The US set up a consulate in Sandakan, British North Borneo in the early twentieth century. Lester Maynard was (I think) the first American consul to serve there (prior to him there was a Englishman who served on the Americans’ behalf).

In reading through the consular records, it is interesting to see that he got a lot of letters from business people in the US who were seeking to sell their products in Borneo.

Some of the products that people wanted to sell, however, were just not appropriate for British North Borneo.

1907 ModelG

A case in point is a letter that was sent on 8 October 1907 by the Buick Motor Company in Flint, Michigan. That letter is not preserved in the archives, but Lester Maynard’s response is, and from it we can see that the people at Buick had inquired to see if it would be possible to sell their automobiles in Borneo.

On 10 December 1907, Lester Maynard, responded to the “gentlemen” at Buick and expressed his sincere regret that “there is absolutely no field for automobiles in British North Borneo as there are practically no roads, all interior communications being carried on by river, with the exception of about a hundred miles of railroad on the western coast of the territory.”


However, even the railroad did not offer potential, for Maynard noted further that “There are no wagon roads parallel to the railway,” and therefore, there was no hope that any roads that automobiles could use would be developed anytime soon.

So I think it’s safe to say that no Buicks hit the road in Borneo in 1907, but some must have eventually. I wonder when and how that happened.