Gilman Motors [????-c.1974]

Submitted by barco508 on Sun, 10/04/2009 - 00:36

My dad worked in Gilman Motors around 1951-1959 but he got no photos about it at all. Gilman is a big company but I find nothing about this company in the Internet!

With the help from other forum, I can only find one photo showing half the building. Could help can help me. Thanks.

The Gilman Motors was located in Wan Chai the corner of Glouester and tonnochy road.

Date organisation closed
(Day, Month, & Year are approximate.)

Photos of this organisation:


Submitted by
Alastair (not verified)
Sun, 10/04/2009 - 12:27

I remember Gilman & Co. was a pretty big trading firm in the 1960s.  It was acquired by Inchcape in 1969.  However, I think the Gilman name continued to be used after the acquisition.  I see that in 1974, the taipan of Gilman (Peter Foxon) was chairman of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce.

Aside from motor car distribution, does anyone remember what other business Gilman & Co. was involved it?  Was it also a property developer?  And why was it acquired?

Thanks for writing, and for including the photo. Here's what I found:

  • Dan Waters gives us an introduction to the early days of Gilman in this document.
  • As Alastair notes, you can find senior Gilman staff in the role of Chairman or Vice-chairman at the HK General Chamber of Commerce between 1890 and 1975.
  • These Harrison Forman photos show a Gilman Motors garage at the eastern junction of Hennessy & Johnston Roads, but again we never see more than half the building in any one photo! I wonder if your dad knows when it moved from here to Gloucester Road?
  • Inchcape aquired them in 1969:
    "Through Peter Heath, originally a director of the Borneo Company, Inchcape acquired Gilman & Company, one of the great trading groups of Hong Kong. Gilman & Company was seeking an acquirer but did not wish to be taken over by an existing Hong Kong business."

What else can we add?

Regards, David

Thanks David and moddsey for the information on Gilman.

I don't think Gilman's shares were publicly traded on the stock exchange when they were acquired.  Today, I believe the Gilman & Co. and Borneo Company are owned by Li & Fung.…

Inchcape divested itself of its other business and it is now exclusively a vehicle distributor.  It looks like Gilman distributes mostly appliances today.  They were once a big distributor of watches and the sole agent for Citizen watches from 1962-1985.  It does not seem like Gilman did much property development.

Thanks for the extra photo above. Please can I ask why you think that's a Wallace Harper garage? A search on the internet shows they were (and in fact still are) a distributor of Ford cars in Hong Kong, so it seems they'd be competitors to Gilman. Also if you zoom in to the photo above, you can see 'Gilman Motors' is written on the building, not just on the sign above it.

I ran a search for 'gilman' between 1930 and 1960 in the HKPL newspapers collection, and there were a couple of mentions of a 'Gilman's Pumping Station' in 1938, and a Gilman's 'gasoline filling station in Wanchai' in 1940. I wonder if that's what we can see in the photo above?

Maybe Wallace Harper owned the larger building in the background, marked 'Shell' ?

A few other mentions of Gilman's in the papers:

  • 1932: "Gilman's for Hillmans" at the Duro Garage, Nathan Road, Kowloon
  • 1938: "Gilman's used car show, which opened at their Used Car Department Cameron Road, Kowloon, yesterday..."
  • 1941: "Gilman & Co. have reported to the police the loss of two brass name-plates, valued at $25, from the pillars outside No. 4A Des Voeux Rd Central" - I guess this was their head office
  • 1947: "Gilman's Motor Show commences today. 132, Nathan Road"

There's also this 1941 full page advert, listing all the different products they represent (you can click it and zoom in to see the detail):

1941 Gilman & Co's products

One final quote from a 1934 newspaper, on the opening of Gilman's wine & spirits department with a sherry party:

"Sherry parties" are now extremely popular in England, due to its anti-fattening qualities. The increase in sherry drinking has been almost spectacular in recent years.

So there you have it - swap the pint of Carlsberg for a pint of sherry, and stay slim!

Hi there,

Sherry is a fortified wine with 15% of alcohol or slightly more.  If you drink a pint of Sherry like you gulp down a pint of beer, I'm pretty sure you will be stoned within minutes.  :-P 

Just remember, good wines are for sipping, whether they are fortified or not.

Best Regards,


As far as I know, "Harper" is actually refered to the building behind.

The triangle section is the Caltex gas station with the Gilman billboard on top. The Gilman billboard are still there even after Gilman Motors (Glouester and tonnochy road) was demolished.

Harper (Year 1968)


You may find the description of "Harper" gas station photo below:

這是 灣仔  莊士頓道 與 軒尼斯道 交界。

老街坊都稱此處為「三角油站」或「夏巴」。「三角油站」顧名思義是指油站位置處於三角地段。叫「夏巴」是因為此處曾是代理福特汽車的 Wallace Harper & Co Ltd ( 夏巴 ) 的位置。

 ■ 舊照片中,我們可見 Caltex、Shell 兩大油站,Shell 的位置就是之後「夏巴」的位置。 而油站上面掛著大大個的英資洋行 Gilman 的招牌,  其業務乃代理英國汽車﹐Gilman Motors 招牌之上可看到標著其代理的 Hillman、Humber 及 Sunbeam  品牌。

Thanks for the extra info. Looking at the two later photos, I see that the Gilman signs are free-standing on the roof (wonder how well they survived typhoons!). They cheekily cover a large part of the wall behind, forcing the Ford & Shell signs up & out to the edges.

Also the 1950's photo shows there was a shell filling station behind Gilman's even before the higher building was built at that spot.

A couple more snippets on Harper. From the Ford Hong Kong website:

As a member of the Sime Darby Group, Ford Hong Kong (Wallace Harper & Co Ltd) was established in Hong Kong 1922, probably the earliest Ford dealership for the region.

And the problems they faced in the 1960s.

Regards, David

PS T, don't worry - just kidding about the pints of sherry. I much prefer a pint of creme de menthe..... (it's a noisy Billy Connolly video - turn your PC's volume down before clicking!)

In l955 my father joined Gilman & Co. Ltd.  In later years he became a Director of several departments, including Gilman Motors.  

Gilman Motors had what was known as The Roots Group Cars, which included Hilmans, Sunbeams, Humber etc.  The old building was a classic and there was an apartment above which was occupied by one of the Gilmans bachelors.

My father negotiated the sale of The Peninsula Hotel's first fleet of British Racing Green Rolls Royces when he was Director of Gilman Motors.  My father was a car maniac so we were often at the garage/show room looking at new cars on a Sunday. 

I remember Gilmans sold to Incape was caused by the 67's riot. Wallace Harper were in a different story.

I rememebr Gilmans Motors was the biggest British motors importer here after the WW2, also the biggest motors supplier to the Hong Kong Government.

At the time, they were 3 biggest motors importers in Hong Kong, Sino-british Motors, Wallace Harper, and Gilmans Motors. All represent British interest in Hong Kong.

My father owned a Hilmans in the early 60's

Submitted by
Anonymous (not verified)
Tue, 04/13/2010 - 19:27

In reply to by Alastair (not verified)

Gilman & Company Limited was a one of old established companies in Hong Kong.  Never on the level of Jardines or Dodwells but still one of the Hongs.  They were involved in Import/Export, Shipping, Motors, Insurance, Moutries Stereo and Records.  It was called Taiping Yeung Hong in Cantonese. 


When I was a child I used to be able to go to one of their godowns in the basement of Gloucester Building where I would find an enormous stash of chocolates and biscuits from Britain which had been imported and could choose Rowntrees and Cadburys to my heart's content.  On Sundays we could go to the offices of Gilman's Export Department and choose from the myriad of plastic toys that had been made in Hong Kong to be exported all over the world.

Submitted by
Anonymous (not verified)
Tue, 04/13/2010 - 19:36

In reply to by Alastair (not verified)

There is, funnily enough, a shop in the Ocean Terminal shopping Centre on Kowloon side called Gilmans and they sell Philco Refrigerators and Appliances.  My mother used to sell these in The Gilman's showroom in Gloucester Arcade in the late 50s and 60s.  She had a black phone on her desk that she could turn a wheel on and get right through to my father who was, at that time, the manager of the Airconditioning and Refrigeration Department.  This department, apart from selling appliances to homes did a lot of refrigeration work for large concerns, including The Asian Company.


You are right, they had the agency for supplying Gerrard Perrigeux and Citizen watches.  They also had the agency for Alitalia in the 60s. 

While in Hong Kong last month I bought a photograph showing part of Gilman Motors with a policeman in the foreground directing traffic from his pagoda.


The Image is by Hong Kong Honour Publishing Co. Ltd.

Tel: 852 25401331

Published by Foxsteel Development Ltd.

852 2544883

The Photo ID is HP-101 dated 1964


Gilman motocycle

One of my family member worked in Gilman and I found this photo in my family photo album, which shown a guy driving a motorcycle with Gilman and Philco logo.  And on the right hand side you can see half Gilman logo as well.  

I joined insurance department of Gilman & Co in 1982 and it was located at the Elizabeth House, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. Together with Dodwell, Caldbeck, Gibb Livingstons, Bain Dawes, Crown Motors and Inchcape Enterprises (it was a listed company in Hong Kong), they were subsidiaries of Inchcape Hong Kong. After a while, I was transferred to work in Inchcape Enterprises which was motor vehicle distribtuor of all brands of Inchcape other than Toyota. I was told by a few older colleagues that several british brands vehicles have diminished due to market conditions.  Samson suen (now non executive director of Oriental Watches) who has worked in Gilman for many many years can provide more information.


my old man was the Service manager of Gilmans for some 15 years from 1951 or so. He was also the winner of the 1960 Macau GP in a Jaguar XKSS that was used for publicity shots by Gilmans.

I think we still have a couple that I will try to look out. My faded memory of Gilmans as a 5 to 9 year old was of being next to Kai Tak airport on which my Dad did a lot of testing as one of his friends was senior in BOAC or something. I'm glad someone mentioned Gerrard Perrigeux watches as I still have a chronegraph given to me by my Dad.

Hello everyone!  My dad was an apprentice working on the floor of the factory building all types of cars.  Gilman's had three buildings.  Dad worked in the factory by the harbour and next to Kai Dak airport.  Does anyone have any pictures of this particular building?  Dad started work there in 1959.  Poor dad wasn't very well paid, so after work, he would wait for everyone to go home and then sleep in the cars at night!  The nightwatch security people eventually knew of this and took pity on dad and turned a blind eye!  They told dad to keep quiet and not to cause trouble.  Dad was extremely grateful and eventually, a small number of other workers joined dad after work.  Dad always speaks fondly of those times and what a good time he had with these companians.  It was like a party!

Submitted by on
Thu, 09/09/2010 - 10:00

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

That's a great story, thanks!

I don't remember seeing that factory, but it might be in one of the photos of Kai Tak we already have - click here to see them.

Let us know if you find anything - or if you don't, if you can let us know the address that might help us find something in future.

Could you please check with your father if Gilman Motors was ever the distributor of Rolls Royce in HK? I am working for Gilman at the moment and helping trace back the history of the company. This year, 2011, marks the company 170th anniversary. It will be greatly appreciated.

This is a screen capture from a 1967 film starring Jack Palance called "Kill a Dragon".

Gilman Motors

It shows the Gilman building as viewed  (I believe) from Tonnochy Road. But if that is so then it looks as though Jaffe Road was not a throughfare here at the time...?

I remember Gilman very well as it had a showroom in the old Gloucester Arcade. My aunt had a friend in Gilman and she drove a Hilman and gave me my first decent watch - a GP. 

Gilman Motors was a gas station dealer for Caltex.  The Caltex station at the corner of Johnston Road and Hennessy Road is still around although it is now located on the ground floor of building built on the same site.  Wallace Harper occupied the site adjacent to the Caltex station.  Wallace Harper had a close relationship with Shell.  Shell eventually sold the site in the 2000's and a new commercial building was built.  A decision Shell may well regret as it lost its flagship station at Asian House and the one in front of the Excelsior Hotel.  One may have to go quite some way to find a Shell station on HK Island today.

Gilaman and Co is still around today selling appliances, being the agent for Philco, Whirlpool........



My mother, Melba (da Cruz) Wake also worked for Gilman Motors in Hong Kong as a Personal Secretary as did a friend of the family, Olga Rodrigues.    Unfortunatley, I am not sure of the dates.

I joined Gilmen Apple Division in mid 80, the office was in Tai Yau Plaza, You are right, for some reasons there are not too many trackable histories of Gilman and Jardine compare to other sizable companies, they two have one thing in common, both british owned. Before 80, Gilman did not focus too much on direct retail but B2B (distribution) thus their explosure was relatively lower than other retail companies. Most people didn't even know their head office location.

Gilman also acted as shipping agent for a couple of liner servics.  I was working for Jebsen & Co ´s Shipping Department and we held close contact with each other on shipping matters. Mr. Hubble was the manager for that department end fiftieth.

To add to the confusion: the Interim Defence Plan of 1939 places PB 56 "Under verandah of garage, junction of Toonochy and Gloucester Roads". PB 57 is "Triangle of ground, front of Gilman's garage". The map reference for this PB approximates the eastern intersection of Johnston Rd and Hennessy Rd.

My sister Susan Ware has already posted about our mother Melba (da Cruz) Wake who worked at Gilmans as a secretary- it would have been early 1960's I think- I remember looking over the new Ford Cortina  with my dad...! 

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I’m on mission to record my old e type Jaguar's full history.


It was delivered brand new to Hong Kong in  Februar 1967 and sold by Gilman & Co - Gilman Motors.

I can send you phots if you like.


It's colour is Pale Primrose.


It was landed here in NZ in 86 and registered in Napier on the 22.1.86 with 23,498mile on her.


I wonder if your dad might remember the car at all?



Jaguar sold through Gilmans a new XKSS (roadgoing D Type) XKSS757 to K.Y. Cheang.  Ron Hardwick won the 1959 Macau GP in it and Martin Redfern won the 1960 Macau GP in it. Do you have any pictures of your 'old man' with the car?

Here is a history of Gilman's, copied from HONG KONG HONGS WITH LONG HISTORIES
Richard James Gilman, a tea-taster, who worked for the old
established company of Dent's in Canton, set up a partnership, known
as Gilman and Bowman, in a Canton factory in 1840. By 1863
the firm was also represented at Kiukiang, Hankow and Tientsin,
employing 21 staff. In many ways the firm was similar to Dodwell's,
but on a smaller scale, and it was substantially involved in shipments
of tea from Shanghai and Foochow in the 1870s.
Gilman's was also active in the import-export trade and shipping,
and in 1862 it was appointed agents for Lloyd's at Canton, Hankow,
Foochow, Hong Kong and Macau. In these ports its reputation in
shipping circles was high, especially after the famous tea race of 1866.
'Taeping (sic) Yeung Hong' ("iCH¥; fr) (Great Peace Foreign Firm)
chartered the 'Taiping' (named after Gilmans) which beat 'Ariel', the
rival ship, by 20 minutes over a 99-day voyage from Foochow to London.
Gilman's also played an important part in promoting the Hong
Kong and Shanghai Bank, when it was established in 1864, and it
was represented on its Board in its earlier days.
Gilman's failed, however, to heed the warning that there was a
growing preference for Indian and Ceylon teas in Britain, and, heavily
indebted to its London agent Ashton & Company, it came close to
bankruptcy. Gilmans had to abandon its Shanghai and Hankow branches
in the 1880s. But, with the huge demand for joss sticks in Southern
China, the agency for the Australian Sandalwood Company helped
it to recover. Gilmans was taken over by Duncan Paterson of Perth.
Western Australia, in 1917, and converted into a private limited
company incorporated in Hong Kong. It suffered, however, during
the depression in the 1930s, although the backing of the Hong Kong
and Shanghai Bank helped it to expand and prosper especially up to
the Japanese invasion in 1941.

My father joined Gilman & Co. Ltd. in 1955, after replying to an advertisement in the UK.  He started as Assistant Manager in the Refrigeration and Airconditioning Department, moved to Manager and then became a Director of the Company.  Gilmans had many fingers in the pie.  They were located in Alexandra House and then moved to Princess Building.  There were many departments, all important in the growth of Hong Kong.  These included Import and Export (export  of goods such as toys and plastics and import which was  very important to we children as it included our Rowntrees Chocolates and such from the UK!), Shipping, Insurance, Gilman Motors (Roots Group Rolls Royce) and yes there was a lovely bachelor pad above the Gilman Motors main office in Wanchai), and of course Refrigeration and Airconditioning.  Their music fantastic stereo sound department was operated under the name of Moutries and it was there I got the first Beatles Album.  Gilmans was taken over by the Inchape group in the late 60s.  End of an era.      

My mother was the manageress of the Gloucester Arcade Showroom.  They sold airconditioners and refrigerators, mainly Philco.  The company were the agent in Hong Kong for Girard Perregeaux.