Jaguar test driver Norman Dewis on wonders of E-Type
18th February 2011
Jaguar test driver Norman Dewis on wonders of the E-Type.
THE test driver responsible for developing one of the most iconic cars in automotive history has spoken about his and Coventry’s proud association with the vehicle.
The Jaguar E-type, which was designed and built in Coventry, is one of the most famous cars in the world and this year it is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Norman Dewis, 90, was the chief development test engineer at Jaguar for 36 years and played a major role in developing a staggering 25 cars during his time with the company.
However, he still singles out the creation of the E-type in 1961 as one of the most significant landmarks in the history of, not just the company, but the industry as a whole.
“I would say the E-type was one of the biggest breakthroughs in motor engineering history ever – not just for Jaguar,” he said.
“We broke all traditional methods of building a car and built it around aircraft principles rather than the normal concept of starting with a chasis and adding everything onto that.
“It was two years before Formula One cars started adopting our principles – so we were two years ahead of F1 with these cars which is an indication of just how much of a breakthrough this design was.
“When the E-type was launched in 1961 we were selling a car that could do 150mph to the general public and there were not many people who could say that.
“Ferrari perhaps, but they only made a small number, so you would have to wait a long time, and they would be very expensive – we were selling this for £2,000.”
As part of the 50th anniversary celebrations, the Ricoh Arena will host an impressive tribute to the E-type with around 50 of the iconic vehicles on display inside the Jaguar Exhibition Hall. Owners will be on hand to chat to people attending the event ahead of Coventry City’s 3pm Championship clash with Watford on Saturday, April 2.
Owners are travelling from countries as far away as the USA and Germany to take part in the gathering. Many of those attending will also be taking part in a 50th anniversary rally from Jaguar’s Browns Lane site, where the car was created and developed, to the Geneva Motor Show.
The trip is a tribute to a legendary journey undertaken by Dewis in 1961 following the launch of the E-type at the Geneva Motor Show. Such was the media excitement and clamour for demonstration runs that Jaguar founder Sir William Lyons instructed chief test driver Norman Dewis to drive through the night from Coventry to bring another model to Switzerland.
“Coventry to Dover took me two hours and I completed the run to Geneva in just 11 hours. I averaged 68mph and there were no motorways back then so it was quite a drive,” he said.
“It makes me feel very proud to think I was involved and played a big part in the development of such an iconic car.
“Seeing all these cars under one roof at the Jaguar Exhibition Hall will make the event very special.
“The E-type is a Coventry car. It was built, designed and tested by Coventry people and a lot of workers who played a part in producing the car will still be in the city and I am hoping a lot will come along and share their memories on the day.”