Tom Magliozzi has died at age 77 following complications stemming from Alzheimer's disease. Tom was the popular host of National Public Radio's 'Car Talk' program.
Magliozzi hosted 'Car Talk' alongside his brother Ray since the 1970s, with the duo sometimes being affectionately referred to as 'Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers', the duo would share car repair advice, news and discussion to a huge audience of avid fans. They were known for their humor, their wit and their very impressive knowledge of automobiles and the industry.
Part of the charm of the show was the relationship of the two brothers who would joke with each other on a range of automobile related topics. They accepted calls from listeners and no doubt helped thousands of people with their car problems. Tom in particular had an echoing laugh that was infectious.
Prior to becoming a radio presenter, Tom worked several jobs – but was never far from an automobile. After graduating from Massachusetts Institute of Technology with an engineering degree, the enterprising Tom went on to open his own auto repair shop with his brother operating around Boston. The shop was nicknamed 'Hacker's Heaven' and later led to the opening of another chain called 'The Good News Garage'.
The business was a success and eventually his knowledge and charm were recognized when he was invited to speak on a public radio talk show. Eventually this invitation led to a regular broadcast and that in turn grew into the popular Car Talk.
Car Talk was produced by Boston public radio affiliate WBUR radio station and was broadcast to a national audience by National Public Radio, starting in 1987. The pair recorded their shows in a studio that overlooked Harvard Square in Cambridge and was labelled 'Dewey, Cheatham & Howe' by a neon sign – a reference to the fictional law firm often featured in the show.
A Lasting Legacy
Tom's colleagues remember him as a charismatic presence and someone who was great to work with. Doug Berman was the producer of Car Talk and gave a statement on Tom:
'People would sort of gather around him. He was just kind of a magnet. For Ray… he idolized Tom. And Tom liked having his little brother around. When they grew up, they were really, really great friends.
In 2012, the duo left live broadcasting and the show came to an end. However the NPR continued to broadcast the show for two years, which is a testament to just how popular the program was. In total the show ran for more than three decades. Popular episodes are still aired sometimes by NPR. The humor of the show and appeal of the brothers ensured that it appealed not only to car enthusiasts but also a much wider audience.
And if that wasn't enough of a lasting legacy, the brothers also lent their voices to the 2006 blockbuster 'Cars' from Disney Pixar, demonstrating just how much of an impression they'd made on the automobile industry and just how well liked they were by the general public. Often they would go off on tangents and this helped the show to eventually reach a base of 3.3 million listeners. For his efforts, Tom won a Peabody award.
This is a sad day for car lovers, but we should just be glad that Tom was able to make the impression he did and pave (or tarmac) the way for many more presenters and car shows. Perhaps without these two showing just how accessible a car show could be, we wouldn't have many of the shows like Top Gear that we enjoy today.