Tom Ogle (1953 – 1981)
The road to becoming a successful inventor is paved with difficulties and our illustrious Hall of Fame is designed to celebrate those who fell by the wayside. Some were killed by their own inventions, as we have seen, some didn’t either through omission, fraud or philanthropic gesture receive the rewards their inventions warranted and others either took their invention to the grave or came to a mysterious end. The latest inductee, Tom Ogle from El Paso, comes into the latter category.
With the cost of petrol consuming a significant percentage of the weekly household budget and the constant demands that we take more care over our planet by reducing our carbon footprint, a highly fuel efficient engine would seem to be just the ticket and this is what Ogle invented.
Ogle was messing around with a lawnmower and accidentally knocked a hole in its fuel tank. He put a vacuum line straight from the fuel tank to the carburettor inlet and was astonished to notice that the mower kept running and running with no discernible reduction in the amount of fuel in the tank, running an amazing 96 hours before the fuel ran out.
Our Tom then decided to see whether he could apply this technology to a car. Initial tests were disappointing until he discovered the root of the problem – when he was sucking vapour out the fuel tank was freezing. Warming the fuel tank with heater coils he found that he could get over 100 miles a gallon from his vehicle. The car was extensively tested, no evidence of any skullduggery was found and Ogle found himself courted by oil companies and financiers. Shell offered him $25 million but all of them wanted to put Ogle in a laboratory and the controlling interests in his patent.
Eventually Ogle signed a deal with an international financier named C.F.Ramsey which allowed him to continue to work on his device with the financier taking over the patent, distribution and development rights of the Oglemobile. In June 1978 Ramsey sold out to Advance Fuel Systems Inc but, initially, pretty much everything went on as usual. Ogle was receiving $5,000 a month plus funds for research and development and would also receive 6% of any royalties as and when they rolled in. In April 1979 Ogle opened the first of a thousand nation-wide diagnostic care centres.
But then the wheels came off. The car centre closed and Ogle’s monthly payments stopped abruptly. Advance Fuel Systems informed him that he wouldn’t get any royalties because they had worked on a device that produced similar results but which wasn’t his. Personal tragedy soon followed, Ogle’s wife and child leaving him in early 1981.
On April 14th our unfortunate inventor was shot on the street by someone who got away but survived the encounter. On August 18th he left the Smuggler’s Inn drunk, staggered to a friend’s apartment and collapsed. He was declared dead at El Paso’s Eastwood hospital. After a cursory investigation, his death which involved a combination of prescribed pain killer, Darvon, and alcohol, was ruled to be accidental but several of those close to him indicated that they did not feel that Ogle would or could have killed himself. For conspiracy theorists the temptation is to think that the vested interest of the oil companies had a hand in his demise.
Whether there is anything in that, when you are next filling up your gas-guzzler, spare a thought for Tom Ogle and what might have been. Tom Ogle, you are a worthy inductee into our Hall of Fame.
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