The second car does not run—and, in fact, will never run—but nevertheless it will be Wednesday evening at 7:30 to mark the 125th anniversary of the construction of the first car—which did run.
The first car, the Fossmobile, was built here in Sherbrooke in 1897 by George Foote Foss, a young blacksmith and bicycle mechanic.
“There were a couple of reasons that we built it as a stationary model,” says Ron Foss, a grandson of George Foss. “It would have added another $10,000 to a project that has already cost twice as much as projected. More important, neither of the two museums were interested in the car required that it runs. Most important, parts of the car including the motor, which is 125 years old and made of cast iron, might not stand the stress of being fired up and taken on the road.”
He adds, “About 85% – 90% of the replica car is built of parts that come from that period and match the original design: engine, chassis, wood body, wheels.”
“We were very lucky,” he says. “Through the internet I met a fellow antique car enthusiast in Florida who was trying to identify an old engine that had come from Maine and wasn’t stamped with the manufacturer’s name. At the time, it was the French, the Germans and the British who were building the best car engines. Didion was one such manufacturer. For reasons to do with tariffs, Didion couldn’t sell his engines in America, but he was able to give the design rights to builders who copied the design but did not stamp a name on their engines.”
“I was able to identify the Florida engine as being a Didion,” Ron continues, “and I was able to buy it. The owner was sufficiently impressed and enthusiastic about the Fossmobile project that he donated something else in his possession, the chassis from a Locomobile that, unfortunately, had been damaged by fire. When we got the chassis here, we put it in an acid bath to remove accumulated rust, and it came out almost perfect.”
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