HARP, an Early, More Hands-On Version of CPO

Ronnie Schreiber
by Ronnie Schreiber
harp an early more hands on version of cpo

It’s easy to think that certified pre-owned, CPO, programs that sell used cars that meet manufacturers’ standards for quality, are a fairly modern development in the car biz, but car companies have been helping their dealers sell ‘approved’ used cars for generations. Chevrolet had its “OK” used car program. Ironically, that branding apparently had its origins in the marketing of 1918 era American Motors (unrelated to the company of the same name formed by the merger of Hudson and Nash), which Louis Chevrolet helped found after he parted ways with Billy Durant and the Chevrolet company. Louis Chevrolet would hand sign the dashboard of each American Six with the rhyming “O.K. Chevrolet”.

While at the new National Hudson Motor Car Museum that’s now part of the Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum, I noticed a poster from Hudson’s H.A.R.P. program. HARP stood for “Hudson Approved Reconditioning Procedure”. I doubt that any current automaker today would use the word “reconditioning”, particularly luxury brands like Mercedes-Benz, which popularized and heavily promotes its CPO program. Consumers in the 1950s were a bit more forgiving, more likely to accept the fact that at 50,000 miles or more many cars would need some kind of overhaul or major reconditioning. Note how #7 on the HARP list is “Perform minor mechanical adjustments and repairs. Major overhaul if necessary.” If you note, it wasn’t the only “if necessary” on the list.

You may also notice that the Chevrolet O.K. ad from the 1950s says that those cars have been “reconditioned” for safety, performance and value. Back then consumers needed assurance that necessary repairs and reconditioning had been done. Today’s CPO programs are more likely to give the impression that those cars are so lightly used and so well treated that repairs and reconditioning aren’t needed to ensure that they are nearly new in condition and performance. They’d never give even the impression, let alone put it in writing, that their cars sometimes need “major” overhauls.

For the most part, that’s probably true. People today will spend $6,000 on a used Toyota with 150,000 miles on the odometer. That kind of long term, high mileage durability was almost unheard of in the 1950s. Automatic transmissions lasted 50,000 miles and at 100,000 miles most engines were tired and in need of rebuilding. It’s likely that the average used car buyer needed greater assurances of reliability back then than the potential buyer of a low mileage E Class needs today. I could be wrong but Hudson’s HARP seems to have meant actually going over the cars and making necessary repairs. Today’s CPO programs seem to me to be more like hand-holding than reconditioning.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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  • Shaker Shaker on Sep 29, 2014

    It seems logical that you should buy a CPO vehicle from a dealer that sells that model new; at least any repairs should be done correctly, and since the car doesn't have to be sent to a third-party, maybe the savings will be applied to giving the vehicle a closer look.

  • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on Sep 29, 2014

    How does one "regroove" a tire?

    • See 3 previous
    • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on Sep 29, 2014

      @-Nate Thanks, sounds pretty labor intensive. I would think better in the long run to make a new tire than bother with all that. Of course that must not have been the case back in the day.

  • Alan The Prado shouldn't have the Landcruiser name attached. It isn't a Landcruiser as much as a Tacoma or 4 Runner or a FJ Cruiser. Toyota have used the Landcruiser name as a marketing exercise for years. In Australia the RAV4 even had Landcruiser attached years ago! The Toyota Landcruiser is the Landcruiser, not a tarted up Tacoma wagon.Here a GX Prado cost about $61k before on roads, this is about $41k USD. This is a 2.8 diesel 4x4 with all the off road tricky stuff, plus AC, power windows, etc. I'm wondering if Toyota will perform the Nissan Armada treatment on it and debase the Prado. The Patrol here is actually as capable and possibly more capable than the Landcruiser off road (according to some reviews). The Armada was 'muricanised and the off road ability was reduced a lot. Who ever heard of a 2 wheel drive Patrol.Does the US need the Prado? Why not. Another option to choose from built by Toyota that is overpriced and uses old tech.My sister had a Prado Grande, I didn't think much of it. It was narrow inside and not that comfortable. Her Grand Cherokee was more comfortable and now her Toureg is even more comfortable, but you can still feel the road in the seat of your pants and ears.
  • Jeffrey No tis vehicle doen't need to come to America. The market if flooded in this segment what we need are fun affordable vehicles.
  • Nrd515 I don't really see the point of annual inspections, especially when the car is under 3 years (warranty) old. Inspections should be safety related, ONLY, none of the nonsensical CA ARB rules that end up being something like, "Your air intake doesn't have an ARB sticker on it, so you have to remove it and buy one just like it that does have the ARB sticker on it!". If the car or whatever isn't puking smoke out of it, and it doesn't make your eyes water, like an old Chevy Bel-Air I was behind on Wed did, it's fine. I was stuck in traffic behind that old car, and wow, the gasoline smell was super potent. It was in nice shape, but man, it was choking me. I was amused by the 80 something old guy driving it, he even had a hat with a feather in it, THE sign of someone you don't want to be driving anywhere near you.
  • Lou_BC "15mpg EPA" The 2023 ZR2 Colorado is supposed to be 16 mpg
  • ToolGuy "The more aerodynamic, organic shape of the Mark VIII meant ride height was slightly lower than before at 53.6 inches, over 54.2” for the Mark VII."• I am not sure that ride height means what you think it means.Elaboration: There is some possible disagreement about what "ride height" refers to. Some say ground clearance, some say H point (without calling it that), some say something else. But none of those people would use a number of over 4 feet for a stock Mark anything.Then you go on to use it correctly ("A notable advancement in the Mark VIII’s suspension was programming to lower the ride height slightly at high speeds, which assisted fuel economy via improved aerodynamics.") so what do I know. Plus, I ended a sentence with a preposition. 🙂