Tom Ogle, 21,'filthy rich' and confident, stands proudly between his old Ford car that ran on 100 miles per gallon and his sleek new Lincoln limousine. Everyone believed he'd be a billionaire.
Photo by Ron Laytner, Edit International
What Ever Happened to Tom Ogle?
Did the world not go green because of a murder? Maybe 2 murders?>
By Ron Laytner
Filling up at the gas pump these days is an agonizing experience. even with more reasonable prices, gas emissions contribute to global warming, and with every gallon pumped we take money out of our own economy and send it overseas.
The world is telling us to Go Green; from Sesame Street to the Campaign Trail, and Going Green has become as much a marketing tool as a call for action.
But what most American’s don’t know is that these problems were solved thirty years ago by the brilliant invention of a Texas high school dropout.
In 1978 I first interviewed Tom Ogle who created a device replacing the carburetor and allowed his 4,000 pound car to get 100 miles per gallon. He should have gone on to change history and become one of the world’s richest men. He was young, confident and feared nothing. But he was wrong – dead wrong. Four years later Tom, at age 24, was in his grave and his invention, buried.
I stood outside the Smuggler's Inn, a restaurant in El Paso, where I’d just interviewed Tom Ogle, only 21, and perhaps one of America’s greatest inventors. He was leaning against his 1970 Ford Galaxie. Fitted with a black box ‘filter’ the big gas guzzler was getting more than 100 miles per gallon.
That’s when I told him, “Tom, I think you are one of the most important people on earth right now.” Smoking a cigarette, flashing a $1,200 watch and a 3.5 carat diamond ring, he replied confidently, “I hope so. My invention will save the world.”
“Are you afraid of oil companies or the Arabs coming after you?” I asked.
“No. Not any more. I've had too much publicity. If I'd kept my invention a secret I might be worrying. But there’s nothing to worry about any more.”
Tom said the 100 mpg returns he was seeing on his then standard 4,000 pound car was only the beginning of his newfound fuel efficiency. Tom felt confident that on the smaller, lighter cars, then only popular in Europe, he could get nine times as much.
That means in today’s light-weight automobiles we could be driving around getting up to 900 miles per gallon. And even gas guzzling Hummers and giant SUV’s Tom never lived to see might be more efficient than today’s best hybrid cars.
He did away with the carburetor and fuel pump; replacing them with a black box he called a ‘filter.’ The super mileage, he said, was due to his pressurized, vaporized fuel system that injected gasoline vapor, not liquid, directly into the engine's firing chambers.
The modified car was extensively tested and engineers found no evidence of fraud. In one test for the media Ogle drove his Galaxie, which unmodified got about 13 miles per gallon, 200 miles on a measured 2 gallons of gasoline. The results were so astonishing that the car was inspected for hidden fuel tanks. None were found and those who drove with him confirmed that they had never stopped to refuel.
Doubters became believers. Scientists were convinced his invention, dubbed the ‘Oglemobile,’ would soon reach world markets and earn millions.
Tom Ogle was checked out by corporate engineers and the US government who were astounded to discover the invention actually worked.
At the time I had talked with the late Senator Gaylord Nelson (Dem. Wis.) a long time contact of mine and a pioneer for U.S. fuel economy standards, about what this could mean for all of us.
“The potential benefits are too great for it to be ignored.” said the Senator and had asked the US Department of Transportation to make a thorough investigation of Ogle’s system but was met with a wait and see response from officials.
Another big supporter of Ogle’s invention was Professor Gerald Hawkins of Texas A&M University, holder of a doctorate in mechanical engineering with a background in gas dynamics and aerospace study.
“This is no hoax,” said Dr. Hawkins, “Ogle eliminated the carburetor and achieved what the gasoline internal combustion engine was supposed to do all along - to operate off fumes. I don't know why somebody didn't try this before.”
But apparently they did!
Seventy years ago Canadian Charles Nelson Pogue made headlines long before Tom Ogle, when he drove a 1932 Ford, 200 miles on a single gallon of gas. Reportedly he proved his invention in a test for The Ford Motor Company in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
For most of the world, the names Tom Ogle and Charles Pogue have never been heard or at least long forgotten. But, thirty years later I can still hear Tom's voice from our recorded interviews promising the world better future.
During our interview the eager young inventor revealed how he had discovered his fuel system by accident; “I was messing around with a lawn-mower when I accidentally knocked a hole in its fuel tank. I put a vacuum line running from the tank straight into the carburetor inlet. I just let it run and it kept running and running but the fuel level stayed the same. I got excited. The lawn-mower was running without a carburetor and getting tremendous efficiency.”
The engine got so hot Ogle used a fan to cool it and was amazed when it ran 96 hours on the fuel remaining in the mower's small tank.
He went from the lawn-mower to the automobile, converting a car in the same manner. Its engine started immediately, but the gas tank collapsed inwards. It took months of reinforcing gas tanks before he solved the vacuum problem.
But the car, without its carburetor and fuel pump, still had no acceleration. It couldn't run faster than 20 mph. And the modified engine averaged only 8 miles to the gallon, and stalled after a few miles.
One time he crawled under the stalled car to examine its gas tank and found, “It was freezing cold, like an ice-cube. As I was sucking vapor out, it was acting like a refrigerator with liquid on the bottom and fumes on top.”
When he warmed the gas tank with heater coils, the miles per gallon sky-rocketed to over 100 and Tom Ogle never looked back.
He believed his system was the answer to the world's pollution problems and demonstrated virtually zero pollutant emissions coming from his engine exhaust.
Soon Tom found himself courted by oil companies and financiers. Everyone predicted he would become a billionaire.
A few months before I had met him he was contacted by C.F. Ramsey an ‘international financier’ who wanted to buy Tom’s patent and the marketing rights to the Oglemobile.
Ramsey told me by phone, “We signed a preliminary agreement with Tom Ogle the very next day after we saw the invention. All kinds of people were in town, J.C. Penny, Transamerica, General Motors, Ford and others. Specifically Shell Oil offered Tom $25 million. Everybody was after him.”
But every case the proposed backers wanted controlling interest in Tom’s patent. They wanted to stick Tom off in a laboratory. And that would have been the end of Tom Ogle and his fuel system.
And it was. That is exactly what happened.
Ramsey signed a contract which let Ogle work on his device with financing from Ramsey who would take over the patent, distribution and development rights of the Oglemobile.
With thousands flowing in, the confident Tom Ogle I had met was quickly building the life of luxury and extravagance.
A few months after my first interview, his backer C.F. Ramsey sold out to Advance Fuel Systems Inc. in June of 1978. Tom was a bit nervous in my later phone calls, but all seemed to be well. He would continue receiving $5,000 a month and funds for research and development. He’d also get 6 percent royalties when the device came to market. Advance Fuel’s own engineers would develop the ‘Oglemobile’ for marketing and in April 1979, a still very ambitious Tom Ogle opened the first of a planned 1,000 nation-wide diagnostic car centers.
But Ogle's first and only car center soon closed and his monthly checks stopped. Ogle was told he’d get no royalties because AFS was working on a device that got similar results but wasn’t his invention.
Continuing in his spiraling downfall from quick success and media attention in 1981, Monica, Tom’s wife left him and took along their five-year-old daughter Sherry. Then on April 14th he was shot in the street by someone who ‘got away’ yet he survived the incident.
On August 18th a broken and forgotten Tom Ogle, drunk, left The Smuggler's Inn, the same place that I’d first met him. That night he went to a friend's apartment and collapsed.
He was declared dead at El Paso's Eastwood Hospital. His death, which involved a combination of Darvon, a prescribed pain killer, and alcohol, was ruled accidental or suicide. Many believed it was a cover-up for murder.
Gone Tom Ogle left little to his name but he did leave his Patent (#4,177,779), the last gift of a young man who died before his time.
In 1989 another American inventor, Stanley Allen Meyer, claimed to have invented a means by which a car could be fueled solely by water. He alleged that he had created a dune buggy which could travel across the United States on twenty-two gallons of water. He died in 1998 while celebrating the success of his invention with his brother and two financial backers from Belgium. Although his cause of death was stated as having been a brain aneurysm, many have speculated that he was poisoned so that the news of his invention would not spread and decrease the need for foreign oil. At the time of his death, Stanley Meyer had twenty patents on many water-fueled inventions.
By Ron Laytner
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