Norman Dewis OBE Trust appeal

Living legend is an over-used expression, one that few people really deserve the application of. But Norman Dewis is definitely an exception. Jaguar’s former chief development engineer worked throughout the company’s golden era and was a vital part of the team that developed the brand’s most successful cars. He retired as long ago as 1985 – he will be 99 in August – and has spent more than 30 years working as an unofficial ambassador for the Jaguar brand, regularly attending events and giving talks.

Although Norman still lives by himself in Shropshire, he’s not in the best of health at the moment, and some of his friends in the wider Jaguar world have launched a trust fund to help him continue to live independently. One we’d warmly encourage you to bung a few quid towards.

It’s hard to condense Norman’s career highlights into a couple of paragraphs. He started in the car industry at the ripe old age of 14, working for Humber cars as the company’s factory was directly opposite his grandparent’s house in Coventry. He served in the RAF during the Second World War, as an air gunner in Blenheim bombers, but was discharged in 1943 with a kidney problem. He the worked for Armstrong-Siddeley and Lea Francis before being poached by Jaguar’s Director of Engineering, Bill Hayes, to become the chief development driver. He knew Sir William Lyons well, and worked closely with him.

Test driving was an adventurous occupation in those days. Norman worked on the development of the first ever disc brake, which was tested in a C-Type entered into the 1952 Mille Miglia. Sterling Moss agreed to drive the car, but only if Norman would be his co-driver. Norman was also the driver who set several speed records on a closed stretch of Belgian Autoroute near Jabbeke, including 172.4mph in a modified XK120. He also witnessed the 1955 Le Mans crash from the pitlane, having been drafted in as a works driver in Jaguar’s third D-Type. He famously survived an enormous crash that destroyed the prototype XJ13 and reckons that he did more than a quarter of a million miles at over 100mph on the banked circuit at MIRA. He recently admitted that he turned down Enzo Ferrari when the Italian offered him a job in 1954.

The Norman Dewis OBE Trust is being managed by JLR Classic’s Tony O’ Keeffe and John Butterworth of the Jaguar Drivers Club Lancashire. Norman has asked that any surplus left in the fund once he no longer needs it be donated to the Hope House Hospice, a charity that looks after terminally ill children.

You can find the gofundme here, or contact Tony directly for details of how to donate.


Comments (26) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Blackpuddin 10 May 2019

    A lovely man with a cheeky twinkle. He was also responsible for getting a second E-type down to the Geneva Show in a very short time indeed after the Jaguar staff were inundated with requests for demo drives at the car's launch.

  • Munter 10 May 2019

    Blackpuddin said:
    A lovely man with a cheeky twinkle. He was also responsible for getting a second E-type down to the Geneva Show in a very short time indeed after the Jaguar staff were inundated with requests for demo drives at the car's launch.
    That was the story that sprang to my mind as well. Think it was on top gear they mentioned that.

    I also like that in the event of a surplus, it's clear where the money is going. I remember Hope House opening, and shortly after one of our scout troop and pupil from my school spent his last days there. So a worthy cause.

  • Bill Ferry 10 May 2019

    A nice man, with a devilish twinkle.. and fun.
    A warrior, a real hero.. what a film his life would have made.
    I hope only for the very best for you.

  • Augustus Windsock 10 May 2019

    I had that “Oh. My. God!” moments a couple of ears ago at the Classic Car Show at the NEC
    After bumping into Andy Rouse (a hero of mine from BTCC days when he drove a Cosworth) who proved that ‘Never meet your heroes’ is a phrase that doesn’t always hold true, and was engaging and a total gentleman, I turned around and quite literally bumped into Norman Dewis
    He had just finished entertaining a throng of admirers who hung on his every word
    And yet.
    He chatted with me like I was a life-long friend and recanted anecdotes that he must have told thousands of times yet did so as if it were the very first time.
    It’s shameful that this country throws £millions at ‘migrants’ and illegal immigrants yet can’t look after such heroes who have contributed so much to the fabric and history of this country...

  • Andy665 10 May 2019

    Met him on a couple of occasions and seems like a genuinely lovely man, did not realise he lived in Shropshire - will certainly be throwing a few quid at the appeal, as I hope JLR will be doing too

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