The McLaughlin automobile company began life as the McLaughlin Carriage Company, a blacksmith's shop in the village of Enniskillen, located 20 km north east of Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. The company began making horse-drawn carriages in the mid 19th Century, moving to Oshawa, Ontario in 1876. The most successful of their time, producing more than 25,000 carriages a year, the company incorporated as the "McLaughlin Carriage Company, Ltd." in 1901.

Under the guidance of "Colonel" Sam McLaughlin, in 1907 the company began the manufacture of automobiles, eventually forming an alliance with William C. Durant, who had acquired the Buick Motor Company, that later would become General Motors.

During their first few years of operation, the automobiles were known as "McLaughlins". The name was changed to "McLaughlin-Buick" until 1942, after which the McLaughlin name was dropped, leaving the "Buick" marque still in use today. Until 1914, the cars were finished with the same paints and varnishes used on carriages. This meant each vehicle required up to fifteen coats of paint. McLauglin revolutionized the industry with their painting process.

In 1918, the McLaughlin family sold their interests to General Motors, but Sam McLaughlin would continue to run the company in his capacity as chairman of the board of General Motors of Canada, in addition to being vice-president and director of the parent company.

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