Tom Magliozzi, one half of the brother duo who hosted National Public Radio's "Car Talk," where they bantered with callers and commiserated over their car problems, died Monday of complications from Alzheimer's disease, the news organization said. He was 77 years old.
"Car Talk" was NPR's most popular entertainment program for years, reaching more than 4 million people a week on more than 600 radio stations across the country at its peak. It continued to be a top-rated show even after the brothers stopped taping live shows in 2012 and the network began airing reruns and archived materials.
Car Talk Executive Producer Doug Berman, in a statement posted on NPR's website, said Magliozzi's "dominant, positive personality" will be missed. "He and his brother changed public broadcasting forever," he said. "Before Car Talk, NPR was formal, polite, cautious..even stiff."
The duo, which called themselves "Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers," mixed sound advice about repairing cars with sharp one-liners, self-deprecating humor and off-topic digressions on philosophy and the mysteries of life.
"I like to drive with the windows open. I mean, before you know it, you're going to spend plenty of time sealed up in a box anyway, right?" Tom once quipped on-air. The brothers always ended their shows with a catchphrase — "Don't drive like my brother" — delivered in their signature Boston accents.
Ray Magliozzi affectionately teased his late brother, who was 12 years his senior, in a statement posted on Car Talk's website: "Turns out he wasn't kidding...He really couldn't remember last week's puzzler."
The Cambridge, Massachusetts, brothers were an unlikely radio duo. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduates opened a car repair shop in the early 1970s.
As the story goes, Tom was invited to a radio round-table discussion with other local auto mechanics on Boston's NPR affiliate, but was the only one to actually show up. He impressed the station's producers, however, and was invited back the following week. Tom brought along Ray, and "Car Talk" was born.
The weekly Boston-produced program began airing in 1977 and became nationally-broadcast starting in 1987.
Magliozzi was born June 28, 1937, in a largely Italian-American section of East Cambridge. According to NPR, he was the first in his family to attend college, earning a chemical engineering degree. Besides running a car repair business, Magliozzi worked at times as a consultant and college professor.
Magliozzi is survived by his first and second wives, three children, five grandchildren, and his close companion of recent years, Sylvia Soderberg, NPR said in a statement. In lieu of followers, the family has requested fans make a donation in his memory to either their local NPR station or the Alzheimer's Association.