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DIXON MORRIS – 1912-2001

In the spring of 1956 a 43 year old insurance executive from London took delivery of a brand new M.G. Magnette ZA.  Nothing special in that, one might say - it was the BMW of its day, and the car to which countless professionals aspired. But Dixon Morris had set his heart on a Magnette from the moment it was announced at the 1953 Motor Show and such was his delight with the car he bought that he kept it for the rest of his life.

 

But 962 APC was not just a car to Dixon – it was the key to a whole area of his life. Dixon died in September aged 88 having been instrumental in the establishment of the Z Magnette Register in 1974. It was formed despite strong opposition from some on the MGCC Council who regarded even the MGA as something of an upstart, to say nothing of what they regarded as a badge-engineered saloon. Dixon was prominent amongst the band of true enthusiasts for the car who proved them wrong. He joined the committee of the new register as historian, becoming chairman in 1977, a position he held for 14 years. He subsequently became vice president and eventually president of the register he helped to found.

In everything he did Dixon was enthusiastically supported by Fran, his wife of nearly 60 years. His proud boast was that they had never had a major disagreement in all that time, as anyone who saw them together could well understand. No one who was there will forget the Brooklands gathering around 10 years ago when Dixon, immaculately clad in the garb of a 1950s country vicar, nobly assisted Fran, in full nun’s habit, from the passenger seat of the Magnette; it brought the house down and won them first prize. In more recent years Dixon’s devotion to Fran as she became more frail was total, and her death in 1998 was a great loss to him.

Dixon and Fran met through another of their great passions, cycling. They were competitors of note and active club members in the 30s and only this summer at the Magnette Norwich gathering Dixon recalled how they would think nothing of cycling from London to Norwich and back over a weekend.

Of course we all knew the Morris’s passions for cycling and cars, but at Fran’s funeral many were surprised to hear that they were pioneering naturists who were behind the formation of the Surrey Hills Sunshine Club after WW2. An easy target for schoolboy humour, perhaps, but another example of the way in which Dixon and Fran were amongst the world’s participators. In everything that they did they contributed and made a difference. And in the end Dixon had the last laugh. At his own funeral was read a last request – that someone present to take up the cause (and the vacant deck chair) at Surrey Hills. A call that had MGCC fraternity exchanging nervous glances!

Dixon’s determination to get on and enjoy life shone through even after the loss of Fran and a subsequent stroke, which left him temporarily unable to drive. He fought back and got behind the wheel again earlier this year, celebrating his success by buying a new Rover 200 to go alongside the Magnette. Still not satisfied, he was eying up the new MGZR at Silverstone in June and, had fate not intervened, there is little doubt he would have placed an order and become the oldest boy racer of 2002.

Dixon will be much missed but his memory lives on amongst his friends - and in the very special organisations that he helped found and nurture for the enjoyment of others.

Paul Batho

Dixon (in the middle) talks to Gerald Palmer, the designer of the Magnette. On the right Dixon's wife Fran