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A Tribute to the Fossmobile – 1897
As a young boy, growing up in Fort Chambly, Quebec, from time to time, I would hear stories about the invention of George Foote Foss (my grandfather). Sometimes, I would hear these stories because my father shared the information with friends and neighbors who visited our home. However, the stories I heard most often came directly from my grandfather, because we visited him often. I remember fondly, sitting on a footstool near his feet as he sat in his big, comfortable chair, recounting the steps he took in tinkering, planning and ultimately , building a gasoline engine car, which was to be the first in Canada – later called. : “The Undercarriage.”
In the early 1960s (I was only about 7 years old), I remember that everyone around me was talking about a renewed interest in performance. It was then that he was awarded two honorary memberships: one from the Vintage Automobile Club of Montreal (VACM) and the other from the prestigious Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA). Only two Canadians have received this ultimate honor. The other Canadian who got this was Colonel Robert Samuel McLaughlin, who started the McLaughlin Car Company in 1907, which was among the first large car manufacturers in Canada.
With these two campaigns, there was a lot of media attention and I remember being shown newspaper clippings, many of which I still have in my possession today. Not only were pictures and articles written about his honorary membership, but many of the local papers reprinted his previous writing on it: “The True Story of a Small Town Boy,” a it was first published in 1954, by The Sherbrooke Daily Record.
With a relationship with historical significance that meant that most descendants have ended up with the story of his invention and the various publications about it, as a subject for school projects. I remember using his story as a topic for one of my school projects, both of my children did, and just a year ago my 6-year-old granddaughter did a “show and tell” at her school about us. -grandfather. technique
George Foote Foss (30 September 1876 – 23 November 1968) was a mechanic, blacksmith, bicycle repairman and engineer from Sherbrooke, Quebec. During the winter of 1896, he developed a single-cylinder gasoline-powered four-horsepower automobile. In the spring of 1897, he completed his invention: the first gasoline car built in Canada, which was later named “Fossmobile”.
It was in early 1896, when he was on a trip to Boston, Massachusetts to buy a turret lathe for his expanding machine shop, that my grandfather saw his first cars. These cars, electric broughams, were rented for $4.00 an hour. He paid the fare for a ride, but unfortunately, after a ride of just half an hour, the batteries died.
Returning to Sherbrooke, he decided to build a car that would address this problem. My grandfather drove his car around Sherbrooke, Quebec for four years. He later moved to Montreal, Quebec, where the car sat idle for a year before selling it for $75 in 1902. He had previously turned down an offer to partner with Henry Ford who went on to become the Ford Motor Company. He turned down the offer, as he thought the Ford Quadricycle was inferior to the Fossmobile. He also turned down funding to make the Fossmobile big, citing his lack of experience in doing so, as he was only 21 years old at the time.
I am often asked if I knew if my grandfather had any regrets about not partnering with Ford or not mass-producing his invention. From everything I remember hearing him say, he had no regrets. He enjoyed a simple life and I heard him say more than once, “you don’t live long with the pressures of running a big business.” He died at the age of 92, so maybe his theory was right, at least for him.
Recently, I reopened the Foss family archives, in order to understand and properly document my grandfather’s remarkable achievements. My goal is to find ways to share this historic Canadian event with car enthusiasts, historians and future generations of Canadians. To this end, I have set up a business, as a way to build networks, promote collaboration and share important historical memories.
As the grandson of George Foss, I have spoken to some visionaries and am seeking the help of other potential experts in “Vintage Automobile Restoration,” for a very special project. The aim is to use reverse engineering (reproduction of an inventor’s or manufacturer’s product), to create a “Tribute Automobile”, imitating as closely as possible the specifications of George Foss’ invention on the first gasoline car built in Canada: the Mobile. There are no original drawings, so the Tribute Automobile must be based solely on a detailed study of original Fossmobile drawings.
I have started the process of getting old parts from the era, in hopes of building this car, repeating parts only when absolutely necessary. I will oversee this process and collaborate with automotive historians and experts. Along the way, the trip will be documented, while ensuring attention to detail.
The hope is to honor my grandfather’s legacy and shed more light on this important chapter of Canadian history. When completed, this Tribute Automobile will be a true replica of the first gasoline automobile built in Canada. There is a growing interest in displaying the completed Tribute Fossmobile in classic car shows. However, it will eventually be donated to a museum in Canada to enhance historical education for current and future generations.
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