Unveiled in 1989, the Ford Probe was a coupe introduced by Ford to replace the Ford EXP as Ford's sport compact vehicle. Completely based on the Mazda G-platform, the Probe used unique sheet-metal and featured an exciting interior. Sold worldwide as a sporty coupe, the Probe was created to fill the market niche that had earlier been filled by the Capri in Europe. The Probe was also considered as a possible replacement for the Mustang in the North American market, as well as a direct competitor with the Acura Integra and the Toyota Celica.
The front-wheel drive platform had been gaining popularity with consumers, and Ford's marketing team decided to utilize this platform as it would have lower costs for production. Mustang fans were upset at the idea of a front-wheel drive configuration so Ford chose instead began aiming its creative juices on a new design for the Mustang instead.
First shown in 1979, Ford and Ghia began exploring a series of futuristic designs under the 'probe' series of concept cars. The 'Probe I' was a wedge-shaped design that featured a variety of drag-reducing features like covered rear wheels and pop-up headlights. The following year, a much more conventional looking Probe II was unveiled and featured hatchback styling very similar to classic pony-cars. For 1981, the Probe III concept was even more fierce and showcased covered wheels, and bodywork that eventually evolved into the more conventional Ford Sierra and with styling notes utilized on the Ford Taurus. For 1982 the Prove IV was a much more radical concept vehicle with a very low Cd that eventually morphed into the 1984 Probe V.
The Ford Mustang had to receive a major redesign in the 1980's due to a predicted increase in oil prices. Unfortunately at the time of the release, oil prices dipped to an all time low, and Mustang buyers were not happy in the style of the proposed replacement, and when the car was eventually released, it wasn't as a Ford Mustang, but as the Ford Probe.
A product of the joint Ford and Mazda venture dubbed the AutoAlliance, the Ford Probe featured unique body panels and interior that were designed and manufactured in the AutoAlliance International Incorporated assembly plant. This was located in Flat Rock, Michigan and was the same plant that manufactured the Mazda MX-6 coupe and the Mazda 626 sedan for the North American market.
In 1989 the Ford Probe was unveiled to the U.S. market and was nearly identical to the Mazda MX-6. Most of the mechanical parts were also shared with the Mazda 626 and Mazda MX-6. From 1988 through 1992, the Ford Probe and the Mazda MX-6 were based on the Mazda GD platform, and then the GE platform from 1993 through 1997.
The Probe was originally created to replace the historical Ford Mustang, but unfortunately its sales fell short of Ford's expectations. Though the styling was modern, the Ford Probe was not universally accepted. Not affordable either, buyers instead chose to go with other more-prestigious brand for the price rather than opting for a Ford Probe. Not able to reach the success of the Mustang, the Probe drooped at a astonishingly low 837,273 units sold during its eight year production run. Dropping to only 32,505 units in 1997, the Ford Probe was eventually discontinued.
Introduced in 1988, the first generation Probe continued until 1992 in the U.S. Some markets only produced the Probe from 1987 through 1991. The Probe was based on a series of futuristic concept vehicles of the early 1980's. The first generation Probe was a coupe based on the Mazda GD platform and was powered by a 2.2 L SOHC I4 cylinder Mazda F2 engine. The base engine produced only 120 hp, but a turbocharged version featured a 145 hp with 190 lb ft of torque.
The first generation was featured in a variety of trim levels that differed depending on the market that the vehicle was sold in. The Probe was available in GL, LX and GT trim levels in the United States. The GL was the basic minimum model that offered the base 120 hp/130 lb/ft F2 2.2 L engine with only a few options. Most Probes sold in the U.S. did feature AC. The LX model came with power windows, power mirrors and locks, along with an optional manually operated moonroof. The LX was available in 1990 with the 3.0 L 'Vulcan' V6. This was also used in the Ford Taurus, Ford Tempo, Ford Aerostar and the Ford Ranger.
The GT came with all of the same options as the LX, but it also featured the F2T 2.2 L turbocharged, intercooled engine that achieved 145 hp and 190 lb/ft of torque. The GT also had 4 wheel disc brakes with ABS along with 3 way adjustable suspension, and a speed-sensitive variable-assist power steering. The GT's chassis and suspension system was based on a Mazda design, but achieved the optimized handling characteristics exclusive to the Probe. The stabilizer bar sizes were optimized for hard cornering, and both the front and rear struts were nitrogen-gas pressurized. A special Automatic Adjusting Suspension was also offered on the Probe GT, and it was a computer-controlled system that used a variable damping shocks that adjust to best accommodate acceleration, cornering forces and braking.
The second generation of the Ford Probe was introduced in 1991, thought it debuted in December of 1992 as a 1993 model in North America. Originally two trim levels were offered, the GL and GT, each with two preferred equipment packages. First priced at $13,000, the GL or base model came standard with a 2.0 L I4 engine. It also came with performance instrument cluster with tachometer and full gauge compliment, and electronic AM/FM stereo.
The more sporty model was priced at $15,504 and came standard with a 2.5 L V6 engine, 4-wheel disc brakes, fog lights, unique front and rear fascias, 5-spoke aluminum wheels, driver seat power lumbar/seat back side bolster adjustment and a leather wrapped steering wheel. Both of these engines came with double overhead cam designs and the choice of a 5-speed manual transmission or a 4-speed automatic transmission.
The Ford Probe introduced two automatic transmission, and at first both engines shared the same automatic transmission, the Ford F-4EAT transmission. Though from 1994 onward, this changed, while the V6 engine continued to use the 4EAT, the 2.0 L I4 engine utilized a different automatic transmission, the Ford CD4E. This engine was sourced by Ford and was manufactured at Ford's Batavia Transmission plant in Batavia, Ohio.
A 'Feature Model' Probe was introduced in 1994 that featured Wild Orchid exterior paint, black GT cloth bucket seats with flashy purple inserts and unique floor mats that had 'PROBE' embroidered into them. Also introduced in 1994, an all new SE (Sports Edition) trim level came on the scene which included the GT front fascia, 15-inch aluminum wheels, GT body-colored bodyside cladding and Sport Edition 'SE' nomenclature.
On the 1996 Probe GT's, the rear spoiler was made standard rather than a popular dealer installed accessory. The following year, and the final year for the Ford Probe, a GTS trim level was offered. Though it didn't have any more performance than the standard GT, the new Probe featured exterior modifications that were very distinct. Either white or black dual racing stripes were featured at the top edge of the front bumper and continued on to the back lip of the hatch, and ended just below the center light reflector on the rear bumper. Also included on the package where chrome wheels and a spoiler.
The 2.5 L V6 was the higher performance KL-ZE in Japan, while in America and Europe the 2.5 L V6 had a lower performance KL-DE and the 2.0 L was the FS. The Japanese version produced 36 more hp, though it lacked an emissions control component called Exhaust gas recirculation that was required by law in North America and Europe.By Jessica Donaldson