NPR 'Car Talk' Host Tom Magliozzi Has Died, From Alzheimer's-Related Complications

It's kind of hard to describe the sadness I feel in typing this: longtime NPR Car Talk host Tom Magliozzi has died Monday at age 77, reportedly from complications related to his Alzheimer's Disease. Magliozzi spent the latter decades of his life delighting public radio listeners everywhere, as one-half of the boisterous automotive-expert duo known as "Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers," along with his younger brother Ray.

But really, if you grew up in the '80s and '90s, and your parents ever tuned into public radio on a long, afternoon car ride, this introduction probably wasn't necessary — Car Talk and the Magliozzi brothers were a national fixture on NPR from 1987 to 2012 and if you ever heard them, their distinctive voices (and endless, infectious laughter) can be called to mind in an instant.

If this sounds rather personal, it's because that was always my experience of Car Talk — cramped in my father's air-condition-less Datsun in the early '90s, riding through the Mt. Tamalpais hills with the tones of Click and Clack (Tom was Click) reverberating through the car. You wouldn't necessarily assume that a radio show about troubleshooting people's car issues would also be a lighthearted comedic romp, and one of the most charismatic shows of its time, but there you go.

The format was simple, and joyfully executed: People call in to ask Tom and Ray what's wrong with their car, and based entirely on descriptions (and oftentimes substandard impressions of weird car noises from the callers), the brothers would try to diagnose what was going on. Whether their information had any salience to your own situation, or your own car, was beside the point.

The real joy of Car Talk, in my opinion at least, was listening to two people who loved and delighted in one another chew the fat for an hour, cracking rapid-fire, self-deprecating jokes, all while flashing a canny degree of automotive intuition. While both of them were actually graduates of MIT, you wouldn't have guessed by how casually and accessibly they could talk about machines.

Sadly, the show hadn't been producing new episodes for the last two years, as the pair decided to retire, but NPR still airs old, archived episodes for fans to enjoy. And rest assured, with the sad news of Tom's passing, a lot more people are going to want to go back and give the old Car Talk library a listen. By all means, you should check it out. On the off-chance you own a 1963 Dodge Dart, you may find some pretty useful advice. For the rest of us, well, it's just nice to listen and remember. Rest in peace, Tom.

Images: NPR's Fresh Air/Twitter