Car Talk theoretician, Moseby Wye

Tom Magliozzi's laugh boomed in NPR listeners' ears every week as he and his brother, Ray, bantered on Car Talk. Photo: courtesy Car Talk

Tom Magliozzi’s laugh boomed in NPR listeners’ ears every week as he and his brother, Ray, bantered on Car Talk. Photo: courtesy Car Talk

Public radio listeners have had a love affair with Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers (aka Tom and Ray Magliozzi) since Car Talk  came on the air nationwide in the 1980s. Except of course for those who hated it. It was not a programming choice that inspired neutral feelings. In any event, the lovers far outnumber the haters, making the show a perennial topper of listener ratings, even now in re-airs, two years after the brothers retired from producing new shows.

The show would seem at first glance an odd pick for public radio, which has a reputation for going badly off the rails whenever it tries to bring the funny. But somehow the combination of banter, listener voices and sometimes maniacal laughter, salted with occasional sound mechanical advice (and perhaps less sound relationship counseling) stuck a chord. And it continues to do so.

I have a theory about why that is. When the show began, we were mostly driving cars built in Detroit in the 1970s and 1980s, cheap old ones, because we were young (or younger) and lots broker.

Public radio listeners needed car advice because we were going out on cold mornings to slide a tray of coals from the woodstove under the oil pan of a giant rust bucket with a dodgy battery in hope that it would fire up one last time and take you to work.  We were strapping down Coleman catalytic heaters with bungie cords to the cargo lugs and cracking all the windows, so the van with the shot heat exchangers could defrost enough to clear the windshield. Public radio listeners were reattaching their exhaust systems with coat hangers and wrapping chains around gas tanks that were otherwise attached to the vehicle only by the fill line and the gas line.

Tom and Ray understood. They could gently chide us toward better life choices. And they could make us see the humor in it all. Car culture is American culture, even in these latter days of owning cars that the bank will actually lend you money to buy, and having a relationship with a mechanic such that you don’t even have to know where they put the hood latch.

Tom Magliozzi was a national treasure and I am missing him this morning. Open roads, a clean windshield and a good friend to ride shotgun, Tom.


6 Comments on “Car Talk theoretician, Moseby Wye”

  1. Mike in England says:

    Wow, It hasn’t been live for two years, I never new!

  2. Mike in England says:

    *knew* !

  3. Deb Packard says:

    Thanks, again, Dale for your thoughtful essay. I was crying through my tears this morning listening to Tom laugh.

  4. Claudia MacDonald says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed Car Talk. Wish my dad could have heard it. He was a mechanic and had his own garage/gas station during my growing up years. I’ll never know what possessed me but one day, while ‘working’ with dad (I was aprox. 7), I decided it would be a good idea to emerge myself in the oil barrel. I was in up to my chin when I was discovered. What a mess! My parents were not pleased (and that’s putting it mildly).
    I learned a lot from that show and I was always amused. I loved the show during which Tom and Ray were giving advice to an astronaught during a space flight on a space shuttle.
    I also enjoyed Dale’s reminiscing about our ‘poor’ cars. I remember a camping trip to Prince Edward Island with 4 kids and very little money. The muffler system became quite loud. My husband purchased a clamp for 50 cents and used it to hold a tin can over the hole. Just one of many crazy car stories. Thanks for the memories. 🙂

  5. Russ Langwig says:

    I had a 1973 bus. Dale…you got it right.

  6. Kate Reininger-Severin says:

    My father did recommend this show to me in the latter 1980’s and I have laughed out loud with them every most Saturday mornings since…and learned some stuff! Mostly I appreciate that humor can be part of all things in life and should be! I’m awaiting the third half of their show!

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