Dewey, Cheatem & Howe Too?

‘Car Talk’ Hosts to Retire: Best Moments With NPR’s Laughing Mechanics

NPR’s Tom and Ray Magliozzi are retiring. A look at Click and Clack’s funniest parts. By Caitlin Dickson.

Susan Walsh / AP Photo

In the fall of 1987, two mechanic brothers decided to lend their auto expertise—and Boston-accented wit—to spice up NPR’s mostly bland programming. In addition to advising listeners on cars, Tom and Ray Magliozzi offered sound advice on life, keeping listeners laughing all the way through the ending credits, where they noted all of their staff members with names like Laura Biden, Boston traffic director, and Major Payne-Diaz, brother in the military, among many others. Twenty-five years later, the Magliozzi brothers are calling it quits. Nothing sums up the best of Tom and Ray, also known as Click and Clack, like their very first episode, titled “A Bad Idea Is Born” but, in honor of Tom and Ray’s retirement, we’ve put together some of the funniest, wisest, and most bizarre moments from Car Talk’s 25 years on the air. (Note: Links to clips of older shows play best on iTunes and Audible.)

Safety FirstTom and Ray are all for safety behind the wheel, but wearing a helmet while driving? That’s taking things a bit too far. On September 7, 1991, the Car Talk hosts coached caller Carolyn on getting her overly cautious husband to loosen up.

Melissa the TwerpNot everyone who writes or calls into Car Talk loves Car Talk. Many young people who know of the retiring show now have their parents’ NPR habits to blame. One such pre-teen was so sick of listening to these two loudmouths from Cambridge laugh about mufflers and motor oil every time she got in the car with her parents that she had to take a stand. Melissa Peterson wrote a note to Tom and Ray telling them that their show was so bad “…even my dog hates Car Talk!” Naturally, they invited her on to co-host on November 5, 1994, an episode later titled, “Melissa the Twerp.”

Mom’s Day Smackdown IIA mother whose sons are the hosts of a long-running, popular radio show must be bursting with pride, but Lizzie Magliozzi’s just as tough and gruff as her two boys. Tom and Ray’s mom stopped by the show on Mother’s Day 1995 to offer them some sound advice: “Don’t sound too much like Imus!”

Men Before GPSTom and Ray may know almost everything about cars, but they’re still men. (Meaning: even they don’t like to ask for directions.) So on January 11, 1997, get extremely lost trying to figure out why male humans are averse to asking for directions—and why, even if they were to swallow their pride and ask for help, they still wouldn’t get anywhere.

Valentine’s DayThings get steamy on the Valentine’s Day 1997 episode of Car Talk, as Tom and Ray tried to get their listeners in the mood by offering both car and relationship advice from the backseat.

A Kinder, Gentler IRSClick and Clack were all over the place in the April 11, 1998, episode of Car Talk. After almost being scammed out of $900 by a New Jersey company, Tom and Ray were faced with a listener who managed to get bleu cheese and flowers in his car’s vents—and needed their help getting it out! Oh, the Brothers Magliozzi are also being audited.

A BMW Z3 for a 16-Year-OldWhat does a 16-year-old want more for their birthday than a car? While most of us would be happy with a hand-me-down Honda, Car Talk caller Janet thought it might be a good idea to give her 16-year-old a brand-new BMW Z3. After reconciling that they couldn’t turn back time, go back to their teens and be adopted into Janet’s family, Tom and Ray explained why this seemingly perfect birthday present would actually be a huge bust.

Cheapskates and Duct TapeIt’s not always car talk on this show. Sometimes people call the Magliozzi brothers for advice on other aspects of life. On March 20, 1999, one fan called to complain about a cheapskate friend, while a couple simply wanted to share a writing passion project with their two favorite public-radio mechanics.

Flush It for SureDesperate times call for desperate measures, one caller learned, when he consulted Tom and Ray on October 24, 1999, on what to do when stranded with an overheated Jeep in the desert. You may be with your girlfriend, they told him, but when in doubt—and without water—pee!

Lights, Camera, ActionThe Magliozzi brothers were positively star-struck when actress Geena Davis called in on June 1, 2002. But the professionals that they are, put aside their excitement to school the Hollywood star on woodchip engines.

Please, Keep Your Day Job On April 5, 2003, Car Talk listeners got a special treat when Tom and Ray decided to go above and beyond their typical advice-giving duties and add a song or two to their repertoire. But, unfortunately, their loyal audience quickly learned these auto mechanics might need some lessons in Autotune.

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Sorry Dad, I Blew Up Your Car Every young driver has had a run-in, or two, with their parents’ car, but caller Christy’s amateur mistake takes the cake. She learned the hard way years ago not to put tape over an engine light years ago, and finally confessed to killing her dad’s car on the July 21, 2007, episode of Car Talk. But Tom and Ray weren’t satisfied with her public confession. They persuaded Christy to call her dad—on the air—and come clean.

Zap ThisOn August 8, 2009, Tom and Ray talked to a caller whose problem was more animal than automotive. Richard has goats, and he can’t keep them away from his car! The real problem, however, is Richard’s girlfriend, Doris, who drives a soft-top Alfa Romeo, which is perfect for looking cool, but terrible for withstanding the weight of two or three goats. The climbing animals are keeping Doris away. Click and Clack’s advice: “Maybe you can meet Doris at, like, a Motel 6.”