It was 1977 when Ray and Tom Magliozzi’s talk show began broadcasting on public radio. The brothers, using the monikers Click and Clack, the Tappet brothers, had both graduated from MIT and happened upon radio accidentally. They were running their own garage and were asked to sit in on a car segment at a local show. It turned into a weekly stint and in 1987 their show moved to NPR, running for 35 years total and becoming the most listened to show on public radio. Sadly, on November 3rd Tom Magliozzi died from Alzheimer-related complications, though his legacy and famous laugh live on through aired re-runs and resounding auto advice.
The brothers were an anomaly in the car industry, incorporating people into the conversation that had once never cared. Thick Boston accents and boisterous laughter characterized the hour-long segment in which cahs (drop the r) were one, but not the only focus. They catered to the average car-consumer – someone who knows very little about the way a car actually works. They talked through issues with listeners and provided simple and useful advice, divorced from any monetary compensation. Whip smart and well versed in car mechanics, they remained down-to-earth and exuded a sense of camaraderie during the hour they were on air. Referring to themselves as a couple of grease monkeys, the brothers never boasted of their degrees, Tom having both a PhD and an MBA.
Over the course of three-and-a-half decades people called in from around the US with an array of concerns – funny noises coming from the engine, sticky breaks on brand new cars, one woman even called when she forgot to pay the fee on a toll road. The Tappet brothers would usually joke with the caller, initially digressing about their name or hometown. Though they did dole out their fair share of advice. On the episode, which is currently airing on their website, entitled, “Stop and Smell the Antifreeze”, they offer a probable solution for a shoddy heater and crack the mystery of a car that sporadically turns itself on. All the while they laugh and joke, easily filling the hour with banter and knowledge. Car shows, and public radio for that matter, had previously never been so light-hearted and loose, and perhaps never again. For that, Tom will be greatly missed. We do wonder, though, who is the new owner of his beloved 1963 dodge dart.