Ipohworld's World

Saving Yesterday For Tomorrow

…when you could buy a Chevy in Ipoh 😉

As some of you may have guessed, the building on the far left – with the large ‘Chevrolet’ sign – is none other than Borneo Motors. Next to Borneo Motors is Ipoh Motors (formerly Cycle and Carriage Co, Ltd.) and across the road is the Brewster Road Fire Station.

Note that: Yik Foong Complex is NOT in the pictur; which means this was definately taken before the 1960s. Also observe that Brewster Road was still a two-way street (and almost FREE from traffic jams!). Could it have been the 1940s? Or earlier? You tell us 🙂

We thank Dr Ho Tak Ming for this picture.

  1. KKFoong says:

    Thank you Dr Ho and Ian for posting this. I like this very much. Ipoh town was so lovely. Nice to see that the fire station was a single storey building. I think I can also make out Boustead Building further down.

    • Lawrence Lee says:

      I used to walk past the fire station to n back from SMI during my primary n secondary school days (1967-1978) Those were the carefree days. My dad’s a Dentist. I lived upstairs the shop with my 6 siblings at 145 Brewster Rd. (5 sisters n 1 elder brother) My dad’s clinic was Kow Sing dental if that rings a bell to any of you who used to live nearby Brewster n Anderson Rd during that era. I only been given 20 cent allowance each day for school. During that time, it can buy a bowl of noodle soup with couple of fishball or fupei or a plate of economic fried beehoon (chow mai fun) for 15 cent n the remaining 5 cent for a cup of ice surup or leong fun drink in the canteen. That was enough to fill up my tummy n to put a happy smile on my face. But me n siblings have had been through a lot of difficult n tough times together in our childhood days particularly myself. Nostalgia creeps in each time i come across any old photos of the past. But of course there were happy times too. The most happy time that i’ve had back in those days were CNY where we’ll were allowed to have FnN Sarsi n Orange (They called it hollan sui ) back in the day. My dad will buy about 1 dozen each of Sarsi n orange. Let alone the angpow we get. They were the best time in my childhood life. And we all also got new clothings to wear on the 1st day of CNY (lin chor yat) as to bring good fortune to the family. But i remember there were few times that i got left out. I was forced to wear my old clothings even though i hardly had any to choose from in my shelves. Unfortunately, i was the ‘black sheep’ of the family the undesirable one. When i was young, i’ve always been very obedient to my family n did my house duties accordingly e.g. mobbing n cleaning out the whole house, do the dishes everyday after meal etc. Anyway, thank God blessing that i’m still kickin’ in one good piece today. Well, i supposed i’ve learnt life in the hard way. Cheers ! God bless all !

      • Ipoh Remembered says:

        Dear Lawrence

        Thanks so much for sharing your recollections of childhood! Twenty cents certainly went a long way in the “tuck-shop” in those days!

        I’m sorry to say I don’t recognize the name of your dad’s clinic. Of course, I do remember those Fraser & Neave drinks you mention. They were so full of sugar they must have kept every dentist in business!

        It’s very nice to hear from you. Please do write again whenever you can!

  2. AHLAI says:

    I would wonder what life would have been like during those days. People’s life would have been simpler, slower and there was no worry of snatch thief.

  3. Brewster63 says:

    IKA, you are right. It must be before WW2. Take a closer look at the rickshaws,these are the Pulling type, not the tricycle type that was prevalent in the 1950s .but the telephone poles tell a different story. Can someone who is familiar with Telecoms dept help?

  4. Charlie says:

    Cinemas not only make good landmarks, but in Ipoh, they are also good timekeepers. For example, in the picture above, another clue to when it was taken would be when the Odeon Cinema was built. It should be in full view, at the end of Brewster Road. Odeon was built in the 1930’s, is it in this picture?

  5. AP@IpohBornKid says:

    A popular Chevy model produced in 1927 would take 2 years to come from American or UK. The great depression started in 1930, hence this photo was taken between 1929 and 1930,

  6. Ruth Iversen Rollitt says:

    This is definitely taken before the war, even before I was born! Apart from the lack of shophouses further down the road I remember Brewster Road like this! It is so lovely. The town has grown – but now out of all proportion. Save the old part and delight in it and build your skyscrapers in the suburbs!

    • Ngai C O says:


      We all wish that were the case.

      There is a housing developer and construction company where ever we turn our eyes.

      It appears very much that the economy is driven by construction and housing.

      Where is the finance coming from? I have a feeling from debt.

      How many average person can afford a $600,ooo to $700,000 ringgit house, which developers are targeting and dangling?

      I think properties are way overpriced through speculation and profiteering.

      I have yet to come across an old residential property bought over and done up to retain its original character without adultering the features.

      In fact materials used many years ago do still have plenty of life left and are of better quality. The old houses that are still around are testament to their lasting quality.

    • NCK says:

      Hi Ngai CO, a new double-storey terrace house in Ipoh only costs you a little over RM300,000. This is RM100,000 more than what was 10 years ago. You can get cheaper for a resale house. The 2008 US subprime meltdown has demonstrated that property boom has nothing to do with economy, but more with buyers’ frenzy. For Ipoh, I think property prices have lingered at a low ebb for too long and now is the time for normalcy. As to the new skyscrapers, I’m afraid Ipoh skyline is going to be congested with low-capital buildings of 10-30 storeys because of the height constraints imposed by the civil aviation department.

      • Ngai C O says:

        Hi NCK,

        You are generally right as regards to the starting price range of house prices in Ipoh.

        They do vary widely from location to location for similar size properties, though.

        I suppose it is a supply and demand situation.

        As for multi story buildings, personally, I don’t see a need for it in Ipoh because it has a lot of spare land capacity.

        Developers like them because they can make more money. This condominium style living has been heavily promoted over the years. Many people fell heads over heels for them. Again, it is not my kettle of fish. It is after all a personal choice.

        The US post subprime crisis created massive ripples across the world economies. As a result, financial regulators have tightened the noose on lending including mortgages in Malaysia.

        The days of 100 to 115 % mortgages were gone overnight.

        At one time, not many questions were asked when applying for a mortgage. Not the case anymore. 3.5 to 4 times salary meant that. In addition, questions are now asked about whether a family is likely to have children etc.

        Below is link to the Subprime – who is to be blamed.


  7. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear ika

    Borneo Motors was founded in 1925 […] so the photo must post date that. Can anyone narrow down the date any further?

    Actually, Borneo Motors was in Ipoh a little before 1925. I can tell you that in 1924, for example, they offered a variety of cars for sale, including Peugeots, Maxwells, and Rollers.

    Sorry for doing the opposite of narrowing down the date!

    [By the way, the link in your comment no longer leads anywhere useful so I was not able to see the basis for your 1925 estimate.]

  8. Ngai C O says:


    I hope it works this time.


  9. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear Ngai C O

    Borneo Motors was part of a larger group of Borneo Company Limited.

    Yes, Borneo Motors was set up in Singapore as a local company wholly owned by the Borneo Company, its UK-based parent.

    The parent company had for years done mining-related and other work in Perak before they opened a branch in Ipoh, on Station Road in a building that no longer exists. When they moved out of that building in 1927 or 1928, the Mercantile Bank of India moved in. The landlord, the Estate of Shaik Adam, then tore down the building and built a new one in its place, completing it in 1931; and the bank moved back in immediately.

  10. Ipoh Remembered says:

    Dear Ngai C O … I just realized you’re referring to Shakila Yacob’s work on the car industry in Malaya. It looks as if you’re citing her piece that appeared in Jebat 38 (2) (December 2011). Notice that she says:

    By 1925, [the Borneo Company] diversified further into motor distribution and set up Borneo Motors Limited.

    This is technically true, because Borneo Motors was set up in 1924.

    • Ngai C O says:

      Hi Ipoh Remembered,

      The database at the Ipoh World was not very clear as regards to Borneo Motors inception, if my reading is correct.

      Following your comments, I searched a few sites before I came across Shakila’s citation that connected the two entities.

      Of course, if readers were interested in the growth of the automobiles in the country and who were the main end users, there is a raft of information in the article.

      I did not realise that American makes dominated the market at the time, hence the Chevrolet sign.

      • Ipoh Remembered says:

        Yes, thanks for the citation!

        The author has done a lot of work looking at foreign direct investment in Malaya. She pulls together information that is interesting and not always easy to come by. Just be aware that sometimes (in her book, for example), her numbers (literally) don’t always add up.

  11. Ngai C O says:

    Hi Ipoh Remembered,

    Thanks to her work that at least I have been able go get that extra clarity.

    She must have spent an awful lot of time researching her materials.

    Doubtless, there may be flaws or inaccuracies in such a huge volume of information. But I don’t think they were intentional if there are like some people who would go out of the way to bluff through our noses.

    I have of late read many articles, stories, and one or two books touching on many areas about Ipoh past and present.

    Whilst many are good attempts to record events and so forth, I have also found lots of bias skewed towards one or the other.

    One very noticeable absence or lack of it is challenging or constructive questioning of what is laid before the reader.

    Does this activity have to be left to the ‘so called expert’ or someone of eminance?

    I strongly believe, in the 21st century, this mindset has to change.

    • Ipoh Remembered says:

      Dear Ngai C O

      Doubtless, there may be flaws or inaccuracies in such a huge volume of information. But I don’t think they were intentional if there are like some people who would go out of the way to bluff through our noses.

      Her apparent arithmetic errors would have been caught if she’d had a better editor. And while she is clearly strong on collection of data, she is also sometimes criticized for being less strong on analysis of the data.

      Like you, however, I enjoy her work.If you haven’t read the article she co-wrote on the “dawn raid” in London that led to Guthrie being taken over by the Malaysian government, you might want to.

      Also, earlier you wrote:

      I did not realise that American makes dominated the market at the time

      For about fifteen years, 1915-1930, that was the case, mostly because American industry did not have to deal with the ravages of WWI in the way that British industry did. It wasn’t only in automobiles that one saw the difference: British hardware and engineering materials of any sort were harder to come by. Even after the war, even the FMS Railways itself had to buy American locomotives — anathema in better times.

      And with autos in particular, experienced mass-producing American firms often had another important advantage over British ones: lower prices.

      • Ngai C O says:

        Hi Ipoh Remembered,

        You certainly seem to have a better insight into her work whilst I was only searching for information from a different perspective.

        Your interest in dissection and analysis in this respect will provide a more balanced view and better understanding of the subject matter we are engaging in.

        That was one of the reasons why I said yesterday that it is important to challenge and ask difficult questions not for the sake of being awkward or critical but to arrive at an outcome that is as true a reflection.

        As for the Guthrie Raid, Khalid used to boast about his prowess. I was not impressed that he was a top CEO. He performed miserably as MB. In the public domain, his weaknesses in leadership and walking the tightrope really showed up. He was a lousy communicator who found it difficult to articulate.

        But then this is what one gets when we have people who are shy to engage and answer difficult questions. Worse still, they are not only shrouded from the very public they serve, they blatantly tell people not to question their judgement.

        However, they can criticize on the other hand. Surely it has to be a two way street when it comes to accountability.

        Now that you have alerted me to the report, I shall take a good look out of personal interest.

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