Many of us were greatly saddened to learn that Tom Magliozzi, the older half of the wisecracking “Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers” and co-host of NPR’s popular “Car Talk” radio show, died Monday of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. Magliozzi was 77.
Magliozzi, along with his brother Ray, began hosting “Car Talk” in 1977. It went national on NPR in 1987 and was a huge hit. If you had a car problem that stumped your mechanic, you could call in and get the brothers’ free advice.
But faithful listeners tuned in for more than the duo’s mechanical knowledge. “Listeners loved their blend of humor, passion, expertise and just plain silliness,” NPR said.
At its peak, “Car Talk” had more than 4 million listeners each week, making it one of NPR’s most successful shows ever, according to The New York Times. The Magliozzi brothers quit taping shows two years ago because of Tom’s Alzheimer’s. NPR still airs archives of the old shows.
“Tom’s been such a dominant, positive personality amongst us for so long that all of us in the public radio family — and I include our millions of listeners — will find this news very difficult to receive,” NPR’s Doug Berman said in a statement.
Over the years, the Magliozzi brothers fielded questions from listeners about the noises coming from under their hood, or the smell coming from their vehicle. Their free advice and tips no doubt helped countless car owners save money by avoiding unnecessary work at the mechanic’s shop.
The Magliozzi brothers both graduated from MIT. After a close call driving on a highway, Tom quit his engineering job and later opened a DIY car repair shop with Ray, then moved on to a more traditional car repair shop. The experiences they had at the DIY shop provided fodder for their radio show. NPR said:
The people who came into the shop were complete “wackos,” [Tom Magliozzi] told Fresh Air’s Terry Gross in 2001. “But man were they fun. And they weren’t worried! When the guy jacked up his Lincoln Town Car and drove the floor jack through his oil pan, did he cry? He said, ‘Uh oh.’ I mean people could take a joke!”
Berman said he will always remember Magliozzi’s humor and his infectious laugh.
“It was almost a force, almost separate from him,” Berman says. “It was always lurking, trying to come out. And he would see something funny coming a few sentences away, and he would start to laugh while he was talking, and he’d kind of be laughing and it would almost overtake him like a wave.”
The other half of the Magliozzi duo said his brother will be missed.
“We can be happy that [Tom] lived the life he wanted to live; goofing off a lot, talking to you guys every week, and, primarily, laughing his ass off,” Ray Magliozzi wrote on the “Car Talk” website.
A special version of “Car Talk” will air this weekend on NPR.
Were you a “Car Talk” listener? What will you miss most about Magliozzi? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.