BOSTON — Tom Magliozzi, a Boston-area mechanic and MIT graduate who became an unlikely radio star as part of the brother duo that hosted "Car Talk," one of public radio's most popular show's ever, died of complications from Alzheimer's disease. He was 77 years old.
On "Car Talk," Tom and his younger brother, Ray, dispensed sound advice about repairing cars mixed generously with sharp one-liners, self-deprecating humor and off-topic digressions on philosophy and other 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.
"Car Talk" reached 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.
Tom Magliozzi died on Monday.
"He and his brother changed public broadcasting forever," Doug Berman, Car Talk's executive producer said in a statement. "Before Car Talk, NPR was formal, polite, cautious ...even stiff."
The duo, which called themselves the "Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers," always ended their shows with a catchphrase, "Don't drive like my brother," delivered in their signature Boston accents.
"We can be happy he lived the life he wanted to live; goofing off a lot, talking to you guys every week, and primarily, laughing his ass off," Ray Magliozzi wrote Monday on the "Car Talk" website. He also affectionately teased his late brother, who was 12 years his senior: "Turns out he wasn't kidding. ...He really couldn't remember last week's puzzler."
The Cambridge, Mass., brothers were an unlikely radio duo. Graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, they opened a car repair shop in Cambridge in the early 1970s.
As the story goes, Tom was invited to a radio round-table discussion with other local auto mechanics on WBUR, 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.
Details about the funeral arrangements were not immediately available.