By on June 8, 2012

 

By the time you read this, a collective sigh of relief from all of Harvard Square (and most of Boston) will have already deafened your ears.

Tom & Ray are ending their radio show, Cartalk, after 25 years of amusing and entertaining our fair nation.

Thank you Tom & Ray. For thousands of shows, hundreds of new insights, and two Ben & Jerry’s ice cream bars I never paid you for.

Looking back at our first meeting…

The year was 1996. The Olympics were catapulting Atlanta to it’s absolute zenith of popularity, and I had one of the most thankless jobs in all of metro-Atlanta.

I was a senior financial analyst for a mainframe manufacturer that was laying off older folks with a gusto usually reserved for recessions.

“Steve? What’s this?”

“Those huge numbers in red? In parentheses? That is your quarterly performance.”

“This makes no sense at all? Where are my revenues?”

“They’re being outsourced to India.”

And so it went. In between automating my own work and spending endless meetings with frazzled folks who were usually double my age, I visited cartalk.com.

Back then, banks and other investment firms were just beginning to get that mind altering buzz that comes with investing in unsustainable online ventures.

For those of you too young to remember the good old days known as The Clinton Era, the key back then was to first find a business that was guaranteed to fail. The larger and more arrogant the company, the worse the idea, and so it went.

Naturally, Microsoft turned their attention straight to Tom & Ray’s work. About a dozen folks of dubious distinctions were chosen by Bill Gates to build Tom & Ray a web site.

“I’m getting married. Go and find something to do.” – Mr. Gates likely told his underlings in Redmond, Washington who were getting awfully tired of watching Windows 95 crash on a daily basis.

Meanwhile 3,000 miles away, my boss told me, “I’m getting married. Go and find something to do. Oh, and don’t send any more financial reports until I get back.”

He never came back. So I spent the next six months visiting a bulletin board at Cartalk called Cafe Dartre. As well as reading various stories and reviews from folks who wanted to tell the world about their old rides.

Compared to endless meetings and making numbers dance on a computer,  Tom & Ray’s website was time well spent. So in between the three hour walks I would take at a nearby mall, and the myriad paper airplanes I designed and tested for the amusement of my co-workers, I spent endless hours at Cartalk.com.

Tom & Ray’s unproductive work, became my job.

After six months of doing this, a dim flickering bulb finally shined on top of my head. “Steve. Why don’t you make the car business your living instead of the brutally boring world that is mainframe manufacturing?” I quit the job. Became an auctioneer. Started traveling the country, and finally, seven years later, had the chance to visit Tom & Ray.

I walked up a narrow walkway. Opened a door…. and there they were!

Perfect six-foot cutouts of Tom & Ray with a nearby freezer full of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream pops.

“Sorry we missed you!” was emblazoned on the cutout. The tired and haggard intern discussed the fact that the Magliozzi’s were too busy taking their sixth nap of the day and offered me an ice cream pop.

I took two. Called an auctioneer friend. Got drunk at a nearby bar, and finally did a sale the following day in Concord, Massachusetts. I never got a chance to say thank you.

So I guess a simple “Thank you” will do for me. As for the B&B, any memories of Tom & Ray? Feel free to share…

 

 

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47 Comments on “Tom & Ray Wrench Out Their Retirement...”


  • avatar
    JoelW

    My memory… I never actually called in to the show, but I have been an on and off listener for a number of years.

    Once, I was listening and actually heard one of Tom and Ray’s callers refer to me as a “glib” Honda service advisor. Couldn’t help but laugh out loud just a little bit.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    I’ll never forget the guy who called in wanting to know if there was a humane way to electrify his car so the goats wouldn’t jump on them.

    He sounded dead serious, because he was.

    Goats are tiresome.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    I had lots of fun listening to their on-air diagnoses, occasionally wondering if they’d hit on the same solution I was positing at my end. A recent success from a listener call-in involved a lady who wondered why her husband’s Buick Roadmaster would “growl” at her when she walked past it. Having become familiar with that vehicle’s air suspension system and the sound of it working even when the car was parked, I wondered if Tom & Ray would get it right. They nailed it perfectly.

  • avatar
    Ron

    There is a window emblazoned with the name of Tom and Ray’s fictional law firm, Dewey, Cheatem, and Howe, in Harvard Square. http://j-walkblog.com/index.php?/weblog/comments/Dewey_Cheatem_Howe/

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I used to listen to this show with my father every Sunday, its a shame that after all of these years they’re going off-air.

    But then again, 25 years is impressive for most shows in general, especially when its a a radio show.

    I never expected that in todays TVLaptopPhone heavy world that a radio show could make it this far.

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    And I just filed papers to have my name changed to Don Keshane.
    (signed),
    Bud Tugly

  • avatar

    I can tell you that they are the same in person as on the radio, and all the kidding is real. Taughm (his preferred [phonetic] spelling) really has or had a ’52 MG that was falling apart, and I once helped him start it. I once happened on his ’78 Fiat, a few blocks from the Square. I looked inside, and there was his cigar on the console. He was quite amused by the photo I took. They used to love hanging out at a certain cafe in Cambridge. One evening, several years ago, I had to meet a friend there. I got there, and there were Taughm, Ray, Ray’s wife Monique, and a friend of theirs sitting on the pavement outside the now-shuttered cafe. They’d been going there since it had opened 20 years earlier. And now it was closed and they didn’t know what to do. Finally, Taughm said, “well, we’re not going to let this RUIN OUR LIVES!” We got up and went to some other place.

  • avatar

    They spoke at my college graduation in 1999. I don’t remember what they said! I do remember laughing…

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    The people who called in were a trip into a slice of America that I never visit — intentionally.

    My favorite member of their support staff was document retention specialist, Euripides Upmann.

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    Awwwwwwww… that’s not how I wanted to end the week! At least tey’re on till September. Thank goodness or the age of podcasting,I fell in love with NPR in my SoCal days at the dawn of the ipod era, so glad that good program knows no borders in this day and age.

  • avatar
    johnny ringo

    Sigh….I’m going to miss these two, every Saturday morning I had to listen to their program if for no other reason than to hear what kind of problems their listeners would call in with. Hopefully they can replay some of “the best of” programs–like the lady who called in about an infestation of black widow spiders in her car.

    One again–thanks for the years of entertainment!

  • avatar
    icemilkcoffee

    A real class act. They are still funny after all these years.

  • avatar
    mitchw

    What will become of Bongo Boy Berman?

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Government backed radio probably lived on too long. The auto repair world is just not as entertaining anymore.

    Did they say what vehicles they owned?

    • 0 avatar
      Dave56

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      I have been listening to them since 88-89. They do drive cool cars. A Miata, MG-TC, Fiat Spyder, 63 Dodge Dart convertible and of all things a Dodge Colt Vista. Even though they are car geeks they are big fans of mass transit and have even suggested to some callers who have cars but hardly use them or reside in cities to get rid of them, share or get a Zip Car account.

      Better the pennies per person for public broadcasting than the lies of tax cheat, phone hacker Murdoch or war profiteer Jack Welch.

    • 0 avatar
      jimmy2x

      @Norm – Guess I should be immune by now to those who just have to politicize EVERY story – but it really does become tiresome.

    • 0 avatar
      thirty-three

      “NPR is a privately and publicly funded non-profit membership media organization…”

      Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NPR

      More info: https://www.npr.org/about/aboutnpr/publicradiofinances.html

      The pie chart on NPR’s website says it all.

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Kluttz

      THEY made the auto repair world entertaining. Every time their lips moved.

  • avatar
    dejal1

    I was under the impression that none of the calls were cold calls. If you called them, they’d dig up the answer and somewhere down the line, they’d call you, making believe that you called them.

    Much easier to come up with smart-ass answers and look like geniuses.

    • 0 avatar
      daveainchina

      That may have been how it worked in later years, but it didn’t start out that way. They definitely made mistakes but also had you looking in different directions than you might have. More often than not they were right by a long ways.

      I’ll miss them

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        I remember when NASA got a call from the space shuttle into their show. I don’t think they were good enough actors to fake the surprise and thrill of that call. (“When it first starts up, it’s really loud & shakes hard, but after a couple minutes, it’s totally smooth and quiet.”)

  • avatar
    Zombo

    A good show that I just discovered about 5 years ago , frankly it was only available online where I live before then . Could do without the incessant cackling though which added nothing to the show . It should have been at least two hours long instead of one . The funniest show I remember was when some guy called it to say his lawyer wife would buy him a brand new BMW when his Jeep Liberty bit the dust . The problem was though that vehicle with almost 200K on the odometer just would not die . The answers they gave were just too funny including what was she doing with him !

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I never found their radio show, but visited car talk several times years ago. I took the quiz on what the perfect car would be for me. After answering the questions, the answer? A Buick Riviera! This was 2006…

    I do read their weekly column in the Saturday paper. Yeah, we still get a daily paper – go figure.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    Gonna miss them. Most indelible memory? When super cutie Geena Davis called-in to comment on cars that turned wood into fuel in WW2 Germany. Seems her father was a US-officer stationed there after the allied victory, had tolder herbof this, and that she was a big fan of Car Talk, tuning-in every week. IIRC, call was interrupted and she had to call back. Both Tom and Ray truly seemed to have been in awe of the fact that they were talking to Hollywood star and that this girl was a Cartalk geek!

  • avatar
    Feds

    I beliece i discovered them while roax tripping from Ontario to Vermont in a car with a bad starter motor. I’ve always tried to find them whenever I am over the border.

    They do host the best thing ever posted on the internet:

    http://www.cartalk.com/content/decline-western-civilization-due-toautomatic-transmissions

    May your retirements last longer than a Bostonian’s au revoir.

  • avatar
    daveainchina

    I’ve been listening them for so long I can’t remember not listening to them.

    I know I’ve been listening to them since before I started High School. Definitely two very entertaining guys. Not always right but pretty close most of the time.

  • avatar
    BoredOOMM

    I have the podcast feed in my Google Reader, and will miss Tom & Ray. They are not as knowledge filled as Ron Ananian aka The Car Doctor, but they are more amusing for sure.

    So much for my chance at a $26 Gift Certificate from the Shameless Commerce Division. I am sure they would accept my $26 for a best of CD.

  • avatar
    mburm201

    This is a sad day. I’ve been a big fan since I first heard them around 1990. When I was living in Boston in 1994, I sought out Ray’s garage and got to talk to him personally, getting my Lesabre tuned up. He was very down-to-earth and personable and not nearly as boisterous as he is on the air. While I regret their retirement, I have to commend them for leaving as the top rated show on NPR. They are great performers and entertainers and will not easily be replaced.

  • avatar
    obbop

    Dodge Dart for the win!!!

  • avatar
    Japanese Buick

    I “discovered” them while channel surfing while on a road trip. It was either 1988 or 1989. I had recently been remembering that and thinking that they’ve been on the air a looong time. I’ll miss their show.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    The podcast was a mainstay on my iPod running Route Clearance in Baghdad. Kept me awake and alert. Have been a fan for some time. I thought of calling them once after I took a blast while listening to their program.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    And does this mean there illustrious law firm of Dewy, Cheatem, and Howe will be taking new clients?

  • avatar
    c5karl

    Cars are too reliable today for Car Talk. If you only heard the last 15 years or so of the show, you’d be surprised how much more technical the earlier shows were. People driving 70s and 80s-era U.S.-built cars needed a lot of help to keep them running. And Tom & Ray really do know a lot about cars, so they were able to impart useful advice.

    Today’s cars can give their drivers 300,000 miles of trouble-free operation. This is great for the owners, but it doesn’t make for compelling radio. T&R also seem to have deliberately broadened the appeal of the show by focusing more on relationship advice than the car advice. Still a fun listen, but I liked the older shows better.

    In any case, thanks guys for the decades of great entertainment. And don’t drive like my brother.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Another big piece of Americana going by the wayside, I will miss this show, it was both informative and entertaining.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    My favorite call was a guy selling a 1965 Chrysler Newport. He couldn’t stop telling prospective buyers about every little thing that was wrong with the car, and his friend Bob, a realtor kept telling him to say nothing, because people don’t expect perfection in a 45 year old car. He wanted to know what to do. The response:

    Tom: Finally, an honest man.

    Ray: The salt of the earth.

    Tom: Which is why you’re the wrong guy to sell this car.

    Ray: Yeah. Let that sleazeball Bob sell it for you.

    The reason it’s my favorite is that I owned a ’65 Chrysler Newport, and when I heard the show, my passenger was a golf buddy named Bob – who was a realtor.

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    caller: “Hi, I was calling about a problem I’m having with my ’82 Camero.”
    click and clack: “So… Donna (Donner)”

    The best advice they gave was when someone said they wanted to sell/trade their car while it was still worth something and their reply was ‘if it’s still worth something, why are you selling it?”

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