Hitting the Road

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Alison Reese is editor of Harp Column. She is a freelance performer and teacher in West Michigan. Email her at areese@harpcolumn.com.

Harpmobiles through the years

I’m not a car person. In fact, I don’t even like cars. When a conversation turns to cars, I tune out. When something breaks on my car, I take it to my trusty mechanic, hand him the keys, say, “It’s making this kind of ker-chunk sound,” and hope for the best. In short, I’m clueless about cars and couldn’t care less about them—except when the car in question is a harpmobile, that special breed of car that can tote a harp to and fro.

I have a soft spot in my heart for every harpmobile I’ve ever owned (rest in peace, 1990 Mercury Sable wagon), and a deep well of knowledge about nearly every harpmobile sold in the United States in the last 20 years. It’s the kind of useless information that doesn’t help you in Trivial Pursuit, but makes you a hit at harp cocktail parties.

By my count, I’ve reviewed nearly 120 harpmobiles over the last 20 years, and I’ve tried out dozens more vehicles that weren’t quite big enough to earn the coveted moniker: harpmobile. I learned the craft from the best—Harp Column founder and harpmobile review originator Kimberly Rowe. She showed me the ropes when I was a Harp Column intern in 2000. She taught me the tricks to folding down back seats in a snap, the finer points of McFactor ratings, and how to handle the hovering car salesman. Rowe and her husband, Harp Column co-founder Hugh Brock, literally wrote the book (or at least the magazine review) on harpmobiles. We continue to model our review articles 26 years after their first harpmobile rundown appeared in the inaugural issue of Harp Column in 1993.

The auto industry has seen amazing changes in the last two decades, and harpists can count themselves fortunate to be the beneficiaries of most of those new designs and features. The most dramatic change in harpmobiles over the last two decades is choice. In our 2000 review we could only identify seven new vehicles that could haul a harp. In our 2014 review we tested a whopping 44 models.

There has also been an evolution in car styles from which to choose. Minivans were newish on the scene in 1993, and soon became the go-to choice for hauling a harp plus passengers. SUVs became all the rage around 2000. By our 2004 review, there wasn’t a single new station wagon in sight. In our 2006 review, crossovers finally gave harpists a scaled-down for harp moving. In 2008, our review featured the most fuel-efficient harpmobiles on the market. By 2014, the market was so flooded with crossover options it was hard to keep them all straight.

I could hardly wait to get out for our 2019 review this summer to find out what new trends are in store for harpists. I roped in our Harp Column summer intern Gabrielle Rabon, and together we reviewed two dozen crossovers, SUVs, minivans, and wagons.

First, the good news: It seems like every innovation and trend in car manufacturing is making it easier for harpists to move their harps. Carmakers have finally realized people want to be able to easily haul stuff in the backs of their big cars, and they are making it easier to do that with flat cargo beds, back seats that automatically fold down with the flip of a lever just inside the rear hatch, adjustable rear lift gate heights, and automatic everything.

The bad news? There are so many possible harpmobiles on the market right now, it’s hard to know where to begin your search for a new ride. With the dozens of new and used harpmobiles from which to choose, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. We’ve got you covered. Turn to pg. 32, and we’ll help you narrow down your search with our 2019 harpmobile review. Drive safely!

Alison Reese is editor of Harp Column. She is a freelance performer and teacher in West Michigan. You can email her at areese@harpcolumn.com.

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Editor of Harp Column, freelance harpist, private teacher, hot yoga lover, and grammar geek.

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