WBUR

After 35 Years, ‘Car Talk’ Brothers Retiring

Ray and Tom Magliozzi, of 'Car Talk' (Richard Howard)

Ray and Tom Magliozzi, of 'Car Talk' (Richard Howard)

BOSTON — The Car Talk brothers are retiring. The hugely popular radio show Car Talk will stop producing new live shows this fall, after 35 years on WBUR-FM. The program created and produced at WBUR and syndicated by NPR on more than 600 stations will continue broadcasting new shows using archive material.

In 1977, a producer at WBUR asked two local car mechanics from Cambridge, Tom and Ray Magliozzi, if they could join a few other mechanics and answer calls on-air. Back then, cars were simpler and a lot of people fixed them in their driveways. Tom showed up at the studio. Ray didn’t come, neither did any of the other mechanics. Tom was invited back and the next week brought his brother. The two quickly became known as Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers.

Chances are you know the show is less about car repair and more about relationships. And the brothers making fun of each other.

The brothers, who both graduated from MIT, are as local as you can get, which is what makes them so appealing, said WBUR Program Director Sam Fleming.

“They’re funny, they’re real, they’ve got Boston accents, they are like one of us,” Fleming said. “They’re like the kind of guys that you and I like to run into in a diner on a Saturday morning.”

In 1987, after 10 years of weekly banter on WBUR, their style caught the attention of NPR’s Susan Stamberg. As the host of a new program, Sunday Weekend Edition, she was looking for new talent.

“There are many versions of this story, but for reasons that will become clear, mine is my favorite,” Stamberg said.

Stamberg said Click and Clack’s demo tape went around NPR and everyone turned it down.

“Then I listened and said, ‘Are you kidding?’ You‘ll see now why this is my favorite version of the story,” she said. “Of course we will put them on the air, these guys are hilarious, they are well-informed, everybody loves cars, and those accents will hit it out of the ballpark. So it turned out I was right.”

Was she ever. After their weekly appearances with Stamberg, the show was syndicated by NPR. It’s now carried on 660 stations around the country and is the second most-listened to hour every week on WBUR. Now, after 25 years on national air, they will no longer record new shows.

“They always said they were going to do it as long as it was fun,” said Doug Berman, the show’s senior producer. “The other day I said, ‘Remember we said we’re going to do it as long as it’s fun,’ and everybody walked out, so…”

Tom is 74 years old; his little brother Ray is 63. They say they want to “stop and smell the cappuccino.” NPR and WBUR will continue to air Car Talk every Saturday. The show will be put together using the top tier of some 12,500 phone calls in the archives.

“Certainly their humor is timeless and the way they interact with people, I don’t think it’s going to go anywhere,” Fleming said. “I think we will enjoy it as much as we always have.”

Car Talk has built a successful enterprise. The Tappet Brothers have a weekly syndicated column. The Car Talk website has answers to questions about buying, owning and selling cars. It shows Car Talk the brand has grown far larger than its weekly radio show. It’s also had some brand extension failures: Car Talk the cartoon flopped on PBS television.

But it’s the weekly banter, and the features such as “the Puzzler” and “Stump the Chump” that listeners fell in love with and will continue to hear every Saturday morning. Even though the program will be “canned,” the laughter and joy the brothers shared with each other never is.

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  • Laserjay

    OH, no !!!!     The world really IS coming to an end in 2012 !!!

  • Brian

    Hope no one takes this the wrong way, but “best of” shows on Saturday won’t be the same. I’d like to see something new take the slot. It’s been fun, it’s been great fun, but when it’s over, why can’t it be over?

    • BeantownBill

      Taken the wrong way…………

  • RCnco

    OMG! Life will not continue. I’m in shock.

  • BeantownBill

    Well it’s about time. After all these years of bad advice, bad jokes, those crazy family stories, and not the least, those awful Puzzler questions, they finally decided to pull the plug…………..snif………………I’m really gonna miss those two lug nuts……….snif…….

  • TMacD

    may I point out the irony of the photo you chose. In front of a mbta green b line train? And I will miss them very much on Saturday mornings.

  • Mission18249

    Say it ain’t so!

  • Shorty

    this is tragic

  • El_Gato

    My wife is celebrating the news. I am very sad. I will still have the podcasts  that I can still listen to on my own. 8-)

  • HueMan

    Click and Clack?  I thought they were Cliff and Claff all these years!
     Miss you guys! (From a long time listener of 35 yrs). 

  • http://nancib.wordpress.com/ BostonPeng

    I’m confused. Will the Puzzler and Stump the Chumps be new or archived segments? I’m really hoping for new Stump segments because I heard callers just in the last month I want brought back for a follow up. And have we given up on drafting Tom & Ray’s kids or employees to fill their admittedly big shoes?

  • Jim

    Even more extraordinary than they’re going off air is the fact that they’ve been ON air this long! I love them. 

    I’m from UK, and came over to study for my PhD at University of Texas in 1978, and I guess that was one year into their reign on NPR. I heard them first at a time when I was battling with my 1968 second-hand Toyota I clearly needed to get food due to the uncivilised nature of The South in relation to public transport(ation). 

    And now I return to this great nation, to Harvard Square itself, as it happens, in 2012 to find … Click and Clack the Tappet brothers are still there on NPR! EXACTLY the same as I remember from 1978, even though nobody now knows what a tappet is any more. 

    And indeed cars have since then become baffling unfixable electronic beeping things that don’t seem to go wrong except in bafflingly, extremely expensive ways with their chips; from being friendly, oily, leaky old bangers with hail dents and metal fenders. 

    Click and Clack really knew their stuff, and still do. I learnt a lot from them, and replaced all kinds of stuff in my Toyota.

    Do they really have an auto maintenance business and shop, like I imagine? Please say yes! They were always a little academic, but … they graduated from MIT? 

    In any case, come back and do the odd Spring Break Special or something; you should not retire all the way, Tom and Ray.

    We’ll miss you, 

  • Mark

    I hope all of us the listeners won’t lost much from Tom and Ray’s retiring! It’s such a great program which I’ve followed for more than 20 years. I went to the States and studied in Harvard medschool then worked in Boston and Cambridge in entire 1990s. It was a great help but mostly much fun to enjoy. I returned to Beijing in recent years and still trying every opportunity to listen to the brothers for my special enjoyment. Than you, the Click and Clack the tappet brothers, I love you and will miss you.

  • http://twitter.com/SpizzyP Paula Spizziri

    I can’t begrudge them after all these years, but boy! Is this a blow to shlumps everywhere!  Don’t get any ideas Peter Sagal and Carl Kasell.

    • James

      I agree with you and NPR is probably going to loose some donations  because cartalk is off the air

  • Debra Hayes

    Sunday’s will never be the same. I have listened to Car Talk for the past 18 years and have learned and laughed a lot. I wish the brothers the best. NPR, you have some big shoes to fill.

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