauman in the ill-fated 1955 Le Mans 24 Hours. In 1953, he set a production car land speed record of 172.412mph, driving an XK120 on Jabekke highway in Belgium.
Norman’s work went a long way towards cementing Jaguar’s reputation, but perhaps his most significant contribution to motoring is comparatively little known.
Jaguar started using Dunlop disc brakes on the C-Type in 1952, winning Le Mans for the second time. Though they were hugely effective, they were temperamental with it, making them unsuitable for road cars. But Norman’s development work refined them and discs soon started to replace outdated drums, as they are much more powerful and reliable. Countless lives have been saved as a result.
At the grand old age of 94, Norman is still much in demand, appearing at dozens of events around the world every year. He also works with Jaguar’s Heritage department, and even still gets behind the wheel of D-Types, E-Types and whatever else, driving with the vigour of someone a quarter of his age.
Norman Dewis is still regarded as the finest British test driver of all time. That his achievements took this long to recognise is borderline criminal.
Now, what about John Surtees’ knighthood?