Always leave ’em laughing: ‘Car Talk’ radio show host dies

Tom Magliozzi, who made up half of the “Car Talk” team that entertained and educated listeners with a show that distilled life philosophy through an engine filter, died Monday in his Massachusetts. He was 77.

For more than 30 years, Magliozzi and his brother, Ray, hosted the weekly, hour-long show on NPR that covered a range of car issues – generally starting with a caller reporting an odd noise (or an odd smell) from somewhere deep in the bowels of the auto engine.

With uncanny acumen, and unfailing humor, the brothers would diagnose the problem and offer solutions, along the way doling out extra  advice on dealing with life’s problems outside the confines of a car (often unsolicited, but always sound.)

The show’s listeners were legion – up to 4 million a week at its highest point. At one point in the late 1990s, the brothers better known as “Click and Clack” were debating national speed limits and making fun of Montana for having no speed limits. A caller who phoned in to defend the state was the superintendent of the Montana state police. (The Magliozzis stopped making fun of Montana.)

In its obituary, The New York Times recounts another:

One of the most memorable calls came in 1997. Not unusually, it was from a man complaining about his vehicle.

“It’s rough for two minutes,” he said, “and after these rough two minutes there’s kind of a jolt, and then it runs smooth, but only for the next 6.5 minutes; after that, the engine dies.”

A few more details emerged: an odometer showing 60 million miles, a speed of 17,500 miles per hour.

“This must be a Dodge Dart,” Tom said.

Soon, however, the brothers deduced, correctly, that the caller was in space. As it turned out, he was John M. Grunsfeld, an astronaut on the International Space Station.

The cause of death was Alzheimers, according to NPR.

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