For 25 years, millions of listeners have tuned their radios every weekend to hear two MIT-trained brothers talk about rusty Dodge Darts, settle automotive bets between spouses and concoct puzzlers in the third half of their show, the most popular hour of NPR programming. Today, Tom and Ray Magliozzi announced they're retiring from "Car Talk" this September -- but you should expect to hear them on the radio for years to come, whether you want to or not.
According to NPR, the brothers say time has finally convinced them to stop pretending to work and worry full time about boat payments, what with Tom Magliozzi turning 75 this year. The duo has been taping "Car Talk" from WBUR in Boston for 35 years, and have grown their banter into a sizable business with Website, merchandise, newspaper column and even a short-lived animated series.
The duo fell into public radio as a way to drum up business for their repair shop in the late 1970s. "We were doing it for nothing. And we did it for years for nothing. And one day we decided to ask them for 20 bucks apiece a week," Tom Magliozzi told CBS in 1995. "And, I mean, we agonized over this for the... 'Well, they'll never give us 20 bucks a week.' And they gave us 20 bucks a week. And we said, 'We're in Fat City.'"
At its peak, "Car Talk" generated more than 30,000 callers a month, and ran on nearly every NPR radio station nationwide. As everyone who's ever listened to the show knows, "Car Talk" is a comedy with some automotive advice on the side. The weekly banter honed by the Magliozzis over decades of radio, old cars and divorces matches that from any great comedy duo in broadcast history. And for the occasional embarrassments captured in the weekly "Stump the Chumps" feature, the car advice was often not just accurate but fearless; Click and Clack aren't afraid to call a car junk nor drown some mechanic's costly repair estimate in shouts of "bogus!"
NPR says much like the old cars Ray Magliozzi prefers, it will keep "Car Talk" running after September by re-cutting pieces of the best shows of the past, calling on "Car Talk" staff such as sound archivist Yeardley Listening and replay editor Ohno Nottigin. Here's a classic moment that shows the brothers at their best, mixing talk of double clutching with the surprise of having composer Leonard Bernstein's son on the line: