Oliver J. Beaudette entered the carriage and buggy business in 1891, and by the turn of the century was one of the city’s largest carriage manufacturers. Their factory was located at the intersection of Walnut and Wesson Sts. on the south side of Pontiac and was managed by S.A. Seamens.
Beaudette experienced two fires, the first – in 1901- disrupted business for a short time, but the second – in 1903 – destroyed the entire factory which at the time employed 180 hands. Damages exceeded $75, 000, but the factory was insured and a new one was built in its place and the firm returned to manufacturing sleighs, drays and carriages for Pontiac’s growing population.
In 1909, Beaudette received their first contracts from the Ford Motor Co. to produce closed bodies for the Model T. They also built bodies for the Jackson Automobile Co. in Jackson, Michigan, but most of their output after 1910 went to Ford.
Some confusion surrounds Beaudette-bodied Model Ts as Ford sometimes referred to them as “Pontiac” bodies, however every Beaudette body featured a stamped body number on the floor boards with a “B” prefix.
Initially most of the Model T’s bodies were supplied by Ford’s existing auto body suppliers C.R. Wilson (1903) and Everitt Brothers (1908). O.J. Beaudette (1910), Kelsey-Herbert Co. (1910), American Body Co. (1911), Hayes Mfg. Co.(1911) Milburn Wagon Co. (1911) and Fisher Body Co.(1912), and the Kahler Co. (1915). Wm. Gray & Sons supplied Henry Ford’s Windsor assembly plant with automobile bodies from 1906-1912. Regardless of their origin, all of the Model T’s bodies were interchangeable, however the individual parts in a body would not necessarily fit a similar-looking body if it was made by a different manufacturer. Ford even built their own body plant in the mid-teens to help keep up with demand.
Most of Ford‘s body suppliers did not supply the Model T’s fenders, with the exception of the Hayes Mfg. Co., who had supplied the Ford Motor Co. with fenders from day one. As Ford’s needs increased, additional Hayes-owned plants supplied additional fenders as required. The J.W. Murray Mfg. Co. of Detroit and Ecorse, Michigan also supplied Ford with Model T fenders and other stamped-metal products such as hoods and frames. O.J. Beaudette and the American Top Co. of Jackson, Michigan supplied Ford with most of the Model T’s convertible tops.
O.J. Beaudette supplied Ford with well over 2, 000, 000 bodies from 1910-1922 when the firm was purchased by Fisher Body Co.
Today, Pontiac’s Rotary Park (aka Beaudette Park) stands on the original site of the O.J. Beaudette Co. factory at Walnut and Wesson Sts.
In the early twenties, the Fisher Body Co. was looking to purchase additional plants located near existing General Motors plants, and found the huge 1, 393, 004 sq ft. Beaudette factory on their short list. So on July 20th, 1922 Fisher purchased the O.J. Beaudette Co., and commenced the manufacture of bodies for Chevrolet and Oakland automobiles. By the end of the year a new plant on the North side of the city was under construction just east of Baldwin Ave., adjacent to the Grand Trunk Western railroad tracks and the original Beaudette factory was torn down.