Wimblington car lover David meets his Jaguar hero, Norman Dewis, 95... and invites him to stay!

PUBLISHED: 10:21 05 April 2016 | UPDATED: 10:21 05 April 2016

Norman giving David the trophy for best XJ-S at the Jaguar XJ-Ss 40th anniversary club celebrations.

Norman giving David the trophy for best XJ-S at the Jaguar XJ-Ss 40th anniversary club celebrations.

Archant

A Wimblington car lover met his hero last week when Norman Dewis, 95, stayed at his house for two nights following a talk.

Norman standing with one of David's carsNorman standing with one of David's cars

A Wimblington car lover met his hero last week when Norman Dewis, 95, stayed at his house for two nights following a talk.

David Stewart, owner of Hamiltons Jaguar in Peterborough, said: “Jaguar is in my blood. You would think Norman was in his 60s – whatever he’s on we all need some of it.”

Mr Dewis, 95, worked on all of Jaguar’s classic cars between 1952 and 85. David first met him last year at the 40th anniversary of the Jaguar XJ-S where he was presented with a trophy for best XJ-S.

“We hit it off from that very moment and Norman tells me it was because of my knowledge and genuine love for the marque.

Before the talk, on March 29.Before the talk, on March 29.

“On that day I cheekily asked if he would give a talk at my local Jaguar meeting of his days with the company.”

Norman replied, saying: “Call me early next year when I will be planning my 2016 diary”.

David said: “I remember thinking - he’s 95 years old, will he ever give up?

“Nervously, I phoned him in January and we set a date. Norman still does a great deal with Jaguar and they still supply him a company car.

Norman explaining how the famous Jaguar V12 was developedNorman explaining how the famous Jaguar V12 was developed

After the talk, attendees said to David: ‘I can’t believe it. He doesn’t have to think, he’s just there. It’s at the forefront of his mind’.

“Norman is Superman, added David. “He doesn’t have a walking stick or hearing

aid… actually, he talks for England! added the 48-year-old.

“He has been one of my hero’s since I fell in love with Jaguar cars at the age of seven.”

“He still competition races and was caught speeding in his XF last year at 96 mph – it seems funny that this legendary man goes on a speed awareness course aged 95.

“I’m still on a high from spending two days with my hero and the talk went down so well – Norman stood (yes stood) for two hours and spoke with such accuracy and depth about those glory days.

“Since Tuesday I’ve had so many phone calls from members that attended that talk saying he is the most fascinating person they have ever met.

“After the talk Norman stayed at my house and kept me up until 1.30am chatting and it was me (a man half the age) who was so tired and had to go to bed first.”

The Life and Times of Norman Dewis

Norman Dewis started working at the Humber car company aged just 14 fitting wings and bonnets.

A year later he moved to Armstrong Siddeley, working there for just three years before World War II broke out.

During the war Norman was an air gunner in the doomed twin-engined Blenham – he lost many good friends during this time and was lucky to survive it.

After the war he started another car company, Lea-Francis, as their chief test driver. He remained there before going to Jaguar in 1952 - after negotiating an extra two pounds a month over his Lea Francis wage.

Jaguar had a reputation for poor pay, but Norman just loved their model history and felt good about the move.

Norman, now Dewis, 95, was the chief test driver/development engineer, responsible for signing off all Jaguar models from 1952-1985 which include

•Jaguar XK140

•Jaguar XK150

•Jaguar C-type

•Jaguar D-type

•Jaguar Mark VIII

•Jaguar Mark IX

•Jaguar Mark II

•Jaguar E-type

•Jaguar XJ13

•Jaguar Mark X

•Jaguar XJ6

•Jaguar XJ-S

•Jaguar XJ40

He also drove in the tragic 1955 Le-Mans where he holds the record for fastest down the Mulsanne straight at 192mph. His car got retired but a Jaguar did win.

Dewis was the test driver who, on October 20 1953 at Jabbeke, Belgium, drove a Jaguar XK120 to 172.412 mph. This record has never been beaten.

Norman also developed together with the help of Dunlop the disc brake. The first car in the world to have disc brakes was a 1953 C-type racer.

Norman drove in the 1952 Mille Miglia with co-driver Sir Sterling Moss – testing the new disc brake – their steering rake failed but at that time they were second. He drove Mille Miglia again with Sterling 60 years on in 2012.

In 1971 while Norman was testing the 502 bhp XJ13 a tyre blew at 145 mph, causing the car to roll several times – Norman is totally unhurt and doesn’t even attend hospital.

Norman tested all over the world at many test tracks while at Jaguar, but the local one he used was MIRA which he covered more than 1.2 million miles at over 100 mph in those 33 years.

When Jaguar launched the 1968 XJ6/1972 XJ12 virtually all the motoring press regarded them as ‘The Best Luxury Car In The World’ – The XJ is now 48 years old and in its ninth generation. The hugely successful XJ-S sold over 115,000 units over a 21 year timespan.

Norman Dewis is also going to be on the new Top Gear with Matt Le Blanc, featured in the Dash to Geneva event – which ends with an interesting result.

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