‘Car Talk’s’ last lap: Click and Clack to retire; fans mourn

“Click and Clack,” the mechanics-turned-comedians who launched one of the most unlikely -- and most beloved -- talk shows in radio history, have decided that 35 years at the wheel is enough. Brothers Tom and Ray Magliozzi announced Thursday afternoon that they will no longer record new episodes of the weekly call-in series, but it will continue to live on in syndication.

The loss of the popular public radio show is a blow to NPR, and its listeners.

The show was one of NPR’s powerhouse performers, in part because it appealed to such a diverse audience. People who had no interest in cars, or weren’t the least bit mechanically inclined, were among the most devoted listeners -- tuning in for the radio magic that took place when the brothers began playing off each other.

“We’re certainly disappointed that they’re not going to do this forever. But .... they’ve earned this,” Eric Nuzum, vice president for NPR Programming, said in a statement released Friday morning.

NPR President and Chief Executive Gary Knell sought to put a positive spin on the development. “I’m thrilled that they will continue to entertain and engage today’s fans and future fans for many years to come.”

It will be no surprise to fans of the show that the pair announced their departure with their trademark humor, which has been described as equal parts Marx Brothers, Mark Twain and Mr. Goodwrench.

“My brother has always been ‘work-averse,’” Ray Magliozzi, 63, said. “Now, apparently, even the one hour a week is killing him!” “It’s brutal!” chimed in Tom Magliozzi, 74.

The pair said they decided it was time to “stop and smell the cappuccino.”

The brothers began making “Car Talk” in Boston 35 years ago. It captured audiences there, and soon became a mainstay on NPR member stations -- remaining so for 25 years. Ostensibly, the call-in show is about car stuff. But it’s actually about much, much more than that.

“We’ve managed to avoid getting thrown off NPR for 25 years, given tens of thousands of wrong answers and had a hell of a time every week talking to callers,” Ray Magliozzi said. “The stuff in our archives still makes us laugh. So we figured, why keep slaving over a hot microphone?”

Beginning in October, the “Car Talk” production team will unveil new shows built from “the best of” the archives, which include more than 1,200 shows. The brothers will still write their twice weekly “Dear Tom and Ray” column.

The brothers left open the possibility that they might return to the airwaves for special occasions, or perhaps even something new.

They ended a note to fans with this: “Thank you for giving us far more of your time than we ever deserved. We love you. And know that starting this fall, for the first time, we’ll be able to sit at home, laughing at Car Talk along with you guys on Saturday mornings.”

Fans, meanwhile, are officially in mourning.

Said one commenter on the website: “I stopped caring about cars when I graduated high school. But, that didn’t stop me from passively listening and laughing most Saturday mornings while out and about running errands. The biggest lesson I’ve learned from listening to Car Talk over the years? Strive to be more like Tom and Ray. Your obvious love of life, your strong relationship, the approachable and go-easy attitude, all things we should all strive to replicate. Thank you for your impact and years of service, best wishes in retirement.”

It was signed, “Your most unlikely fan.”


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