The first Arrol-Johnston car was a six-seater "Dogcart" (a vehicle with two transverse seats placed back to back), which went into production at a factory at Camlachie, Glasgow.
The Dogcart was a wood-bodied vehicle powered by a 10hp flat-twin horizontally-opposed engine with four pistons mounted beneath the floor, which was started by pulling on a rope. The vehicle boasted chain final drive and its high-wheeled, solid-tyred, horse-carriage type of body was retained well into the 1900s. The brakes were arranged in the form of shoes which could be pressed on the back of the solid rear tyres, and the suspension comprised full elliptic leaf springs at the front, and half-elliptics at the rear. Transmission and brake control levers were mounted close to the driver’s right hand.
The company's Camlachie premises were destroyed by fire in 1901, and production was moved to Paisley.
In 1902 William Beardmore took the largest single shareholding in the company, creating a captive customer for his iron and steel components. He later became Chairman when A-J (as it was widely known) became a public company.
A-J was restructured financially in 1903. New finance, mainly from Beardmore, became available, Beardmore wishing to help the firm stave off bankruptcy, and there were important changes in staff, including the arrival of J.S. Napier as Chief Engineer. George Johnston left as a result of a disagreement and founded the All British Car Company, a venture that was to be short-lived. A-J became effectively a wholly owned subsidiary of William Beardmore and Co.
In 1906 came the 24/30hp vertical four of 4654cc; followed in 1907 by the 38/45hp of 8832 cc. The 12/15hp twin survived in production until 1909. This was the year that T. C. Pullinger (formerly of Darracq, Sunbeam and Humber) joined Arrol-Johnston; he swept out the old range in favour of the new 15·9hp of 2835cc. That model featured a dashboard radiator and four-wheel brakes (the latter were dropped in 1911). For 1912 a 1794 cc 11·9hp, a 3640 cc 20·9 hp and a 3618 cc 23·8hp were introduced.
In 1913 Arrol Johnston bought land at Heathhall, just outside Dumfries, and commissioned an American firm to build a factory. Not only was it the first factory in Britain to use concrete reinforced with metal in its construction, it was also reportedly a copy of the Ford factory at Highland Park, Michigan, where the Model T was produced. A-J contracted to build 50 electric cars for Edison at the new plant but it is not certain how many were actually made. Several models of car including the six-cylinder 23/9 were built up to the outbreak of war.
The first post war Arrol-Johnston was the Victory model in 1919 designed by G. W. A. Brown which had an ohc 2651 cc 4 cylinder engine of 40hp. They introduced the model to agents in March 1919 but the first production car was not delivered until August; it was sold to the Prince of Wales. The Victory sadly proved "unsellable and unreliable", and broke down while on a Royal tour of the West of England, so that the publicity attending its debut was not of the kind it needed. It was soon replaced by a modernized version of the prewar 15·9hp; it was cheaper, but this was due to such cost-cutting measures as a black-painted radiator and fixed ignition. A more modern version, the 20hp, was introduced alongside the 15.9hp in 1922.
In 1921 the cheaper Galloway was launched as, in theory, a separate make, from the Tongland works near Kirkcudbright. The car was based on the Fiat 501 and started with the 10/20 with a 1460 cc side valve engine, in 1925 growing to the 1669 cc 12/20 and 12/30. Production moved to the main A-J factory in Heathhall in 1922. A short-lived 14hp appeared in 1924, only to be replaced the following year by a 12·3hp model. There also was a 4 cylinder 3290cc Empire model manufactured for the colonies.
The company lasted for two years before the company went into receivership. Limited production and sales continued until 1931.