Carriage Factories Ltd. - 1880s-1920s - Orillia, Ontario, Canada


James Brockett Tudhope (1858-1936)

James B. Tudhope will long be remembered for his philanthropy, his civic mindedness, his sense of fair play and his business acumen. At the time of his death in 1936, it was said that because of him, Orillia had become the chief industrial centre north of Toronto.

Born of Scottish pioneers in Oro in the early 1880's, he joined his father, William, in Orillia, in the carriage business that developed into a large industry, and finally entered into a merger known as Carriage Factories Ltd., of which he was president. They turned out 60,000 cutters.

The advent of the car altered the business. He joined with his brothers and together they became pioneers in motor manufacturing, turning out a motor buggy; next came a complete car, including its engine.

At the time of the disastrous fire in 1909 at the factory, though other municipalities held out inducements, J.B. stalwartly refused to abandon Orillia. During World War I, their attention turned to munitions.

At various times, Tudhope had been actively identified with Canada Wood Specialty, Canada Electric Castings, Tudhope Anderson Co., The Orillia Furniture Company, and as a director of the Traders Bank and McIntyre Mine.


Sam McLaughlin asked apparently for two days to think things over, and G.M.’s lawyer, J.T. Smith, that assembly of Chevrolets would not prejudice the Buick contract. The Governor was not strictly speaking required to assent to the closure and sale of the carriage business, but Sam and George did so nevertheless: the answer was in the affirmative. With J.B. Tudhope agreeing to buy out the carriage and sleigh business [see below], Robert McLaughlin wrote November 4 to his agents notifying them of the switch to internal combustion vehicles. This would seem to tie-in with the November 1 press announcement. Historical Sketches of Oshawa, by T.E. Kaiser, published in Oshawa in 1921 states that the decision to sell the McLaughlin carriage business to Carriage Factories Limited of Brockville, resulted in a portion of the plant being made available for Chevrolet assembly. Allegedly after the decision was taken in October 1915, on November 30, less than six weeks after the decision, the last car load of carriage materials left Oshawa for Brockville. It then took six weeks to equip the plant, and before Christmas of 1916, over 6,000 Chevrolets had been completed and shipped.


What we can say is that in 1915, the McLaughlin’s Carriage business [McLAUGHLIN CARRIAGE COMPANY LIMITED] was sold to a carriage company in Orillia, Ontario: J.B. Tudhope had a company called J.B. TUDHOPE LIMITED, although it has been repeatedly alleged that the sale was to Tudhope’s CARRIAGE FACTORIES LIMITED. Robertson states however that it was neither of these and the actual buyer was Tudhope’s CANADA CARRIAGE COMPANY [Limited?] of Brockville, Ontario: William Still had created in the spring of 1898 a 5 h.p. vehicle with an air-cooled motor added to a standard Canada Carriage Company product: Driving Force. What is overlooked is that as mentioned below, Carriage Factories Limited was incorporated after the McLaughlin carriage business had been taken over, so this could be the reason for the confusion. James B. "Jim" Tudhope had apparently made several efforts to buy the carriage business, and all it took was one telephone call to him from the McLaughlins to secure the deal. The buyer was allowed to use the "McLaughlin" name for a year: the consideration was 49,000 shares of Common Stock and only $550,000 in Cash. However the Tudhope company soon went into the automotive business themselves: the day after the sale was agreed over the telephone, material started moving out and a crash programme finished up 3,000 sleighs: within a month all the carriage material and equipment had gone as well. J.B. Tudhope quickly formed yet another new company, the aforementioned CARRIAGE FACTORIES LIMITED, ostensibly to manufacture the carriages which were previously built by McLaughlins. However, it soon became clear that the market was for bodies for cars, trucks and other commercials, so Carriage Factories Limited built truck bodies for heavyweight trucks, Babcock truck bodies for light delivery chassis, and "Orillia" sedan bodies for Essex cars [built in Tilbury, Ontario] and Overlands, [built by Willys-Overland Limited in Toronto, Ontario]. There were also the "Rex" All-Seasons Top for open cars built by competitors, including Chevrolets and McLaughlin-Buicks which were removed after the winter. Were these also the first saloon bodied Chevrolet 490s?


A contract with an American manufacturer was no guarantee of success in Canada, either - a few names that no longer exist are the Briscoe, made by Canada Carriage; the Everett, made by our good friends and competitors the Tudhopes of Orillia, and the Gray-Dort, made by the Gray Carriage Company of Chatham. In the carriage business Gray was actually bigger that we were at first, but we soon passed it.


The Brockville Atlas was a medium-priced car that did quite well before the First World War, bringing a measure of fame and prosperity to the southeastern town for which it was named.

The car had its origins in the Canada Carriage Company which had been brought to Brockville by Thomas J.Storey from Gananoque where it started before the turn of the century. Late in 1909 Canada Carriage was taken over by the newly formed Carriage Factories Limited, centering production in the Orillia Ontario factory of Tudhope Carriage Company. Canada Carriage, like other minor partners in the combine, became mainly a distribution branch. Thus, although he was a director and vice-president of Carriage Factories, Tom Storey had a little-used factory on his hands. He decided to use the facilities to build automobiles.

The first car he turned out was the "Brockville 30", put on the market for the 1911 season. Despite its name the car was in reality an Everitt, and all the parts for it were bought from J.B.Tudhope's Orillia automobile factory. About 80 were assembled. But Tom Story had bigger ideas. He set his son Fred and an engineer from the carriage works named George Price to work designing a car of their own. By 1912 the new car, called the Brockville Atlas Model A, was in production. The Atlas part of the name came from the four cylinder Atlas engine imported from Indianapolis Indiana. Most of the other mechanical parts were imported too, but the body, fenders, and trim were built in the carriage factory and taken across the Grand Trunk railway tracks to the new assembly plant on Hamilton Street. The car, sometimes called just the Atlas, was built in touring, roadster, and landaulet styles. It was widely advertised in Ontario and Quebec and exhibited at the Toronto and Montreal Auto Shows.

Encouraged by their success, Storey Jr. and Price went on to design a light car which they called the "Junior" and which they felt could sweep the market if put into mass production. It was designed to be built for $540.00 with a $125.00 profit added on, but Storey senior reportedly wanted a higher markup and the car never got beyond the drawing board. The idea of lower prices, however, was kept and the 1913 Model E was only three-quarters the price of its predecessor though very similar in design. At $1475.00, it was good value and still offered such up-to-date features as a single-unit power plant and nickel trim instead of the easily tarnished brass. An unusual extra for the day was a tool box built into the dash. In 1914 the E was continued and other 30 and 40 h.p. open models were again available, from a two-passenger runabout to a seven passenger touring. One feature useful for novice drivers was a little device that made it impossible to shift into reverse gear while the car was going forward. And another design highlight was the internal brake system, the lining protected from mud and water. The system didn't come into general use by the industry until the late 1920's. 1914 also saw the introdustion of the Disco self-starter available at extra cost on all models, along with electric lights. The cars were guaranteed for a full year but only for replacement of defective parts-postage extra. But while the company claimed it was doubling its output for 1914, things started to go wrong. The Atlas engine which had been very successful was no longer available. The man in charge of crafting the sturdy wooden bodies died suddenly, and when an attempt was made to build steel bodies there was trouble trying to get the rattles out of them. A six-cylinder model was introduced to try to spur lagging sales but both the body and its Rutenber engine were unsatisfactory. The company had turned out a creditable 300 of the Brockville Atlas models, marketing them from coast to coast; but by the end of the year its problems seemed insurmountale-aggravated by a parts supply shortage as a result of the First World War. The Labour Gazette for November reported that the Brockville plant was "doing very little and employees were expecting a possible shut-down. Despite the demise of the Brockville Atlas, the town stayed in the automobile business for several years. Benjamin Briscoe, an American who had started building a light car under his own name in the United States and wanted to expand into Canada, moved in. He made a deal with Storey, and in a short time the former Atlas plant was humming again, this time turning out Briscoes



For more information please read:

R.S. McLaughlin - My Eighty Years On Wheels

Heather Robertson - Driving Force: The McLaughlin Family and the Age of the Car 

Beverly Rae Kimes - The Classic Car

Beverly Rae Kimes - The Classic Era

Beverly Rae Kimes - Packard: A History of the Motorcar and Company

Beverly Rae Kimes & Henry Austin Clark Jr. - Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805-1942

Richard Burns Carson - The Olympian Cars

Raymond A. Katzell - The Splendid Stutz

Marc Ralston - Pierce Arrow

Brooks T. Brierley - There Is No Mistaking a Pierce Arrow

Brooks T. Brierley - Auburn, Reo, Franklin and Pierce-Arrow Versus Cadillac, Chrysler, Lincoln and Packard

Brooks T. Brierley - Magic Motors 1930

Nick Georgano - The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile: Coachbuilding

John Gunnell - Standard Catalog of American Cars, 1946-1975

James M. Flammang & Ron Kowalke - Standard Catalog of American Cars, 1976-1999

Daniel D. Hutchins - Wheels Across America: Carriage Art & Craftsmanship

Marian Suman-Hreblay - Dictionary of World Coachbuilders and Car Stylists

Michael Lamm and Dave Holls - A Century of Automotive Style: 100 Years of American Car Design

Thomas E. Bonsall - The Lincoln Motorcar: Sixty Years of Excellence

Fred Roe - Duesenberg: The Pursuit of Perfection

Arthur W. Soutter - The American Rolls-Royce

John Webb De Campi - Rolls-Royce in America

Hugo Pfau - The Custom Body Era

Hugo Pfau - The Coachbult Packard

Griffith Borgeson - Cord: His Empire His Motor Cars

Don Butler - Auburn Cord Duesenberg

George H. Dammann - 90 Years of Ford

George H. Dammann & James K. Wagner - The Cars of Lincoln-Mercury

Thomas A. MacPherson - The Dodge Story

F. Donald Butler - Plymouth-Desoto Story

Fred Crismon - International Trucks

George H. Dammann - Seventy Years of Chrysler

Walter M.P. McCall - 80 Years of Cadillac LaSalle

Maurice D. Hendry - Cadillac, Standard of the World: The complete seventy-year history

George H. Dammann & James A. Wren - Packard

Dennis Casteele - The Cars of Oldsmobile

Terry B. Dunham & Lawrence R. Gustin - Buick: A Complete History

George H. Dammann - Seventy Years of Buick

George H. Dammann - 75 Years of Chevrolet

John Gunnell - Seventy-Five Years of Pontiac-Oakland


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