Not Ford But Foss: The tale of Canada’s first gas-powered vehicle, the ‘Fossmobile’

Sherbrooke, Quebec — George Foote Foss was the first in Canada to invent his own gasoline-powered automobile in the spring of 1897. 

He was only 21-years-old and called his masterpiece, the “Fossmobile.” 

“We grew up listening to my grandfather and father tell stories of the ‘Fossmobile,’ and it was just something my whole family grew-up with; even my granddaughter has done a project on the topic,” explained Ron Foss, grandson of George Foss, and the reason we are hearing about the “Fossmobile,” today. 

“I thought more Canadians should know that Henry Ford was not the first in Canada to invent the gasoline-powered automobile, it was my grandfather–George Foss.”

When Foss began his project in 1896, he envisioned a vehicle that would transcend the industry and make driving more convenient and efficient. He first began his hobby working with boats and soon after coming back from a trip to Boston, he moved on to automobiles. He wanted to make a gas-powered vehicle that lasted longer than 20 minutes on the road. 

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

Once he perfected the Fossmobile, he sold the one and only. Soon enough, gas-powered engines were becoming more popular and vehicle manufacturers started building the engine under the hoods of the vehicle, which was not popular until George Foss figured out how to do it, first. 

George Foss was a bike mechanic and blacksmith who ran a shop in Sherbrooke, Quebec, in the late 1800s. He 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 and getting tickets for driving on the sidewalk,” Foss said. 

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

It is now over 100 years later and his grandson Ron Ross has enlisted the help of automotive historians and sought the help of other potential experts in “Vintage Automobile Restoration,” for a very special project. The goal, to use reverse engineering (the reproduction of an inventor or manufacturer’s product), to create a tribute (as close as possible) of George Foss’s invention. 

According to Ron, they have found all the parts typical to the original tools to recreate the vehicle almost exactly how it was designed in 1897. 

Ron and his team have sourced unique items, like the engine’s wood cowling have been faithfully remade; and they’re using the same style of paint that “old buggies and carriages” would have been painted with. As well, they sourced a period engine similar to the one that gave the Fossmobile a top speed of 24 km an hour.

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

Ron is hoping to gain national attention for his grandfather’s invention and have the car ready to ride for its 125th anniversary next year.


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