Tom Magliozzi, better known as the elder half of the so-called "Tappet brothers" on NPR's long-running and beloved Car Talk, died today of complications of Alzheimer's, the station confirms. He was 77. Like Ray Magliozzi, his co-host and younger brother by a dozen years, Magliozzi had an engineering degree from MIT and freely dispensed wisecracks and automotive advice to the inept. But it was the elder Magliozzi's uproarious and near-constant laugh that was his hallmark. "His laugh is the working definition of infectious laughter," says Doug Berman, the longtime producer of Car Talk, which quit airing new shows two years ago. "I'd just hear this laughter. And then there'd be more of it, and people would sort of gather around him. He was just kind of a magnet."
It was Tom Magliozzi's near-brush with death while driving that made him quit an engineering job and eventually led the brothers to radio. "I became a bum," he said in 1999. "I spent two years sitting in Harvard Square drinking coffee. I invented the concept of the do-it-yourself auto repair shop, and I met my lovely wife." When the local NPR station called up their shop looking for a panelist/car mechanic, Berman says, "Ray thought it was a dumb idea, so he said, 'I'll send my brother' and Tom thought, 'Great, I'll get out of breaking my knuckles for a couple of hours.' And he went over and he was the only one who showed up." The show went national in 1987. Click for NPR's full obituary.