Tom and Ray put it in Park

By now, the news has radiated out past Harvard Square in Cambridge (our fair city), Massachusetts, into the homes of tote bag owning listener-supporters of NPR that Tom and Ray Magliozzi, a.k.a. the Tappet brothers, a.k.a. Click and Clack, are calling it a day.

Ray and Tom Magliozzi.

After 35 years of taking their best guesses at diagnosing callers’ car ailments and relationship problems on air, the best loved auto mechanics on radio announced last Friday that they’ll no longer produce new episodes of Car Talk after September.The show, however, will go on weekly, with a “best of” format. Some might joke that listeners won’t even be able to tell the difference. I might be one of those people.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the fact that these guys have brought so much joy to radio listeners for so many years. I kinda like the blatant cheese factor in their almost funny puns. And although I rarely listened to an episode all the way through, it was a comfort knowing it was on every public radio station within reach, every weekend. Their content and delivery wasn’t my thing, to be honest. But I’m glad they’ve been there all these years.

When I think of Car Talk, I think of Sunday evenings in my teen years, fighting off what my mom called the “Sunday night blues.” After the free flight of the weekend, the thought of getting back into the school week was a rough tarmac to land on. But certain routines in my house were calming: my mom ironing the laundry, Murder She Wrote on TV, and Car Talk on the radio. I wasn’t sure I understood what the appeal was — these loud, harsh-voiced Bostonians laughing uproariously at things I found mildly amusing at best, in between arguing with each other about callers’ sketchy alternators, gas filling methods, and rattling engines. The highlight of the show for me was the fake ending credits which went on way too long and seemed to be the same extended joke every show. But still, it was cute. And it was a constant I could depend on. Besides, my mom loved the show.

As I’ve thought about this ending (or at the very least, changing) era, I’ve had a chance to see what others have been saying about the announcement of Tom and Ray’s retirement. And I’ve found that I’m not alone. It’s their memories of listening to the show with special people and in certain circumstances that people treasure. It’s those moments that people miss:

At 37, I don’t even remember a time without Car Talk.Used to listen to it with my dad. Sad that those guys are hanging up their grease rags.
WHAT no more Car Talk on NPR…so reminiscent of being in my mom’s car doing errands on the weekend. How times change…
Deva Denman Javellana
hmmm…. I’m 28 now and I’m pretty sure I’ve been listening to (or at least hearing) them all 25 years! many memories of their familiar voices while mom cooked pancakes on saturday mornings. glad to hear they will be taking it easy for a change 😉
George Scott Chandler
Lot of good memories associated with listening to these guys. Usually during trips to the old beach house. Now both are gone…bittersweet memories.

Radio can do that. Some day, I’ll write here about Ernie Harwell — what his voice on the radio meant to me, and the void that materialized when his voice left for good. But in the meantime, let’s just acknowledge that certain voices on the radio are special soundtracks to our lives. Even loud, harsh Bostonian voices.

Listen to the guys talk about auto shop customers here.


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