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Norman Dewis - hero and gentleman


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#1 Impspeed Gerry

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Posted 02 July 2002 - 14:03

Brands Hatch HSCC meeting last weekend - watching the morning practice when a C type Jaguar pulled into the paddock, the leggy driver joking with a diminutive onlooker and myself about the lack of legroom in the Jag.

To my delight the onlooker introduces himself as none other then Norman Dewis (should have recognised him really...), and I proceed to chat about Le Mans, Mille Miglia, XJ13 and so on. A lovely man, and a key figure in British Motorsport, who was more than happy to chat to a complete stranger while we watched D type Jags, Lolas, Listers et al barrel round Paddock Hill Bend. A great memory, and he told me he is working on his memoirs - any info or stories from all you out there?

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#2 Dave Ware

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Posted 02 July 2002 - 20:54

No firsthand stories from me, just a recollection of a MotorSport article a year or so ago about Jag testers Dewis and Burti. Apparently Mr. Burti was a bit sobered upon hearing firsthand what racing and testing conditions were like in the 1950s.

According to the article Dewis still has the timing sheet from a test session in which he was faster than Moss.

Dave

#3 Doug Nye

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Posted 02 July 2002 - 22:08

Stirl still has the telephone number of the girl who left him slower than Dewis... :stoned:

DCN

#4 Impspeed Gerry

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Posted 03 July 2002 - 11:06

Hoping you would pitch in, Doug. Norman said he is still good friends with SM, despite the obvious competitive element in their relationship! He also said that after an incident near the end of the '52 Mille Miglia, he could've killed Stirling - lucky he didn't ! Do you know any more about this?

P.S. reading posts in other threads regarding full explanations of thread content, I think I should point out to anyone who hasn't guessed that Mr Dewis was the legendary Jaguar test driver during the '50s and '60s, rode with Moss in the '52 Mille Miglia, was part of the '55 Le Mans Hawthorn/Bueb driver team, tested and developed all the great Jags of that era, and was also obviously a racer to be reckoned with..

Sorry I didn't say that earlier - I'm new to this game!

#5 Don Capps

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Posted 03 July 2002 - 12:25

Norman Dewes is one of those wonderful "characters with Character" who make the sport of racing worth following. Although largely in the background when the Jags are mentioned today, we schoolboys definitely knew who he was. Gerry, what a great opportunity you had!

I, too, am curious about the Mille Miglia story.

#6 Impspeed Gerry

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Posted 03 July 2002 - 13:24

It was a great opportunity Don. Hopefully I might bump into him again, as our historic saloon championship is from time to time on the same bill as the '50s sports car race in which he takes an obvious interest. It's a shame I didn't have time for a longer chat, and that I didn't know all the stories at the time which I have discovered in the last couple of weeks.......

I've since remembered that I once saw a picture of him and SM in the C type at the start of the Mille Miglia, with co-driver looking less than happy! I think that was his first job after starting with Jag, and what a job !!

Gerry

This is great - folks all over the place on the same wavelength

#7 tonyb

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Posted 12 January 2007 - 17:40

Paul Skilleter's comprehensive Biography on the 'sparkling' Norman Dewis is now out :clap:

I've posted some info already on the 'Books' sticky thread if anyone wants to check it out:

http://forums.autosp...=&pagenumber=44

If anyone has questions for Norman that aren't answered there - or any questions really- we are happy to put them to him and post responses here!


Tony Bailey
Mike Hawthorn Tribute Site http://www.mike-hawthorn.org.uk/

#8 HiRich

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Posted 15 January 2007 - 12:26

Originally posted by tonyb
If anyone has questions for Norman that aren't answered there - or any questions really- we are happy to put them to him and post responses here!

Well this may be very cheeky, but...
At the 500s site, we have a grand total of three sentences and one static picture on Norman's DNC:
www.500race.org/Marques/DNC.htm
and so far I've found no competition record. Perhaps he could help us fill in some of the background on the car - the why, how, where (did it appear), and what happened to it?

#9 David McKinney

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Posted 15 January 2007 - 13:43

You need the relevant "black book"
Both driver and car are listed in the index for both 1950 and 1951

#10 tonyb

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 10:01

Originally posted by HiRich

Well this may be very cheeky, but...
At the 500s site, we have a grand total of three sentences and one static picture on Norman's DNC:
www.500race.org/Marques/DNC.htm
and so far I've found no competition record. Perhaps he could help us fill in some of the background on the car - the why, how, where (did it appear), and what happened to it?


Norman can't remember that particular period unfortunately but Paul Skilleter has some info and a pic and I'll post it once I receive it.

[small edit: it's the results themselves that Norman can't remember but he remembers the car very well]

Tony
Mike Hawthorn Tribute Site http://www.mike-hawthorn.org.uk/

#11 Huw Jadvantich

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 11:22

;)

#12 HiRich

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 11:55

Thanks Tony, every little bit helps - especially with those lesser models.

Rich

#13 tonyb

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Posted 18 January 2007 - 15:32

Originally posted by HiRich
Thanks Tony, every little bit helps - especially with those lesser models.

Rich


Okay. Paul's a bit busy but will supply some info shortly. If you had the book of course, there are nearly
six pages devoted to it, with 14 images! Includes a newspaper clip and repro of Norm's advert for when
it was sold by him with its trailer via Autosport in Sep 1951:

Posted Image


Tony Bailey
Mike Hawthorn Tribute Site http://www.mike-hawthorn.org.uk/

#14 HiRich

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 13:24

Tony, that's brilliant. I doubted the book would have anything of significant value (most books of this ilk, such as Moss, Hill, etc. seem to say "started in 500cc race cars [standard description - motorcycle engines, Cooper, Moss, Collins, etc.], then did something much more interesting that I'd rather talk about".
Book is duly added to the list

#15 tonyb

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 22:56

Originally posted by HiRich
Tony, that's brilliant. I doubted the book would have anything of significant value (most books of this ilk, such as Moss, Hill, etc. seem to say "started in 500cc race cars [standard description - motorcycle engines, Cooper, Moss, Collins, etc.], then did something much more interesting that I'd rather talk about".
Book is duly added to the list


Thanks.

Paul has sent this to post - feel free to use this data and the two images on your website
as long as you attribute Paul, and Norman's book via its link please:

==

I felt that it was important to include what I could on the DNC in the book
in that not only was it part of Norman's story, but it also showed considerable
ingenuity and seems to have been one of the better home-built 500
racers.

It was designed and built by Norman in conjunction with fellow Lea-Francis
employee Peter North-Coates, a former army captain described by Norman as
"brilliant" on the chassis side. Much of the car was constructed using L-F's
excellent machine shop facilities, under the benign eye of Hugh Rose. Front
suspension used pre-war Morris Minor stub axles and the rear GN parts, mainly
because the GN system allowed final drive ratios to be changed quickly.

While the favourite power unit of the time was JAP, Norman chose to use a
Rudge engine he had kept since pre-war days. He describes it as a TT version and
it had a four-valve bronze head and a speedway crankcase. The car's very
professional looking aluminium body was made by Abbey Panels. The car was
completed in June 1950 and first run at the MIRA test ground, and its first race
was at Silverstone on 8 July 1950 - when with a large bang the cylinder barrel
parted company with the crankcase... The bolts Norman had used weren't strong
enough. :

The engine was repaired and Norman continued racing it into 1951 but like
the other amateur drivers, found he was up against professionally-built cars and
wealthy drivers, so gave up around late August 1951 (I'd be very interested
in knowing exactly what events Norman took part in as he hasn't kept a list).

He sold the car to a speedway rider who appeared to be after the engine.
Very unfortunately, the whereabouts of this lovely little 500 racer aren't known
- it is just possible, Norman thinks, it went to Australia with its new
owner, but more likely it hasn't survived.

More details and photos in Norman's book of course.

And here it is at Lindley:
Posted Image

Paul Skilleter
http://www.paulskill....com/norman.php

#16 HiRich

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Posted 21 January 2007 - 14:17

Tony,
That is absolutely perfect - just enough for the the net, and a lead on to more. Thank you very much, and please pass on my thanks to Paul.

I have told our web editor to credit Paul and to plug his book - if he fails, PM me and I'll be more than willing to give him a clip round the ear!;) Hopefully it will generate a few more sales.

(and since he will be reading this - Neil, do not forget to point out that Paul's book has considerably more information and pictures)

#17 condor

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Posted 22 January 2007 - 21:39

I had a chat with Norman last year at the FoS and he swore blind that he would'nt touch computers etc.
Rather surprised he didn't mention a book was n the offing - not doubting it - just surprised.

#18 tonyb

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Posted 28 January 2007 - 09:12

Originally posted by condor
I had a chat with Norman last year at the FoS and he swore blind that he wouldn't touch computers etc.
Rather surprised he didn't mention a book was in the offing - not doubting it - just surprised.

I know Paul spent some five years of research with Norman, ignoring the fact that he has
known Norman for a very long time anyway so already had a mass of background material.
I imagine Norman just didn't always mention it was in the offing when talking.

As you say, Norman has never been near a computer and has no intention of doing so. In fact,
we're not sure he even owns a typewriter (there isn't one on his work desk at home shown below
- which is the original desk he was allocated when he joined Jaguar in the early '50s - it still
carries its 1930s SS Cars Ltd asset tag on it!)

Posted Image

The book has now gone to a second edition reprint. There are some first edition double-signed
copies left (the second edition won't be signed).

#19 Huw Jadvantich

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Posted 28 January 2007 - 11:50

Is the second print any different to the first in content?

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#20 tonyb

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Posted 28 January 2007 - 12:26

Originally posted by Huw Jadvantich
Is the second print any different to the first in content?

AFAIAA, the only changes are a number of spelling corrections plus a few amended captions
and statements of fact.

I believe I remarked earlier that there is possibly enough material for a second volume - this
might become a reality if enough people put their hands up in encouragemant ...

There is now a short 5min video on YouTube of Norman talking about his career and the
'55 Le Mans he drove in. I edited this down to be more relevant from a longer video interview
in 2003.

#21 flat-16

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Posted 28 January 2007 - 14:17

My copy arrived in the week (quite promptly after ordering).

I haven't had a chance to go through it properly yet (it's the kind of book that will quite happily put you into a 'time warp', where a half-hour glance turns into half a day...), but initial impressions are very good indeed - as advertised!

It's a hefty book, so be careful not to drop it on your foot!


Justin

#22 tonyb

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Posted 01 February 2007 - 17:43

Originally posted by condor
I had a chat with Norman last year at the FoS and he swore blind that he wouldn't touch computers etc.
Rather surprised he didn't mention a book was n the offing - not doubting it - just surprised.


As background to the above, I asked Paul Skilleter for some info on how he went about writing the book with Norman's help. Paul's reply is a small book in itself but I hope you all find it of interest and get an insight into the mind of a book author!

==

I’m often asked how long it took to write Norman’s book, and how I went about the job, so for those who are interested, these are the answers.

The task of putting it all on screen took about 18 months of 12 hour days, including most weekends and with no holidays bar the occasion two or three day break (over and above this, I also had to fit in my regular work for Jaguar World Monthly and other magazines, so the average working day was often more like 16 hours). If I had started properly when I first proposed the book to Norman in 1999, the effort wouldn’t have been so intensive – but on the other hand, I believe one is much more efficient if undertaking a project like this over a concentrated period of time, because it is easier to keep all the elements in mind.

However, prior to beginning the writing process as described, from about 2002 Norman and I met regularly to go over his working life, and we also visited a number of his former Jaguar and motor industry colleagues. This resulted in approx. 30 hours of tape recordings, which over a period I transcribed word for word onto the computer (which takes approximately three times as long as the ‘real time’ recording). These tape recorded interviews formed the first primary source.

The second primary source was Norman’s archives, which included his company files which at my suggestion he took with him when he retired in 1985. These cover much of his working life at Jaguar from 1952 to 1985 and comprise test reports, memos to and from Norman, diaries, technical papers and other literature. They amounted to around 5,000 separate sheets of paper plus various notebooks and drawings etc., and these with the help of my son I photocopied, photographed or made notes from, before returning them to Norman.

A good friend, Gilbert Mond, then indexed this run of paper by car model, date and subject, so that the resulting computer file allowed me to search for the subjects I wanted. Using this search facility, I then sorted the papers according to model, because, broadly speaking, that was how the book is arranged – chronologically by model. Without Gilbert’s assistance, the book would have taken another six months to have completed.

The third primary source was my own existing collection of tape recorded interviews with Jaguar personnel, the earliest, I think, extending back to one I did with Lofty England in 1973. Plus, my own collection of factory literature and contemporary press material etc.

The fourth primary source was the archives held by the JDHT at Browns Lane, where much useful information was gained from examining engineering documents and records.

Secondary sources were comprised mainly of books: Andrew Whyte’s, Philip Porter’s, those of various authors in other fields, and my own. Did I use the internet? For Jaguar topics, only rarely, except for current or recent official company information. This is because much of the information on the internet comes from secondary sources and takes too long to verify. For other makes and events, yes, but very selectively if I do not know the subject well, comparing the information on various sites to check for discrepancies.

I have to admit that, faced with this mass of material, it was a daunting task to categorise it all, assimilate it, and weave all the different threads into a coherent account of Norman’s life and the development of the Jaguar car. But as with all large and complex tasks, it is best to concentrate on completing one section at a time (a chapter in this case), to avoid being intimidated by the immensity of the overall task. I did this in the order of easiest chapters first, that is, the ones that did not require a lot of additional work to pin down obscure (or not so obscure) facts and data.

As each chapter was written, the copy would be read by Norman, Gilbert, and then Warren Allport, who was an Autocar magazine staff writer in the same building as I was working during the 1970s, and who now is a professional freelance sub-editor. Plus, I would ask others to read certain chapters or sections if it seemed worthwhile. I would then produce a final version and send it to Mike Mattock, the designer, for page layout. Mike is a freelance designer who used to work for us on Jaguar World magazine, so I knew and trusted him.

I should add here that Norman himself was a delight to work with. That we had known each other, on and off, for the best part of 40 years helped, but his precise recall of events – many of which I could substantiate through his archives – was of huge benefit. Then through the proofing process, while he picked up a number of errors we had not noticed, he did not (as some might) require lots of immaterial changes to the copy, or interfere with the design of the book.

Then there is the subject of illustrations. These were selected from my own collection, and from Norman’s and the JDHT’s archives. Apart from photographs from the latter, I scanned all photographs and documents here and sent the images, by chapter, to Mike (together with the captions sent as text) on a flash drive. Mike then e-mailed me the chapter design as a low-res pdf which we printed out and proof read, giving Mike any corrections. He would then re-proof, and this process was repeated at least twice for the whole book, with awkward pages sometimes being re-proofed four or five times.

Finally, hi-res printer-ready pdf files were made up by Mike and sent on CDs to the printer in Hong Kong. Within about a week we received by air courier a set of ozalids (paper proofs). If we spotted any further mistakes (ours, not the printer’s – they reproduce exactly what we send) Mike would place a revised pdf of that page on the printer’s website. Not that we captured every single typo (for the reprint we altered 62 pages) but I am satisfied that the book is probably better than average in this respect.

Only during these late stages, when the page numbers had been finalised, could the index be constructed, and this was done with great speed and efficiency by Tony Bailey (who had also read parts of the book and offered useful suggestions – including that I should mention the XJ13 at the beginning of Chapter 1, in order to hint at what Norman would eventually become involved in). Mention of other people who helped are included in the Introduction.

Although I knew that Norman had a good following, motoring biographies have traditionally not faired as well commercially as titles on specific Jaguar models (eg E-type, XK etc) so we were cautious with the first print order of only 1,100 copies. This made the unit price quite high but reduced the risk of us being left with unsold copies. Fortunately, within six weeks it became obvious a reprint was needed, and a further 1,000 copies were ordered. It remains to be seen how long these will last!

Although I had written a number of Jaguar books before, this was the first time I had done so in conjunction with someone who had actually experienced the incidents and the history that was being related. This made a huge difference, especially as Norman has an excellent memory - and when people ask me occasionally how much his stories have changed over the years, I can truthfully say very little! I have taped interviews with Norman going back to the early 1980s, and when I reviewed these while putting the book together, I found that the same events related then and 20 years later were remarkably consistent in their detail.

I first encountered Norman a lot earlier than the 1980s, however, when as a staff photographer on Motor magazine (a weekly that was later merged with Autocar) I used to see him at MIRA from 1966 onwards. At that time and until I left the magazine in 1974 we were both at MIRA pretty much every week. As far as I was concerned, Norman was a legend even back then, but it was not until 1999 that I approached him with the idea of a book on his life at Jaguar.

Fortunately he agreed, and when around 2004 we finally got stuck into the work seriously, I realised that my estimate of the size of book required was hopelessly inadequate. We were then faced with a decision: should we produce a moderately cheap and cheerful book which would be little more than a collection of anecdotes, or forget (within reason) the subject of cost and go for something of a block-buster. The latter was, in my view, necessary if we were to do justice to the unique opportunity which existed to tell the development story of a great marque with the personal input from one of the key players.

Norman concurred with the 'do it properly' approach, so the number of pages increased from the originally scheduled 230 to, eventually, 576... It blew all my costings out of the window (the book was due to be published by my own small publishing company), but on the basis it was best to do the job properly, we went ahead with this more ambitious version.

The book was finally published in November 2006, and it was with some relief that sales have been at a level which will at least ensure the printer gets paid! More importantly, we have had some good reviews and, judging from the letters and messages we've had from those who've received their books, it has gone down well with those enthusiasts it was intended for.

For me, working with Norman has been great fun and highly instructive. I have learnt more about Jaguar over the past five years than in the previous 35. Yes, this is necessarily a personal account written from one predominate viewpoint - Norman's - but I'm convinced it paints a fair picture of how the Jaguar car was developed between 1952 and 1985 - the years Norman was at Browns Lane. That includes road and race cars, of course, as almost uniquely Norman was vitally involved in the development of both (usually the two were separated in the industry).

I could go on a lot longer, and indeed the book could have been twice the size that it is, but I hope this gives members an idea of the background behind Norman's book.

I agree it's not the cheapest motoring book around, but it will cost you as much to fill the tank of an average car a couple of times - and how long will that last?

Paul Skilleter

==

Edited by tonyb, 31 May 2010 - 10:20.


#23 West3

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Posted 03 February 2007 - 08:25

Just to bring the topic back to the top, I received my copy yesterday. First impression is very positive. High production quality along with an engaging writing style. The "scrapbook" layout somehow gives the book a relaxed feel. Just more personal, I suppose. I'm sure it will be a good read. Definitely money well spent.

And yes, it's a big, heavy sucker!

#24 Huw Jadvantich

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Posted 03 February 2007 - 11:49

Just under 2.5 Kg !

#25 tonyb

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Posted 09 February 2007 - 17:25

Originally posted by West3
Just to bring the topic back to the top, I received my copy yesterday. First impression is very positive. High production quality along with an engaging writing style. The "scrapbook" layout somehow gives the book a relaxed feel. Just more personal, I suppose. I'm sure it will be a good read. Definitely money well spent.

And yes, it's a big, heavy sucker!


Just a note to say that if anyone in the UK is going to the Jaguar Spares Day at Farnham Maltings this Sunday 11th, Paul Skilleter will have Norman's book there and you can thus escape the shipping costs! Look on Tom Kent's stand (at right of main hall entrance down steps from canteen).

#26 Piston Broke

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Posted 11 February 2007 - 10:02

Originally posted by Don Capps
[I, too, am curious about the Mille Miglia story. [/B]


I may be able to help on the '52 Mille Miglia question...... the circumstances of his first job (as mentioned by 'Impspeed Gerry') at Jaguar.

He came to Jaguar Cars from Lea Francis in 1952. On joining Jaguar his first job was that he had to drive a C-Type racer across Europe to Italy, where he had to meet up with Moss .....the car was to be driven by Stirling Moss in the Mille Miglia thousand-mile road race. Norman's job wasn't only to deliver the car and help with its pre-race preparation - he was also to act as Moss's co-driver/mechanic - and this for a man who still says today that he has never been a good passenger. Despite several high-speed near misses, the pair were going well, but an encounter with a rock broke the steering. Norman tried to fix it roadside with wire, but it was to no avail, and they were forced to retire. While Stirling flew home, Norman had to fix the damaged car and then drve it back to Coventry.

I guess that would be some baptism of fire, especially for one who is a 'bad passenger', and a tale that was a little out of the 'norm' (pun not intended:blush:;) ) ! Hopefully this helps answer your question.

#27 Graham Gauld

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Posted 11 February 2007 - 10:47

Reference the above readers may be amused at this photo from my Archives of a very young Norman and a hairy Stirly Moss from the Mille Miglia.
Posted Image

#28 Piston Broke

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Posted 11 February 2007 - 11:45

Originally posted by Graham Gauld
Reference the above readers may be amused at this photo from my Archives of a very young Norman and a hairy Stirly Moss from the Mille Miglia.
Posted Image


I was thinking more how young Moss looked..... indeed was at this event. Off the top of my head Moss would have been 22 or 23 and Dewis 9 or so years his senior....;)