1997 Ford Probe. Click image to enlarge
By Jeff Burry
Produced by the Ford Motor Company for the North American market between 1989 and 1997, the Ford Probe had been considered as a possible replacement for the Mustang. However, at the time, Ford brass decided the buying public would not go for a front-wheel drive replacement for the iconic pony car, and Mustang fans breathed a sigh of relief!
The Ford Probe was the result of a joint Ford and Mazda partnership otherwise referred to as AutoAlliance International. The Probe only came in one body style – a hatchback sports coupe, and was based upon the Mazda GD platform, the same one used to build the Mazda MX6. Both vehicles shared the 2.2-litre single overhead cam (SOHC) inline four-cylinder engine, among other components, making them siblings of a sort.
Once you moved beyond the basic suspension and powerplant, the Ford Probe was every bit its own vehicle, and one that could easily stand its ground against the competition at that time, notably the Acura Integra, Nissan 240SX and Honda Prelude. The original Probe’s sheet metal possessed sharper lines than the Mazda MX6 which provided the Probe with a more purposeful and aggressive stance.
The Probe’s interior design and layout was unique from its MX6 sibling, and perhaps could best be described as more plush and functional. The car had a slightly split personality combining the attributes of a modern sports coupe with subtle luxury appointments.
There were two generations of the Ford Probe produced during its nine-year production run. First generation vehicles were produced between 1989 and 1992. The Probe received a facelift for the 1993 model year and some will suggest that it was these second generation Probes that had the most “eyeball” effect and “get up and go.” The second generation Ford Probe was produced until 1997 when the last ones rolled out of the AutoAlliance assembly plant in Flatrock, Michigan.
1989 Ford Probe. Click image to enlarge
First generation Probes (1989 – 1992) came in three trim levels for the North American market – GL, LX and the GT. The base GL model came equipped with the 2.2-litre SOHC powerplant producing 110 horsepower. If you were looking for a few more creature comforts, then the next model up, the LX, came with a power equipment group which included power windows, power mirrors and an optional moonroof. The LX also received an engine upgrade in 1990 in which a 3.0-litre V6 engine came standard.
The GT version contained all the bells and whistles found on the LX but featured a 2.2-litre turbocharged, intercooled four-cylinder engine producing 145 horsepower. Additional features found on the GT included four-wheel disc brakes with ABS (Anti-lock Braking System), three-way adjustable suspension and speed-sensitive variable-assist power steering.
In 1993, the newly designed Ford Probe dropped a few pounds and possessed a more sleek and rounded look. Even by today’s standards, this second generation Probe can still turn heads. Initial trim packages offered included a GL and GT model. Gone was the LX model from the first generation.