It has a top speed of about 24 kilometers per hour, no seat belts and no brakes.
It also circled the streets of Sherbrooke, Que., for more than a decade before Henry Ford unveiled his famous Model T.
However, most Canadians have never heard of the Fossmobile – something Ron Foss really hopes will change.
At an event Wednesday in Burlington, Ont., the grandson of a Canadian automotive pioneer unveiled a replica of the Fossmobile, the car his grandfather built in 1897 from a frame and old bicycle wheels from carriages.
It was the first car in Canada to successfully run on gasoline and was powered by a 3 1/2 horsepower single-cylinder engine.
“Some people’s lawn mowers are more powerful than this car,” says Foss.
The replica was built as a tribute and a way to spread the word about a forgotten piece of automotive history.
“He did something a little bit earlier than Ford and he’s Canadian. And I think Canadians should celebrate that,” Foss said.
George Foote Foss is a bike mechanic and blacksmith who runs a shop in Sherbrooke, Que.
On a trip to Boston, he drove an early electric car. The battery lasted 20 minutes instead of several hours as promised. So he started improving the design. He thought he could go further with a gas-powered engine.
The construction is quite spectacular, as it runs on the roads along the carriages.
Foss’ grandson said: “Scare the kids, get stuck in the mud, kill the horses. “Some people I think thought he was demonized in some way because it looked like a bug running down the street without a horse.”
Fossmobile is seen here in this undated photo. (Ron Foss polite)
The car runs quite smoothly, saving 1 machine.
“The only difficulty he had was that sometimes the chain would come off the sprocket and you would have to jump under the car and put it on again to continue your journey,” says Foss.
This car was never mass-produced and Foss even turned down an offer to work with Henry Ford.
In 1902, he sold his one-off car for $75. It was never seen again.
Years later, the family tried unsuccessfully to find them.
“We searched for warehouses, garages and barns along the various routes between where we live on the south coast of Montreal… to the East Towns,” says Foss. but there was never any evidence and it never surfaced.”
So, after enlisting the help of local builders, a reproduction was built at the Legendary Car Company in Halton Hills, Ont.
There were no blueprints available, so Fossmobile was reverse engineered using photographs. They found the right period parts and restored what they could.
More than $55,000 for the project has been raised on GoFundMe, and the project has been supported by the federal government, the province of Quebec, and the city of Sherbrooke.
Foss said his grandfather was very quiet and did not seek the limelight.
“And I think he would think this is a lot of trouble, for what?” Foss said.
But deep down, he said that his grandfather would be proud of the effort to make a copy, which unlike the original could not be done.
It will eventually go on display at the Canadian Automobile Museum in Oshawa. But first, it will appear at Sherbooke this August to mark the 125th anniversary of its invention.