The company was founded by Rollie, William, Frank and Claude Fageol in 1916 to manufacture motor trucks, farm tractors and automobiles in Oakland, California. It was located next to the Chevrolet factory originally built in 1917 by William Durant, which later became part of GM.
The initial Fageol farm tractor was a re-labeled Hamilton model, designed and built by Rush Hamilton of Geyserville, California. As a result of the many tractor performance trials of the day, the tractor was redesigned to be more compatible with the needs of the West Coast. The Fageol version was designed by a team led by Horatio Smith with the cooperation of Hamilton. In about 1923, the tractor business was sold to the Great Western Motors Company of San Jose. Hamilton and Smith went with the sale.
In 1921, Fageol became the first company to build a bus from the ground up. This new style bus was initially called "Safety Bus". The goal was to build a bus that was resistant to overturning when cornering. It had a wide track, and was lower to the ground for ease of entry and exit. Following the successful introduction, the vehicles were renamed "Safety Coaches", a term intended to imply greater value.
Fageol trucks were well built and became favorites of the industry, owing in part to the dual range, mid-mounted transmission. This gearbox allowed for extreme ranges in gearing for slow speed heavy hauling and for highway speeds with lighter loads. These vehicles were easily spotted by the large number "7" painted on the front of the radiator.
The company led by the President, L.H. Bill, did not survive the depression of the early 1930s. It went into receivership, and the bank assumed control and re-organized under the name Fageol Truck and Coach. In 1938, T. A. Peterman bought the factory and its contents. In 1939, the first Peterbilt was produced in the Fageol tradition of building the best possible product.
The South Australian Railways (SAR) operated a number of Fageol buses. In 1932 that system introduced into service the first of four railcars converted from their road buses. These vehicles initially operated on the SAR gauge Port Lincoln Division, however some were transferred to the South East Division branch line to Kingston, South Australia, prior to the line's conversion to broad gauge. The last railcar was condemned in 1961.
Photographer Imogen Cunningham took a distinctive artistic photograph at the Fageol factory in Oakland titled "Fageol Ventilators" (1934). A print of this photo has been exhibited at "Imogen Cunningham:In Focus" at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in 2016-17.