Established in 1932, Rowes are a family business and have grown to become one of the most successful Honda dealer groups in the country and in 2014 became the official Franchised Dealer for Suzuki Cars in Plymouth & East Cornwall. In 2015, 2016 and 2017 Rowes won the Honda UK Small Dealer Group of the Year Award a testament to their customer service and high standards.
From modest beginnings Rowes now have seven dealerships throughout Devon and Cornwall, from Hayle in the west to Plymstock in the east. They now employ over 100 staff across two counties and in a year sell over 2,000 new and used cars, look after over 23,000 customer's cars and change over 30,000 litres of engine oil! Having a dedicated Customer relationship management department based at their Plymouth dealership with the aim is to keep in regular contact with their customers to ensure they are completely satisfied with the service provided.
The Rowe Hillmaster lorries and buses were made in Cornwall from 1954 to 1962. They were custom built vehicles, produced specifically for use in the West Country. Being very adaptable, however, they soon became a fairly common sight on British Roads, whilst a number were exported to Spain, Canada and New Zealand.
Cornwall's roads are different from most of the other roads in Britain, brought about by the very nature of the County. It’s only just over 40 miles across at its widest, on the eastern 'frontier' with the rest of England. In West Cornwall, you could just about throw a stone from the North coast to the South coast. In such a confined place, the roads tend to be very narrow and also very hilly. The good thing is that the hills tend to be fairly short. The nature of these roads meant that to get the optimum performance from any vehicle it needed to have the right specification. It was with this in mind that the Rowe Hillmaster vehicles were built.
They were narrower than most commercial vehicles, they weighed less, and had the correct gearing to enable them to be at home on West Country roads. The lorries and buses were built to suit the customers' needs, in other words, they were custom-built. This was at the time when you bought what was available, it was a seller's market, but Rowe's were in the forefront of providing what the customer wanted.
The first vehicles to come out of the Dobwalls workshop featured the relatively new 4 cylinder 5.4l Meadows engine, but it was founder Maurice Rowe, together with his engineer, Wilfred Yeo who managed to modify the engine to run sideways, thus fitting under the floor. Although Meadows insisted that it could not be done, after seeing the working example in the Dobwalls workshop, they were so impressed that following further collaboration the horizontal engine went into production, with the designation 4HDC. The Rowe Hillmaster coach was the first application of a Meadows engine in a chassis design right from the outset. A source of pride to both sides.
In August 1954 the first coach was registered TAF 587, a two-tone, turquoise and cream 38 seater. This vehicle was shown and exhibited at various locations throughout the country to unreserved acclaim, not only for its performance but also its economy. Unfortunately after being withdrawn from service in June 1973, it was eventually scrapped in 1977. Many more coaches followed, along with a large array of lorries to all specifications, shipped worldwide.
Production finally stopped in the early sixties, but the tour business continued until it was sold and the garage continues to this day as a successful Honda dealership.