Jaguar test driver Norman Dewis would have been 100 years old today (August 3, 2020). During a 33-year career with the British brand he was responsible for developing some of the most legendary Jaguar cars, and one of the most important car safety features.
Dewis joined Jaguar in 1952 and immediately set to work on the Jaguar/Dunlop-developed disc brake system, putting it to the test alongside Stirling Moss in a C-Type on the 1952 Mille Miglia. Despite retiring from the event with steering failure it was proof that the new brakes worked brilliantly. In 1953 disc-braked C-types would dominate Le Mans, finishing first, second, and fourth.
That same year Dewis set a production car speed record in a modified XK120. On a closed section of Belgian highway he achieved 172.412 mph, while in 1955 he topped 192 mph during the Le Mans 24 hours.
After that outing Dewis wasn’t permitted to race again. The company valued his skills so highly they refused to risk him, and his work continued behind the scenes developing road and race cars. The list of cars that Dewis worked on is nothing less than a list of icons: C-Type, D-Type, E-Type, XK140, XK150, Mark VIII, Mark IX, Mark X, XJ6, XJ-S, XJ40 and XJ13.
For its 1961 launch in Geneva, Dewis drove an E-Type from Coventry in the U.K. to the Swiss city in one overnight stint. A decade later he miraculously escaped injury after a tire failure caused the XJ13 he was driving to crash at high speed.
Even after his retirement Dewis continued to be an ambassador and consultant for Jaguar, helping on the 2014 continuation Lightweight E-Types and re-uniting with Stirling Moss for the 2012 Mille Miglia.
Dewis is estimated to have driven more than one million test miles at average speeds above 100 mph during his astonishing career. No wonder he was awarded the Order of the British Empire medal for services to the British motor industry in 2014.
Dewis had planned to celebrate his 100th birthday by once again driving a Jaguar at over 100 mph, but sadly this was one test that he was unable to complete. Dewis died on June 8, 2019 aged 98.