Is A 6 Year Old Boy A Medium Or Large A Tribute to the Fossmobile – 1897

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A Tribute to the Fossmobile – 1897

As a boy growing up in Fort Chambly, Quebec, from time to time, I heard stories about the invention of George Foot Foss (my grandfather). Sometimes I would hear these stories as my father shared details with friends and neighbors who visited our home. However, the stories I heard most often came directly from my grandfather, as we visited him often. I fondly remember, sitting on the stool at his feet as he sat in his big, comfortable chair, recounting the steps he took as he tinkered, planned, and finally built the gasoline engine car, which was to be the first in Canada – later named: “Fosmobil.”

In the early 1960s (I was only about 7 years old), I remember everyone around me talking about a surge of renewed interest in his achievement. He was then 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 ever received the latter honor. Another Canadian to receive this was Colonel Robert Samuel McLaughlin, who started the McLaughlin Motor Car Company in 1907, which was one of the first major car manufacturers in Canada.

These two initiatives attracted 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 photos and articles written about his honorary membership, but many local newspapers also reprinted his earlier piece: “The True Story of a Small Town Boy,” originally published in 1954 in the Sherbrooke Daily Record.

Having a relative with historical significance meant that most of his descendants ended up using his story of the 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 two children, and just a year ago my six-year-old granddaughter did a show-and-tell at her school about her great-great-great-grandfather’s invention.

George Foote Foss (September 30, 1876 – November 23, 1968) was a mechanic, blacksmith, bicycle repairer, and inventor from Sherbrooke, Quebec. During the winter of 1896, he developed a four-horsepower single-cylinder gasoline-powered car. In the spring of 1897, he completed his invention: the first gasoline-powered car built in Canada, which was later named the “Fossmobile.”

In early 1896, during a trip to Boston, Massachusetts to purchase a turret lathe for his machine shop, my grandfather saw his first automobiles. These cars, electric motors, are rented for $4.00 per hour. He paid a fee for the ride, but unfortunately, after only half an hour of driving, the batteries died.

Back in Sherbrooke, he decided to build a car that would solve 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 had founded the Ford Motor Company. He declined the offer, believing that the Ford four-wheeler was inferior to the Fossmobile. He also refused financial support for the mass production of the Fossmobile, citing his inexperience to do so, as he was only 21 years old at the time.

I am often asked if I know if my grandfather regretted not partnering with Ford or 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, “Don’t live a long life with the stress of running a big business.” He passed away at the age of 92, so maybe his theory was correct, at least for him.

I recently reopened the Foss family archives, in order to better understand and more accurately document my grandfather’s remarkable achievement. My goal was to find ways to share this historic Canadian event with car enthusiasts, historians and future generations of Canadians. To this end, I founded the business, as a means to build networks, foster collaboration and share important historical memories.

As the grandson of George Foss, I have been talking to some visionaries and seeking the help of other potential experts in “Old Car Restoration”, for a very special project. The goal is to use reverse engineering (reproducing the inventor’s or manufacturer’s product) to create a “Tribute Automobile” that mimics as closely as possible the specifications of George Foss’ invention of the first gasoline-powered automobile built in Canada: the Fossmobile. There are no original drawings, so Tribute Automobile will have to rely solely on a detailed examination of the original Fossmobile photographs.

I began the process of acquiring vintage parts from that era, with the hope of building 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 and attention to detail will be taken care of.

I hope to honor my grandfather’s legacy and bring this important chapter of Canadian history to greater light. With its completion, this Tribute Automobile will be the tangible embodiment of the first gas-powered car built in Canada. There is increasing interest in presenting the completed 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.

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