One early spring morning in 1897, with a fresh dusting of snow along the Magog River in Sherbrooke, Quebec the doors flew open on a little bicycle repair and machine shop. An odd little contraption was gently pushed out through the doors by its creator, a 20-year-old lad by the name of George Foote Foss. To say this little device of metal, rubber, wood and filled with ingenuity was different is an understatement! You see this is the first time an automobile utilizing a gasoline powered internal combustion engine met the road in Canada.
George climbed aboard his little machine opened the gas valve set the spark and sharply pulled up on a leather starting strap to bring the little car sputtering to life. He roared up and down the steep hills of Sherbrooke that day with ease, obtaining a breakneck cruising speed of 15 miles per hour (24 kilometres per hour). Heads turned, the good people of Sherbrooke were both amazed and I am sure a little frightened by this, the beginning of what was first thought of as a fad now an intrinsic part of our daily existence.
To put this all in context it was only a mere nine months earlier that Henry Ford’s Quadracycle was first to drive around the streets of Detroit, Michigan. And four years after the Duryea brothers first brought a gasoline powered vehicle to the streets of the United States.
One hundred and twenty years later our hosts’ Christopher Cooper and Joe Beaudette will build an exact replica of the “Fossmobile.” What do our hosts’ have in common with George Foss? Christopher and Joe are not automobile experts nor auto engineers, neither was George Foss, he had to grope in the darkness like all the other early auto pioneers did in the late 19th century.
There are no plans just three scratchy photographs showing George’s little machine. Can we reverse engineer the little car from these old snapshots coupled with a few vague writings about how the car worked? And in the end, can we build a working Fossmobile to again roar to life up and down the streets of Sherbrooke?
Writer: Christopher Cooper
Hosts: Christopher Cooper, Joe Beaudette.