Bob Briscoe never knew there was once a car company that produced a Briscoe in Brockville, Ontario, 105 years ago.
“An employee heard about a Briscoe car being for sale, and 48 hours later it was in my garage,” says Bob. It didn’t arrive in Knowlton on its own, but on a flatbed truck. The old car was clinging to life. What came next was an eight-year labour of love to bring the Briscoe back to life.
The Knowlton resident bought the 1917 Briscoe in 2012 and spent years having it restored to running order, with most of the restoration work done by people within a half hour drive of here.
“It had to be built from the ground up. Like all cars of that era, it actually had a wooden frame and that had to be re-built too,” says Bob. The body work, the upholstery and the frame were all done by specialists in and around the Eastern Townships.
The Briscoe was built in Brockville under licence from the Briscoe Motor Co. in Michigan. The American firm chose the fleur-de-lys as its logo. There were high tariffs on cars back then – the Liberal party of Sir Wilfrid Laurier fought for free trade in the federal election of 1911—and lost.
Bob Briscoe says the Briscoe was a luxury car in its day. “Compared to Ford’s Model T, it was a limo,” he says.
The car has a four cylinder engine putting out 35 horsepower with a top speed of about 60 kilometres an hour. It cost $825 in 1918. Today the car is fully restored and driveable, but Bob only drives around the village. The 3 gallon gas tank under the dashboard limits the range to a trip around the lake. “In July I am taking it to the big car show in Granby, but it’s going on a truck.”
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