'Car Talk' to end, leaving void in mechanics-who-talk-like-Noël Coward niche

Tom and Ray Magliozzi, the Tappet Brothers of 'Car Talk' fame, announced that they will end their 35-year run on public radio in September. The unique show was comedy 'of the first order.' 

Richard Howard/Car Talk/REUTERS
'Car Talk' hosts Tom (r.) and Ray Magliozzi plan to retire in September after decades of dispensing automotive repair and driving advice laced with a side of wicked humor.

Sadly, all things come to an end.

 For the past 35 years, two guys have put on a radio show that you could call when the engine of your ‘93 Ford Taurus made an odd sound while idling. They would even imitate it for you, on-air: “MMMMMmmmmMMMMMmmm.”

To fix it, they might explain how to find the idle air control under the hood and clean it; or they might tell you to whack that control valve with the heel of your shoe – or maybe to try the shoe first, then cleaning the part if the whack didn’t work.

But after years of dispensing mechanical advice and wisecracks, not necessarily in that order, Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, Tom and Ray Magliozzi, are shutting the doors of their radio garage. This fall, as their 25th anniversary at NPR approaches, they will stop recording new episodes of "Car Talk," their comedic Saturday morning auto advice show.

 It’s not a lack of popularity that sparked the decision. They started broadcasting on Boston's WBUR in 1977 after the station invited them to do a talk show about car mechanics, and it was 10 years before NPR picked them up. Now they are heard on 660 stations by about 3.3 million weekly listeners, some of whom call in for advice when they have mechanical difficulties. But, they’ve “decided that it’s time to stop and smell the cappuccino.”

 “This is a sad day at public radio,” says Robert Thompson, founder of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University. “It didn’t matter if you knew a single thing about automobiles, if you cared a single thing about automobiles. It was a comedy program of the first order.”

 The twitterverse agrees. Thousands of lamenting tweets have been sent since the brothers Magliozzi made their Friday announcement. 

 “No more Car Talk? Now how am I supposed to pretend I am a real man on Saturday mornings?” asks @GeorgeRidgemont. 

 For fans, there was an appeal in the way they balanced the apparent dissonance between highbrow radio and comedy, says Professor Thompson. “They did seem to know their way around the underside of an automobile hood,” he says. “But they could articulate it in a way that it was as if when you go in to get your car fixed, Noël Coward or Cole Porter came and explained what’s wrong with your car.”

 Mostly, they seemed to enjoy having a good time. “My brother has always said, ‘Don’t be afraid of work. Make work afraid of you.’ And he’s done it. Work has successfully avoided him all his life,” said Ray in their announcement.

But it’s not over yet. There’s still time to catch the pair’s mix of quirky humor and advice. They will continue to record new episodes until October, and hours of old shows are available as podcasts. After that, the "Car Talk" production team will remix the best material from more than 1,200 recorded programs into a new Saturday morning broadcast.

“Thanks to all for the nice comments, but this isn't a wake! We won't be taping new shows, but we will still be polluting the airwaves!” says the official "Car Talk" Twitter feed.

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