There are many wonderful Canadian History lessons, but one that has often been overlooked, is that of inventor and carmaker, George Foote Foss, from Sherbrooke, Quebec. More than 125 years ago, a prosperous mechanic, blacksmith and bicycle repairman named George Foss invented Canada’s first successful gasoline engine automobile, which was later referred to as the Fossmobile™.
The Foss family re-opened the Foss Family Archives, to better document his remarkable accomplishment and to find ways to share this historic Canadian event with automotive enthusiasts and historians alike. The family, as a means to build networks, foster collaboration and share important historical memorabilia, established Fossmobile Enterprises.
George Foss’ grandson, Ron Foss talked with automotive historians and sought the help of other potential experts in “Vintage Automobile Restoration,” for a very special project. The goal, was to use reverse engineering (the reproduction of an inventor or manufacturer’s product), to create a tribute (as close as possible) of George Foss’ invention: the first gasoline powered automobile built in Canada: the Fossmobile. There were no original drawings, so the tribute automobile was based solely on detailed scrutiny of original Fossmobile photos. Ron acquired vintage parts from the era, with a plan to build this automobile, replicating parts only when it was absolutely necessary. He provided oversight for this process and collaborated with automobile historians and experts, when necessary. Along the way, he documented the journey while ensuring attention to detail. The plan, was to solely honour his grandfather’s legacy and bring to greater light this significant chapter of Canadian automotive history.
Fossmobile Enterprises entered into a Restoration Agreement with Legendary Motorcar Company Limited of Halton Hills, Ontario, to focus on the mechanical part of the project. Additionally, speciality work was completed by a variety of Canadian craftsmen. The late 1890s wood body restoration and custom fabrication of the seat was completed by the Canadian Wood Craftsman, Chatsworth, Ontario. To compliment the old buggy look, seat cushions were hand-made by Custom Touch Upholstery, Burlington, Ontario. The refurbishing of the wheels, spokes and acquiring of period correct tires completed by Wolfe Worx of London, Ontario. The need for all new custom elliptical leaf spring suspension was awarded to Dendoff Springs Limited in Surrey, British Columbia.
With its completion, this (tribute) automobile has become a tangible embodiment of the first gasoline car built in Canada. There was a growing interest to showcase the completed tribute Fossmobile in classic automobile shows during the Summer of 2022, however, by the late Fall of that same year it was donated to the Canadian Automotive Museum to enhance historic education for future generations.
To tell the Fossmobile story, the Foss family attracted writers, journalists, and documentary producers who have been showcasing this significant piece of Canadian automotive history. Historical facts can be found in the Canadian Encyclopedia and all of the original Foss family archives; photos, journals, membership certificates and documents pertaining to the Fossmobile and or its inventor, have been donated to Library and Archives Canada, so that they can be easily accessed and properly preserved.
Photos courtesy of the “Foss Family Archives” – Copyright 2017 The Foss Family Archive