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Monday, September 27, 2021

Canada’s first gas-powered car, the ‘Fossmobile’, is being remade by inventor’s grandson

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In a fabrication shop in Halton Hills, Ont., piece by piece, a part of automotive history is being rebuilt: the so-called “Fossmobile.”

The vehicle hasn’t rolled down a Canadian street in more than a century. It’s modelled after the car that was the nation’s very first to successfully run on gasoline — built by Ron Foss’ grandfather.

“I just decided that that Canadians really need to know that it wasn’t Ford that was the first in Canada, that it was my grandfather,” Foss told CTV News.

George Foote Foss was a bike mechanic and blacksmith who ran a shop in Sherbrooke, Que., in the late 1800s.

After seeing an electric car during a trip to Boston, he set out to improve on the design.

“He decided there was a better way to make a vehicle,” Foss said.

Foote Foss thought a gas-powered engine might work better and constructed all the parts for the car himself.

By 1897, he was driving around, “scaring children, getting stuck in the mud, petrifying the horses,” Foss said.

But in 1902, Foote Foss sold the car, the only one he ever made, for $75, and it was never seen again.

Now, years later, his grandson has enlisted the help of tradespeople and vintage automobile experts to recreate the car.

There were no blueprints, so the Fossmobile is being reverse-engineered using photos of the original car.

The car bore little resemblance to the modern vehicle, according to historical photos of it in use. Foote Foss’s gas-powered car featured large wheels similar to those on a horse carriage, and had no roof.

“We’re gonna have it as close as we can from the pictures that we have,” Foss said.

They’ve gathered old parts from the era and restored what they could. Unique items like the engine’s wood cowling have been faithfully remade. They’re using the same style of paint that “old buggies and carriages” would have been painted with.

They even sourced a period engine similar to the one that gave the Fossmobile a top speed of a whopping 24 km an hour.

To fund the endeavour, they launched a GoFundMe last year, where they have raised just over $14,000.

And while there is a monument to the Fossmobile in Sherbrooke, Foss and his team are hoping that with hard work, the car will ride again in time for its 125th anniversary next year. 

With files from Alexandra Mae Jones

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