Ron Learnan was a chemical engineer from New Zealand. On graduation he moved to Britain. In 1953 he acquired a Cooper Mk IV, beginning racing at the tail end of the year. Plans for a full season in 1954 were curtailed when he destroyed the car in the Spring. Learnan rebuilt the car as the RGR Special, helped by George Henrotte and Roy Jaques, finally making its debut at the August Bank Holiday meeting at Brands Hatch. With a JAP engine, results were limited, with a best of 4th in a JAP race, Brands Hatch 29th May 1955.

The Cooper is transformed in the garden. Photo Courtesy Ron Learnan

The RGR-JAP at Snetterton in August 1955 meets up with the new crash barriers.

Learnan's UK racing career ended in 1955. But by 1958 he was back in New Zealand with the RGR. Now apparently Norton-powered, he attempted to qualify for the New Zealand Grand Prix at Ardmore.

The RGR was acquired in 1976 by the doyen of New Zealand 500s, the late Max Fisher. It had by that time been severely butchered to accommodate a 1.5 litre engine and it took Max some time to restore it to some sort of ‘500’ specification. After fitting a Triumph engine he had ‘a lot of fun with it’.
Although not a highly successful machine the RGR was unique and although it ‘chopped’ and changed over the years it remains a tribute to the efforts of a resourceful band of enthusiasts who had limited means and facilities but lots of ingenuity. It epitomised the 500 regulations which were specifically intended to encourage home built specials.

Ron refits the detachable body. Photo courtesy Ron Learnan

Our thanks to Rob Young, Stuart Buchanan, Max Fisher and Richard Page