“Some guy I met said it’s amazing how we use cars on our show as an excuse to discuss everything in the world—energy, psychology, behavior, love, money, economics and finance. The cars themselves are boring as hell.”
“Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers”, Tom and Ray Magliozzi brought personality and humor to public broadcasting through their award-winning NPR radio show Car Talk. They grew up in East Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Ray would often watch Tom take dilapidated cars apart and put them “more or less” back together. Both brothers graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology;Tom with a degree in Chemical Engineering, and Ray with a degree in Science and Humanities.
Tom enlisted in the U.S. Army and worked in Sylvania’s Semiconductor Division as well as the Foxboro Company. He soon tired of the job and commute and decided to spend the next year hanging out in Harvard Square drinking coffee and painting rooms for the female tenants in his apartment complex.
After college, Ray served as a Vista volunteer in San Antonio, TX before heading to Bennington, Vermont to teach junior high school science. Ray soon became weary from “freezing all of [his] appendages off” during the Vermont winters and returned to Boston. He then convinced Tom to help him open a do-it-yourself auto repair shop, Hacker’s Haven, in 1973.
“We knew our idea was brilliant and thought we’d have wheelbarrows full of money to show for it.”, Ray said. “Of course, the do-it-yourselfers who came in were such klutzes that we felt sorry for them, and we’d end up working on their cars (and) doing all the work…We lost money but we had a lot of laughs.”
The shop earned them enough local recognition that, in 1977, the brothers received an invitation from Boston’s WBUR Radio to sit in on a panel with four other mechanics to discuss automobile repair. Tom was the only person who showed up, but it went so well that he was invited back. The following week, he brought Ray with him and Car Talk began. The broadcast gained traction with Boston audiences and in 1987, the Magliozzis were asked to participate in the founding of NPR’s Weekend Edition. Later that year, Car Talkpremiered as an independent NPR show and shot to the top of the ratings.
Car Talkdebuted on 25 stations; within a year it was on 150 stations, and six months later, 210 stations. At its peak, Car Talkwas carried on more than 500 stations each week with 4 million listeners tuning in. In 1992, Tom and Ray won a Peabody Award for “distinguished achievement and meritorious public service.”
Car Talkepisodes were taped every week until 2012 and itcontinues to be distributed tomore than 100 stations in syndication. Sadly, Tom passed away in 2014 at the age of 77 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. “He (Tom) and his brother changed public broadcasting forever,” said Doug Berman, the show’s longtime producer. “Before Car Talk, NPR was formal, polite, cautious…even stiff. By being entirely themselves, without pretense, Tom and Ray single-handedly changed that, and showed that real people are far more interesting than canned radio announcers. And every interesting show that has come after them owes them a debt of gratitude.”