Dewis leads his fans to Goodwood
Norman Dewis OBE leads classic Jaguar cavalcade from London to Goodwood House
London’s Pall Mall is the address of the Royal Automobile Club. It is not the easiest place to get to in your classic car, nor is it easy to park when you do get there. Despite this, very early on a November morning, four classic Jaguars were lined up outside, waiting to leave for Goodwood House, 60 miles away. And with the cars was the fabled Jaguar development driver Norman Dewis OBE, who was at the Club following an audience in his honour the night before.
Since 1952, Norman Dewis has been the symbol of Jaguar, where he worked testing new models, racing them, achieving speed records or making legendary journeys, such as from Coventry to Geneva in 1961 at an average of 70mph with the brand new Jaguar E-type to get it to the motor show on time. Now 95, he is still spirited enough to accept invitations of that kind, and ready to sit, once again, behind the wheel of his favourite cars.
He picked the only closed car to begin with, a 1959 3.4 saloon with only 18,000 miles on the clock. Escorting him across the City were one of only six XK120 Super Sports built, the ex-Juan Manuel Fangio C-type, and his favourite, a D-type. And if the journey across London was a good start, the real magic of the day began at Goodwood, when Dewis took the wheel of the D-type. It was amazing to see how this car seems tailor-made to suit him, and how he immediately felt at home in it.
‘Disc brakes were developed by a team of four, between Jaguar and Dunlop, in three months. The first time we used them, we simply hoped they worked!’ he said; then, of the world speed record XK120: ‘I hated to drive cars like that, with the Perspex canopy so close to your face and deforming your view, but it was the only way to improve aerodynamics. When they told me how fast I went – 172 mph! – I couldn’t believe it.’
Asked about his career highs, he said: ‘I lived life to the full and survived 50 years of testing and racing when “health and safety” was far in the future. I can’t imagine a more important achievement.’
Above and right Classic Jaguars left the Royal Automobile Club in Pall Mall to head for Goodwood with Jaguar legend Norman Dewis OBE.