The Jaguar Enthusiasts Club will pay homage to Britain’s greatest ever test driver, Norman Dewis OBE at the Lancaster Classic Motor Show 8 – 10 November 2019.
Norman Dewis OBE
Over a 33-year career, Norman Dewis was the man responsible for developing some of the most iconic Jaguars ever. The fearless, talented and humble legend is now revered not only as Britain’s greatest ever test driver but a veritable legend and a dedicated friend to the iconic Jaguar brand.
In an era without seatbelts or crash safety, Dewis was fearless. In total, it’s estimated he completed more than a million test miles at an average speed of 100mph-plus, with a number of heroic anecdotes as a result.
Held at the NEC in Birmingham, the Jaguar Enthusiasts Club will be paying tribute with special four-car display supplied by the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust, and will celebrate the story of his Jaguar career alongside an exciting new car from Ecurie Ecosse, the LM69 which represents a contemporary evocation of one the most famous cars Norman Dewis worked on.
Born in Coventry, the youngster’s career began working on cars at age 14, fitting wings and bonnets at the Humber factory. At just 15 he moved to another car manufacturer, Armstrong Siddeley, where he spent time in the chassis department and first learned to drive while taking cars on their shakedown runs. During wartime, Dewis was drafted into the RAF, working the gun turret of a Blenheim bomber, and finally joined Jaguar after a post-war stint at Lea-Francis.
His remarkable career spanned the XK140 and XK150, the Mark 2 saloons, the E Type and the first XJ saloon through to the XJ40. In 2014, the adoration of Norman’s fans was recognised on a national scale, when he was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE).
James Blackwell, General Manager of the Jaguar Enthusiasts Club said:
“Our Jaguar loving community has lost a dear friend, colleague and hero in Norman. His stories captivated and inspired us all in the club and he was wonderful company, a man who never took his foot off the gas. It felt important to everyone in the Jaguar Enthusiasts’ Club to say goodbye to our hero by working with our friends at Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust, who have supplied this stunning line up of cars. With their help, we will transform our car club display stand at this year’s NEC Lancaster Classic Motor Show with Discovery, into a tribute to Norman’s incredible life.
“We are really excited to premiere the Ecurie Ecosse LM69 at the show, a stunning new car, guaranteed to create a stir. We felt that the LM69 is a great embodiment of the lasting legacy of Norman’s work on the XJ13 back in the 1960s.”
Besides the many cars Dewis helped develop in his career, one of his first automotive projects is, without doubt, the one with the greatest effect on the automotive industry; the disc brake. Dewis became involved with Jaguar and Dunlop’s development of the revolutionary braking system, famously trialled in a C-type at the 1952 Mille Miglia with Sir Stirling Moss in the driving seat and Dewis navigating.
The Four Cars On Display
Jaguar D Type – OVC 501
The first car in the line-up will be Jaguar’s prototype D Type, OVC 501 from 1954. This is a truly unique car and is the factory prototype for the machine which brought Jaguar a hat-trick of victories from 1955 to 1957 thanks, in large part, to the development work and testing undertaken by Norman Dewis. Norman put the car through a rigorous programme of tests in which he found problems with the engine, gearbox and steering, all of which were quickly rectified. Capable of 190mph on the circuit, this car was also driveable on the road, which Norman did, as all the works cars were driven from Coventry to Dover, onto the ferry, and then down public roads to the Circuit De La Sarthe, Le Mans.
Jaguar E Type – 77RW
In March 1961, an icon was launched at the Geneva Motor Show, the Jaguar E Type. This car is the subject of one of Norman’s most famous stories. Norman drove it out to Geneva from Coventry, non-stop through the night, to satisfy the unprecedented demand for press test drives at the motor show launch. The epic trip, saw him embark upon a dramatic 12-hour overnight endurance run, making it in time for the launch at 10 am the next morning. 77 RW is now the oldest surviving open E-types and was the car that launched one of the symbols of 1960s motoring. Most recently, the car was the wedding transport for Pippa Middleton’s marriage to James Matthews.
There was only ever one Jaguar XJ13 ever built and it will be on display as part of the Jaguar Enthusiasts’ Club tribute to Norman Dewis. It was built as a contender to the likes of Ferrari and Ford at Le Mans, but it never raced. XJ13, which was Jaguar’s first mid-engined car, spent four years sitting under covers at the factory after development was canned due to a change in the motorsport regulations.
However, in 1971 it was used in a film for the E Type V12 launch, shot at the MIRA test track. Naturally, Norman Dewis was at the wheel, but as he was coming in after filming, the car suffered a puncture on the banking which sent it crashing into the track’s retaining fence. It was a spectacular accident, resulting in Norman flipping end-over-end twice, rolling twice, then landing back on his wheels. Ever the professional and never strapped in, Norman managed to hide under the scuttle and turn off the ignition and as a result, was lucky to survive. He not only escaped unhurt but was also back at work the very next day! The car was later rebuilt and retired to a gentler life.
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Ecurie Ecosse LM69
Fifty years on from the completion of the XJ13, the legacy of the car that Norman helped to develop lives on in the incredibly exciting new LM69, by Ecurie Ecosse. Launched in September, this will be the car’s first-ever appearance at the Classic Motor Show held at the NEC Birmingham.
Built entirely by hand, Ecurie Ecosse will only produce a frugal 25 in the West Midlands, in keeping with the FIA Homologation requirements of 1969 for running prototypes at Le Mans of over 3000cc. A quad-cam V12 is the heart of the car, designed to evoke the experience of driving at Le Mans.
Tickets for the NEC Classic Car Show can be accessed via this link.