NPR's 'Car Talk' to end original run this fall

AP | Car Talk | The Washington Post | PeopleKQED | Nieman Lab

The popular NPR show will stop producing original episodes at the end of September. "Click and Clack" brothers Tom and Ray Magliozzi, 74 and 63 years old, have hosted "Car Talk" for 25 years on NPR and 10 years before that on WBUR.

Spokesperson Anna Christopher confirmed by email to Poynter's Mallary Tenore that the show is NPR's most popular:

There are more people listening at any one moment to Car Talk than to any national program. It has a highest AQH (average quarter hour) audience of any show, in other words. It’s total cume is 3.3 million listeners weekly.

But, Christopher said, NPR does not expect the change to affect its financial outlook, which has been challenged. "Based on research we’ve already done, we have every reason to believe that ratings will continue to be extremely strong. We expect it to continue to be as attractive to sponsors as it is today," she said.

Christopher told The Washington Post's Erik Wemple: "Our producers could go eight years without having to repeat any calls – we plan for the series to live on much longer."

In their bios, Tom and Ray explain the show's origins. They had this idea for "a do-it-yourself auto repair shop" (called Hacker's Haven) in Cambridge, Mass., in the 1970s. "This was the time when everyone was working on his own car, so we thought, and our idea was to open a garage where people could do their own work and we'd rent space and tools to them. We knew our idea was brilliant and thought we'd have wheelbarrows full of money to show for it," wrote Ray. Not exactly, Tom said:

We lost money but we had a blast. And two very important events occurred during this time (which makes the DIY idea even better than great). The first was that, since our business was new and different, people knew about us and we were asked to take part in a panel of automotive experts at WBUR, the Boston NPR affiliate.

A 1989 feature in People magazine picks up the story:

When WBUR-FM, National Public Radio's Boston outlet, invited several local mechanics to an on-air panel discussion about car repairs in 1976, Tom Magliozzi was the only one who showed up. His straight answers and quick humor earned him a second invitation, and when he brought his brother along, Car Talk was born. After 11 years as a local radio fixture, the show went national in 1987 as part of NPR's Weekend Edition, then later that same year was given its own time slot and offered to National Public Radio's over 300 member stations. More than 200 accepted.

Brothers Tom Magliozzi, left, and Ray Magliozzi, hosts of National Public Radio's "Car Talk" show, pose together in Cambridge, Mass., on Thursday, June 19, 2008. (Charles Krupa/AP)

The hosts decided "very early on that we didn't want the show to be for motor-heads, the people who read Car and Driver in the bathroom," says Ray.

Now, they say, they will stop producing original episodes after September, so they can “stop and smell the cappuccino.” After that, NPR will syndicate weekly shows drawn from the program's archives, and the brothers say they will continue to update their website:

RAY: Will we change our minds and come back and do some more shows? I would say it’s unlikely, but anything’s possible. Right, Tommy?

TOM: Absolutely not. My brother can go chase himself. I’m done.

RAY: But, we’ll still be contributing to our web site regularly, writing our weekly “Dear Tom and Ray” column…

California public radio station KQED Storified response to the news.

Press release


Click and Clack Stepping Away from Mic this Fall After 25 Years

Weekly Show Continues Built from Archives


June 8, 2012; Our Fair City – Tom and Ray Magliozzi, aka Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers, the famous comedian mechanics who host NPR’s Car Talk, told their listeners this afternoon that as of this fall, they’ll no longer record new programs, but that the weekly call-in series will continue to be distributed by NPR drawing on material from their 25 years of show archives. The note from the Magliozzis to their listeners is in full at

“My brother has always been ‘work-averse,’” says Ray, 63. “Now, apparently, even the one hour a week is killing him!”

“It’s brutal!” adds Tom, 74.

“My brother has always said, ‘Don’t be afraid of work. Make work afraid of you.’ And he’s done it.  Work has successfully avoided him all his life,” says Ray.

The brothers have been taping Car Talk at WBUR in Boston for 35 years, and the show has been a staple on NPR Member stations for the last 25 years. With older brother Tom turning 75 this year, the guys decided it was time to “stop and smell the cappuccino.”

“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,” says Ray. “The stuff in our archives still makes us laugh. So we figured, why keep slaving over a hot microphone?”

NPR will continue to distribute the weekly show, an enormously powerful program in public radio, to stations across the country. Beginning in October, the Car Talk production team will actively produce new shows built from the best of its 25 years of material – more than 1,200 shows – with some updates from the brothers. The guys will also still write their twice weekly Dear Tom and Ray column, and put their feet in their mouths in surprising new ways on the web and Facebook.

“Tom and Ray have become icons to millions of fans, including me, over the last 25 years,” says NPR President & CEO Gary Knell. “I’m thrilled that they will continue to entertain and engage today’s fans and future fans for many years to come.”

Eric Nuzum, Vice President for NPR Programming, adds: “We’re certainly disappointed that they’re not going to do this forever. But despite their protestations about work, they’ve earned this. And they’re leaving us an incredible body of work that ranks up there with some combination of the Marx Brothers, Mark Twain, and Mr. Goodwrench. The work they did five and 10 years ago is just as funny now as it was then.”

Asked if they would consider coming back at some point and recording more new Car Talk shows, or doing something else on NPR, the brothers engaged in the type of back-and-forth that listeners know well:

RAY:   “It’s possible. You never know.”

TOM:  “Absolutely not. My brother can go chase himself.”

RAY:  “Well, what’re you going to do with yourself?”

TOM:  “I’m retiring.”

RAY:  “If you would you know??”

The brothers will mark their 25th anniversary on the air this fall, and then put the series in the hands of their producers, who will continue to produce the show.

Tom and Ray ended their note to listeners 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.”


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