At the end of Jalan Selimang stand the old remnant of a gate made up of brick walls, wooden doors and a tiled roof. It was said that the gate was the former entrance to a grand seaside bungalow owned by Chua Boon Peng (1918-2005), the chairman of Cycle & Carriage from 1957 to 1985.
There is nothing left of the bungalow today, while the gate has been forgotten and hidden in the thick vegetation located between the Sembawang coastline and Masjid Petempatan Melayu Sembawang.
Chua Boon Peng was a legendary figure in the local business realm. He clinched the Mercedes-Benz sole distributorship in Malaya, awarded by Germany’s Daimler-Benz, back in 1951, when Cycle & Carriage was still a small family business owned by the Chua family.
Cycle & Carriage started as Federal Stores, a sundries shop, in the late 19th century, and was renamed in 1899 as it ventured into the business of selling bicycles, motorbikes and cars. In the first half of the 20th century, Cycle & Carriage survived both the Great Depression and Second World War, and went on to expand and open branches at Orchard Road as well as Malaya’s Penang and Ipoh. But its biggest break was its successful deal of the Mercedes-Benz franchise that propelled the company to greater heights.
Chua Boon Peng became a extremely successful and well-respected businessman, and owned many properties at Oei Tiong Ham Park, Sembawang and Hillview (the incompleted Hillview Mansion was also owned by him). The seventies and early eighties represented another new golden period for Cycle & Carriage, as the company grew rapidly after its listings on the Stock Exchange of Malaysia and Singapore (1969) and Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange (1977).
In 1983, the company snapped up a large parcel of land at the Bukit Timah area, worth $29 million, to build a modern office-showroom-workshop complex.
However, the 1985 recession hit the demands, turning the company’s years of profits into heavy losses. To make things worse, the collapse of plastic manufacturing giant Lamipak Industries and Panther Pte Ltd in 1985 chalked up debts of $140 million.
The major shareholders of Panther Pte Ltd were Lamipak Industries and Chua Boon Peng. As the chairman and guarantor of the many loans to Panther Pte Ltd, Chua Boon Peng faced two suits totalled $19 million, forcing him to liquidate many of his properties, including his Oei Tiong Ham Park house that was auctioned and sold for $1.5 million.
Facing bankruptcy, Chua Boon Peng stepped down as the Cycle & Carriage chairman in 1985 – the move that ultimately weakened the Chua family’s control of the company.
As for the exclusive seaside villas of Sembawang, there were four to five such houses at the end of Jalan Selimang area built possibly in the sixties, including Chua Boon Peng’s bungalow.
In the early eighties, there were newspaper advertisements portraying them as seafront bungalows with three large bedrooms, American designed kitchen with modern appliances and a patio overlooking a matured landscaped garden. Occupying a floor area of around 1,115 square metres (12,000 square feet), their selling prices ranged between $800,000 and $1.1 million.
However, by the late eighties or the early nineties, the site was acquired by the government and all the houses were subsequently demolished, except for the forgotten gate that stands till this day.
Published: 23 June 2020