A Tribute to the Fossmobile – 1897
As a child, growing up in Fort Chambly, Quebec, I would occasionally hear stories of the invention of George Foote Foss (my grandfather). Sometimes I would listen to these stories while my father shared the details with friends and neighbors who were visiting our home. However, the stories I heard most often came directly from my grandfather, as we visited him frequently. I remember fondly, sitting on a stool near his feet as he sat in his big, comfortable chair, counting the steps he took to tinker, plan, and ultimately build a gasoline-powered car, which would be his first. Canada, later nicknamed: “The Fossmobile”.
In the early 1960s (I was only 7 years old), I remember everyone around me talking about a wave of renewed interest in his achievement. 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 the latter honor. The other Canadian to receive this was Colonel Robert Samuel McLaughlin, who founded the McLaughlin Motor Car Company in 1907, which was one of the first major automobile manufacturers in Canada.
With these two initiatives, there was a swarm of media attention and I can remember being shown newspaper clippings, many of which I still have today. Not only were photographs and articles written about his honorary memberships, but many of the local newspapers also reprinted his earlier writing of “The True Story of a Small Town Boy,” originally published in 1954 by The Sherbrooke Daily Record.
Having a family member with historical significance meant that most of their descendants have ended up using their invention story and the various publications about it, as the subject of school projects. I remember using her story as a theme for one of my school projects, my two sons did, and just a year ago my 6-year-old granddaughter did a “show and tell” at her school about her great-great-grandfather’s life. invention.
George Foote Foss (September 30, 1876 – November 23, 1968) was a mechanic, blacksmith, bicycle repairman, and inventor from Sherbrooke, Quebec. During the winter of 1896, he developed a four-horsepower single-cylinder gasoline automobile. In the spring of 1897, he completed his invention – the first gasoline-powered car ever built in Canada, which was later called the “Fossmobile.”
It was in early 1896, while on a trip to Boston, Massachusetts, to purchase a turret lathe for his expanding machine shop, that my grandfather saw his first automobiles. These cars, electrically operated saloons, rented for $ 4 an hour. He paid the fare to take it, but unfortunately, after a journey of only half an hour, the batteries were depleted.
Upon returning to Sherbrooke, he decided to build a car that would address this problem. My grandfather drove his car in and 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 later formed the Ford Motor Company. He declined the offer, believing that Ford’s Quadricycle vehicle was inferior to the Fossmobile. He also rejected financial backing to mass-produce the Fossmobile, citing his inexperience to do so, as he was only 21 at the time.
I am often asked if I know if my grandfather regretted not partnering with Ford or mass producing his invention. For all I remember hearing him say, he had no regrets. He enjoyed a simple life and I heard him say on more than one occasion that “you don’t live a long life with the stress of running a big business.” He passed away at 92, so perhaps his theory was correct, at least for him.
Recently, I reopened the archives of the Foss family to better understand and accurately document my grandfather’s remarkable achievement. My goal has been to find ways to share this historic Canadian event with automotive enthusiasts, historians, and future generations of Canadians. To this end, I have established a business, as a means of building networks, fostering collaboration, and sharing important historical memories.
As a grandson of George Foss, I have spoken with some visionaries and am seeking the help of other potential “Vintage Car Restoration” experts for a very special project. The goal is to use reverse engineering (the reproduction of an inventor’s or manufacturer’s product) to create a “tribute car”, emulating as closely as possible the specifications of George Foss’s invention of the first gasoline-powered car built in Canada: the Fossmobile. . There are no original drawings, so the Tribute Automobile will have to rely solely on close scrutiny of the original Fossmobile photos.
I have started the process of acquiring old parts of the time, hoping to build this car, replicating parts only when absolutely necessary. I will oversee this process and collaborate with historians and automotive experts. Along the way, the journey will be documented, while ensuring attention to detail.
The hope is to honor my grandfather’s legacy and bring to light this important chapter in Canadian history. With its completion, this Tribute car will be a tangible incarnation of the first gasoline car built in Canada. There is growing interest in displaying the entire Tribute Fossmobile at classic car shows. However, it will eventually be donated to a Canadian museum to enhance historical education for current and future generations.