Future Classic: 1989-1997 Ford Prob -Dlight News

Future Classic: 1989-1997 Ford Prob

The late eighties Ford Probe had a litany of pluses and minuses. On the plus side, chalk up the look: svelte, sporty, aggressive. Put a check mark next to the objective box: The Probe was initially seen as an aspirational replacement for the Mustang. Then there was Mazda’s involvement in Probe’s origins. It will be built near Detroit as part of a joint venture called AutoAlliance International, and will be offered with the same powerplant as the 2.0-liter Mazda four-cylinder, boosted by a turbocharger, and the latter a 2.5-liter V6 generating 164 horsepower. The platform, drivetrain and suspension were all reliably Mazda, based on the company’s popular 626 sedan. Now on the other side of the ledger. When Ford fans learned of the coming changes, the reactions to the “replace the Mustang” approach were more or less: “Are you kidding?” “You’ve got to be kidding.” “You must be nuts!” Why is the Ford Probe a future classic? In the mid-Eighties, Ford’s plan to introduce a redesigned Mustang – still a classic in its portfolio for decades – was a vague proposition, even before the redesign came to life. Due to sky-high gas prices around 1980 — when the Probe-to-Mustang was conceived — Ford predicted that gas guzzlers like the Mustang would soon disappear. Also, it was believed by Ford’s bean counters that the Probe would be cheaper to manufacture. When official details were leaked and released in 1987, the $13,000 Probe was greeted cautiously by the mass market, but thousands of Mustangers sent complaints to Ford. Jamming a four-cylinder in a “Mustang” would be heresy. Front-wheel drive? not And … naming it a probe? Meh. Neil Ressler, then chief of small car engineering at Ford, later reflected on the different perceptions of what the Mustang should be: “There were a lot of people who thought (the Probe) was a great idea — a modern car. There were also many of us who were horrified by it. It was like a champagne sipping crowd instead of a beer drinking crowd. The idea that we’ll replace the Mustang with a Japanese car – a different car from a different culture that’s made for a different audience … this won’t work. By 1997, fewer than 20,000 units had been delivered in the Probe’s last-hurray years. Buoyed by sales of enthusiast-targeted cars like the Honda Prelude and Toyota Celica, its official demise was announced in March of that year. In the end, Ford produced about 310,000 Probes over ten years at its Flat Rock, Michigan assembly line. In the final analysis, the verification was a “different strokes” story. Had he not been born as the anti-Mustang — a champion hard to dethrone — his ultimate fate might have been kinder. What is an ideal example of a Ford Probe? The base mix-n-match model that hit the market in the US in 1989 (and sold alongside the Mustang) had a 100-horsepower four, as specified. The slightly upscale GT version kept the turbo with 145 horses. It was praised by critics for its agility and handling, streamlined appearance and modest utility (the trunk was a huge liftback). A 3.0-liter V6 was an available option, and the engine could be mated to a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. Second-generation models of the Ford Probe were released for 1993. As before, the Probe was to share its under-structure with Mazda’s MX-6 and 626, and the GT model was named “Car of the Year” by Motor Trend. Its redesign was led by Mimi Vanderhollen, who was responsible for designing the Ford Taurus, and she changed the interior to make it more female-friendly, but the basic specs remained unchanged. The top engine option on this second-generation model was a 24-valve dual-overhead-cam 2.5-liter V6 designed by Mazda that produced 164 horsepower. Be sure to check out our used vehicle listings; They can be helpful in finding a good deal. You can narrow down options by radius around your zip code, and be sure to pay attention to the deal rating on each listing to see how the vehicle compares to others in the same area. Are there any good alternatives to the Ford Probe? Although Ford produced more than 300,000 Probes in a decade, the numbers shrank in the later years of the run, so that desirable models are few and far between. Finding a mechanically identical Mazda MX-6 isn’t easy either. We were offered a 1994 GT five-speed with 81k miles by a dealer in Kansas for $11,000. There’s a generous selection of options, including the 1990 Mazda Miata, which proved that Japanese-built fake British sports cars could be reliable. Also from Japan, the Nissan 300ZX can be had with a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 engine that makes 300 HP and 283 lb-ft. of torque. And there’s the third-generation sports compact Honda Prelude, which (for the time) is a fascinating mix of technology, stuff like four-wheel steering. Also check out the upscale Prelude 2.0 Si, which includes a 2.0-liter DOHC four-cylinder with 135 horsepower and 127 lb-ft of torque. Some intros had difficult transmissions, so watch for odd noises and clunks.

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