By on October 15, 2019

Probe is a significant name in the history of Rare Rides, as the series started off in early 2017 with the Ghia-designed Probe I. That design study was the kickoff of a series of Probe concepts from Ford; a series which ultimately resulted in an aerodynamic liftback that entered production in the late Eighties.

Let’s see a clean, original example of the all-but-vanished first-gen Probe.

The world was a scary place at the end of the Seventies, as an energy crisis left the Detroit Three shook. Waves of uncertainty washed over Ford’s offices in Dearborn, and ideas began to brew about an all-new type of Mustang.

The old, rear-drive Mustang should be thrown out, Ford thought, and replaced with something more modern and front-wheel drive. Around the same time, Ford purchased a 25-percent share in Mazda, a company with which they had worked previously with some success. Ideas gelled, and Ford soon employed Japanese designer Toshi Saito to come up with a new Mustang which would reside on a GD platform donated by Mazda. Probe’s design was finalized by 1983.

In 1985, Mazda took over Ford’s old Flat Rock Assembly with the intent of producing three GD-platform cars: Mazda’s 626 and MX-6, and Ford’s Probe ⁠— then known as the SN-16. Things were moving along just fine until April of 1987, when Autoweek did a little story with a rendering of the SN-16 and an intriguing title “Exclusive: The ’89 Mustang.”

Public outrage was immediate and severe. Mustang fans across the nation clutched their gold chains and nervously lit a Marlboro while they considered just what a front-drive, Japanese-engineered Mustang meant for the stability of the nation.

Letters were written.

A couple of members of Ford’s top brass reconsidered the idea of a new type of Mustang, observing that after the announcement of the new Mustang, sales of the old one increased notably. Ford sent its spare engineers off to hastily develop a new version of the Mustang. Said version would not be a fully-budgeted new model, but rather another rework of the existing Fox platform. Thus, Ford’s hand was forced into creation of the SN-95.

Meanwhile, the Probe went on sale for the 1989 model year. Initial sales were good, as non-Mustang customers enjoyed futuristic styling and reliable front-wheel drive. Trims were three in number for Probe. The base GL used a 2.2-liter Mazda engine (110 hp) and boasted modern luxuries like seats and air conditioning. The mid-level LX had additional power options, and for 1990 could be optioned with the good old 3.0-liter Vulcan V6 (140 hp) that powered numerous Ford vehicles. Max cash ordered up the GT, which had the same equipment as the LX and a turbocharged 2.2-liter version (145 hp) of the same F2 engine found in the base LX.

The first-generation Probe lasted just four model years before it was replaced by a much more swoopy and modern second generation for 1993. The second-gen was more Mazda than Ford, using only Mazda engines. Probe finished its life in 1997, when it was replaced by the sporty Escort ZX2.

Today’s Rare Ride is a very clean Probe LX with the V6 engine and a four-speed Mazda automatic. In the correct white with black and red trim and 77,000 miles, it asks just $1,995 in Phoenix.

[Images: seller]

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81 Comments on “Rare Rides: A Ford Probe From 1991 – the Mustang Replacement...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I was just saying to myself where’s Corey and there you appear.

    I have to say assuming that example spent its life in the Southwest, that actually is the first Rare Ride I’d call a buy at ask. Stick would be better of course but the Probe people of the site should get on it.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Well at least the price isn’t crazy.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    On another subject, who wants to play “How much did it go for?” with your host 28-Cars-Later?

    Today we have three contestants who sold at Manheim Pittsburgh in Cranberry on Oct 10 at the “as-is” sale. How much did they go for?

    KEY:
    SR/MR = Sunroof/Moonroof
    AC = air conditioning
    PW = power windows
    PL = power locks
    PS = power seat
    O = unknown IIRC
    A = automatic
    8G= 8 cyl Gas (or D for diesel)
    5 = five speed manual

    HINT: When the ODOMETER is ever 0 or 1, something was jacked up about it or the title.

    Good luck contestants!

    YR MAKE MODEL ENG BODY TRN PS PB AC TOP 4X4 ODOMETER COLOR
    2006 INFINITI QX56 8G SUV O PS AC SR 4X4 1 WHITE
    2012 LINCOLN MKZ 6G 4DSN A PS AC AWD 114,107 SILVER
    2008 TOYOTA TUNDRA SR5 8G CREW A PS AC HT 4X4 133,000 GRAY

    and for our bonus round:

    2011 FORD TAURUS SEL 6G 4DSN A PS AC AWD 196,303 BLACK

    Go!

    • 0 avatar
      thegamper

      2006 INFINITI QX56 $3,500
      2012 LINCOLN MKZ $6,600
      2008 TOYOTA TUNDRA $10,000

      and for our bonus round:

      2011 FORD TAURUS SEL $4,500

      Disclaimer: I dont buy a lot of used cars as my results may reflect.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Thanks for playing our game, how about I post the answers at 3?

      • 0 avatar
        SPPPP

        Guesses (no research):
        2006 INFINITI QX56 $4,100
        2012 LINCOLN MKZ $5,600
        2008 TOYOTA TUNDRA $8,000

        2011 FORD TAURUS SEL $2,999

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        …and the winning number are, $500, $3500, $12400 and our bonus, 1,800.

        These cars generally run at this sale because they are jacked up in some way and won’t sell at the regular sale, hence $500 for the Infiniti truck (it may have been scrap value in condition, I don’t know).

        2006 INFINITI QX56 8G SUV O PS AC SR 4X4 1 WHITE $500
        2012 LINCOLN MKZ 6G 4DSN A PS AC AWD 114,107 SILVER $3,500
        2008 TOYOTA TUNDRA SR5 8G CREW A PS AC HT 4X4 133,000 GRAY $12,400

        2011 FORD TAURUS SEL 6G 4DSN A PS AC AWD 196,303 BLACK $1,800

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          The Toyota Truck Cult rolls on…

        • 0 avatar
          thegamper

          Well, I was closer on 2 of the 4 so I guess its a tie. Although I was closer on 2 of the 3 that constituted the game and lost on the bonus. So, I will go ahead and declare victory. Never been to an auction before, sounds fun, but dont have enough mechanical skill/knowledge to avoid any real problem vehicles so best I stay away. Fun game. Honestly, should probably be a segment on TTAC

          • 0 avatar
            SPPPP

            Hmm, I dunno. My total was closer (off by $2499 vs. $6400). :P

            Though, the sum of errors for each choice comes out to $11,200 for you and $11,299 for me. Strangely close – I assume just coincidence.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I should have clarified the as-is sale is where you find the “interesting” buys, whereas the much larger general sale is typically boring so pricing can get more creative. Something interesting was up with that QX56, I wish I could find out what it was. Hell if it ran for $500 + fee you could have a half decent truck fixed for maybe 2 grand depending on how jacked up it was at the time of buy.

            Yes it can be a lot of fun to watch, but for most of the folks its a serious business esp the smaller lots who don’t have new car dealer money to spend and can’t easily recoup if they screw up on a buy. There is also a lot of paperwork and other BS you have to deal with, but it can be fun flipping a car as long as you’re meal ticket isn’t as dependent on it.

            I think it was the time we bought the 240SX that caught on fire down 79, but there were these two 89-93 Continentals parked way out back near where we were and being the sick man that I am I was particularly interested in them. The next week I checked the sheet and it showed two Contis of that vintage selling for $100 apiece. I don’t know if either ran because sometimes they have to push things through the block, always wondered who bought them because with transportation costs (i.e. tow-truck) and whatever the fee is for something that low, you’d be at or above scrap value at the time on each, so why buy them? Was at least one of them running and worth the say $350 all in?

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            I’d think there would be more than $500 of scrap metal in that giant truck.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Maybe Dal, but when they list the trans weird like that and then “1” mile there’s something up with it (maybe it had weird title branding or was a rebuildable wreck?). I’ve seen weird stuff at the auctions, new cars without motors sold at the factory sales and cars being driven through on flat bed trucks (then new Ford GT in 2005).

            You know I just checked the local Seattle sales results back to Sept 18th, not one Volt was sold. You must have a rarity out there.

            Oh this one was for you and it sold in Seattle:

            1994 ACURA LEGEND LS 6G 4DSN 4X2 126,631 COPPER $150

            Other random stuff from Seattle except the last two:

            2016 TESLA MOD X 90D EL SUV A PS AC MR AWD 21,078 SILVER $52,500

            2005 CHRYSLER TOWN&C LX 6G VAN A PS AC HT 4X2 242,945 GOLD $175

            1990 BMW 735IL 6G 4DSN 4X2 238,891 WHITE $1,000

            2008 ACURA TSX 4G 4DSN 4X2 170,323 BLUE $3,500

            2006 LEXUS LS 430 8G 4DSN 86,987 SILVER $8,400

            1998 LINCOLN NAVIG 8G SUV 4X4 178,000 BLUE $950

            1999 PLYMOUTH BREEZE 4G 4DSN 4X2 163,082 WHITE $175

            1995 PONTIAC BONNEV SE 6G 4DSN PS AC 4X2 207,011 GRAY $150

            2006 PONTIAC GTO 8G 2DCP A PS AC HT 4X2 93,033 BLUE $8,100

            1995 LEXUS LS400 8G 4DSN 4X2 211,078 BLUE $700

            2002 LEXUS SC 430 8G 2DCV A PS AC HC 4X2 133,143 SILVER $7,400

            2003 DODGE DAKOTA SPT 8G XCAB 4X4 92,153 BLACK $5,400

            2006 MAZDA MAZDA6 S GS 6G 5DHB A PS AC SR 4X2 128,544 BLACK $1,700

            1991 MERCEDES 300SL 6G 2DCP 4X2 145,037 YELLOW $2,000

            2019 LANDROVER RR EVQ SEPRM 4GT SUV A PS AC PN 4X4 26,296 GREY $31,800

            1996 FORD MUST COBRA 8CY COUP 5 HT 4X2 128,216 WHITE $5,250

            Wasn’t this the jacked up Audi model from Sajeev’s piece a few weeks ago? Suckers at 6,6

            2010 AUDI A4 2.0T PRM 4GT 4WGN A PS AC SR AWD 99,032 GREY $6,600

            Wow. In years and years I have NEVER seen $0. The stuff that didn’t sell just didn’t get listed so like WTF:

            1999 OLDSMOBILE INTRIGUE GL 6G 4DSN A PS AC HT 4X2 99,224 GREEN $0

            ———————-Pgh:

            2012 CHEVROLET VOLT 4H 5DHB A PS AC 4X2 87,491 BLUE $7,100

            2017 LINCOLN CONT PREM 6G 4DSN A PS AC HT AWD 5,153 WHITE $27,400

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Wow…$27k for a Continental with under 10k miles. Wonder if it’s the twin turbo?

            I think that model’s shaping up to be a KILLER used buy. I’d take one.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @Freed

            I’m not surprised, the old FWD 00s Contis did the same thing back in the day.IMO they should really be hitting 20K, the Livery ones are in MY17 but they have 50K+ miles and are probably not clean. There must be some demand for the Select to still pull high 20s.

            Regarding this example, the code should be on the engine if it was turbo. Such code appears on the MMR results so that one was likely the 3.7 N/A. That one was a Pgh sale.

            On the used deal, remember the transverse 3.7 sports the Water Pump of Death, not sure on other motors.

            Nationwide – MY18 LINCOLN CONTINENTAL AWD 4D SEDAN 2.7L SELECT

            9/17/2019 $35,500 10,516 4.9 6GT Automatic White Lease Midwest Chicago No 2018 LINCOLN CONTINENTAL AWD 4D SEDAN 2.7L SELECT 10/16/2019 US
            4/30/2019 $27,700 20,962 4 6GT Automatic Blue Factory Midwest Chicago No 2018 LINCOLN CONTINENTAL AWD 4D SEDAN 2.7L SELECT 10/16/2019 US
            3/21/2019 $34,000 6,307 4.3 6GT Automatic White Factory Northeast Pennsylvania No 2018 LINCOLN CONTINENTAL AWD 4D SEDAN 2.7L SELECT 10/16/2019 US
            3/19/2019 $33,700 7,328 5 6GT Automatic Beige Factory Midwest Chicago No 2018 LINCOLN CONTINENTAL AWD 4D SEDAN 2.7L SELECT 10/16/2019 US
            3/19/2019 $36,400 6,835 4.6 6GT Automatic Red Factory Midwest Chicago No 2018 LINCOLN CONTINENTAL AWD 4D SEDAN 2.7L SELECT 10/16/2019 US
            3/15/2019 $38,600 5,773 4.2 6GT Automatic Black Factory Northeast Pennsylvania No 2018 LINCOLN CONTINENTAL AWD 4D SEDAN 2.7L SELECT 10/16/2019 US
            3/13/2019 $37,300 7,284 4.9 6GT Automatic Black Lease Southeast Tampa No 2018 LINCOLN CONTINENTAL AWD 4D SEDAN 2.7L SELECT 10/16/2019 US

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            A tale of two Cadillacs, turns out at least one model has some resale:

            2008 CADILLAC CTS W/1SA 6G 4DSN A PS AC PN 4X2 172,868 SILVER $3,000

            2014 CADILLAC CTS VSPT PRM 6GT 4DSN A PS AC PN 4X2 79,924 BLACK $17,000

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Wonder if the SHO V6 would fit?

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    The 140 HP Vulcan 3.0 was standard on the LX from 90-92, it was never optional.

    From 90-92 the LX could be optioned to the hilt with digital dash, climate control, ABS, leather power seats, and included a service interval reminder.

    90-92 also got the infuriating motorized seatbelts.

    This LX is saddled with the awful 4-speed automatic, which at this point is a grenewith the pin pulled and the holder has already counted to 3.

    The real question is if the taillight seals have turned to dust yet (almost certainly yes) and how bad is the mold and rust in the cargo area and spare tire well.

    • 0 avatar
      SPPPP

      I think this man has owned one. :)

      The base 4-cylinder powertrain on these was just adequate in my opinion. The turbo 4 in the GT was neat but reliability was likely not as good. I never liked the Vulcan V6 much.

      I really liked the interior in this generation of Probe. The seats were comfortable, and the fabric was nice. The dash plastic even had a nice feel and sheen to it. The instrument panel was clear, and it adjusted up and down with the wheel. It was a pretty nice-driving and nice-riding car.

      Don’t forget the trip computer, which was sort of high-end at the time!

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        The interior quality and materials on the LX and GT definitely punched above its class (the leather option from 90 to 92 was of very low quality). The carpet on the doors below the armrests was a bit cheap, and the center armrest was out of place (hard plastic, cheap). You are correct that the dash was very attractive nice materials, and there wasn’t a lot of, ehem, “hard plastics on the touch surfaces” to be found. The cloth on the LX and GT were outstanding, very high quality. The cabin in the higher trim models felt and appeared very nice. I think it is one of the reasons I felt the loved Gen II Probe was a step backwards, interior quality definitely went down a notch.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Oh and those front seats? Some of the most supportive, best bolstered, with indestructible comfortable cloth, that still remains attractive today. The possible adjustments, grip from the side bolsters, lumbar adjustment, and position are all excellent. Also standard on all LX models. The power seats have plastic gears and are prone to about 100% failure.

  • avatar
    mrentropy

    From the first episode of “In Plain Sight”:

    Marshall Mann: As I was saying, imagery and metaphor have been used to sell projects forever.

    Mary Shannon: Please, Jesus, take me now.

    Marshall Mann: Take the Ford Mustang, for instance. It’s named for a powerful and agile animal, qualities we also seek in an automobile. It’s called transference.

    Mary Shannon: Okay, what about my Probe? Exactly what image is that supposed to transfer? Because all I’m getting is a paper dress, metal stirrups, and legs akimbo. Exactly what was the thought process behind that marketing coup? ‘Say, Bob, what’s a metaphor for an invasive, somewhat humiliating procedure, because we really need something to compete with the Chevy Speculum.’

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    I’m a fan of the second generation Probe and MX6. With the Mazda V6 and 5-speed, either of them was good looking and nice to drive.

  • avatar

    I remember reading when this came out that some potential female buyers were uncomfortable with the “Probe” name.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    I’ll add the usual – these used to be everywhere and were favorites with 20-somethings looking for something sporty but not outrageously expensive.

    If the Probe had replaced the Fox body, where would the Mustang be now? Switching back to RWD? An AWD Focus-type car? Or cut?

    • 0 avatar
      dividebytube

      an interesting bit from Wikipedia regarding the Probe:

      “A proposed third-generation Probe, which would have been based on the Ford Mondeo instead of being Mazda-derived, was eventually released as the 1999 Mercury Cougar in the North American market to strengthen the Mercury brand. However, it is important to note that Ford in North America considered the Escort-based ZX2 the official successor to the Probe and not the Cougar. After disappointing sales of the Cougar and the waning popularity of front-wheel drive sport coupes in the late 1990’s in favor of sport utility vehicles, Ford left the market segment with the 2002 discontinuation of the Cougar, and the 2003 discontinuation of the ZX2. “

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Incidentally those Cougars were a nightmare used IIRC while I seem to recall the MN-12s as less so.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          My cousin Deanna had one of those Cougars, well used.

          I don’t recall any outstanding problems with it but it was her few frills get to college and home every weekend car.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            We had a few of those, something was up with the moonroofs, electrical issues, emissions issues can’t recall what now exactly.

            This guy claims the 2.5 Duratec was good *if* you kept up on the oil but also it popped head gaskets and the earlier motors broke water pumps. I’m sure we had at least one which has those issues because I distinctly remember our mechanic hating them.

            “Duratec 2.5 V6 engines are pretty bulletproof. aslong as you keep the oil filled up to max, or just over, as they do like to spin shells at high revs, when cornering and the oil isnt full. also they have been known to pop headgaskets, and the plastic impellar water pump on the earlier engines was known to fail, not so much a problem on the later engines. bar that, they go on forever”

            https://passionford.com/forum/restorations-rebuilds-and-projects/356286-duratec-v6-good-or-bad.html

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            “Cougar, well used…” Bad news if the Cougar has two legs or four wheels, if you ask me.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Awww everybody loves a Cougar, right?

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          @28-cars

          The Mondeo based Cougar was a quality nightmare. The power sunroof was a huge point of issue and is irreparable once it fails. If it fails open, you’re basically screwed.

          The Mondeo Cougar does provide some insight on the reception a FWD Mustang would have gotten. The MN-12 Cougar was already weak selling as personal luxury coupes died a slow death, but I know many who saw the FWD Cougar as an abomination back in the day.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            How, exactly, does one *design* a car with an unrepairable part? Astounding.

          • 0 avatar
            APaGttH

            @FreedMike do a search on the Jeep Liberty canvas power roof – another example of an irreparable part, and if the roof breaks open, you are COMPLETELY screwed.

            In the case of the Liberty, the supplier that made the roof original went out of business, and the market is so small no one is stepping up to create an aftermarket solution.

            Also look up either the 96 or 97 Lincoln Mark VIII. I can’t remember which year it was, but one of them had a one model year HID system where no replacement exists. When the headlight dies, the car is done.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            For the Liberty’s the gang over at Curbside Classic did some puzzling of how one might fix that.

            Most solutions involved sheet steel and a welder, headliner not included.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            I thought the Mondeo Cougar was a pretty car, if not as much so as a second generation Ford Probe. I’d put the styling on par with the second generation Mazda MX6. Sadly, there really were quality problems aplenty. That being said, I rented a Mystique with the 2.0 Zetec, and it was the sweetest four cylinder ever sold by a Detroit brand.

            As for the MN-12 Cougar, I dated the most drop-dead sexy swimsuit model/Value America VP who had one. I had to move to Manhattan for work, and I never saw her again. I do recall that she hated the car. I believe it was a V6 model with an unreliable transmission.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I thought those were a mess, thanks for confirmation.

            I’m sort of surprised on the MK VIII, although MY98 was the redesign year so maybe that’s the year with HIDs?

          • 0 avatar

            Negatory 28. 1997 was the redesign year, as it lived two final years in the bulbous guise with HiD lamps and neon at the rear.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “do a search on the Jeep Liberty canvas power roof”

            You’d have to be an absolute crazy person to plan to own a Sky Slider Liberty beyond 5 years old.
            Jeep offers a new Sky Slider type roof on the Wrangler for $4,000. I wouldn’t touch that sh*t if it was $1.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Egads you’re right! Seems it was the facelift edition which came with the HIDs.

            “Development of an updated FN-10 began in 1993, with a design freeze occurring in November 1994. The first prototypes were built in September 1995, testing into mid-1996. In September 1996, Alcan Aluminum Limited won a bid to supply hoods for the revised FN-10. In the fall of 1996, the Mark VIII received a significant facelift since its 1992 debut, featuring smoother, more rounded front and rear fascias and a larger grille. The car’s hood was now aluminum (versus plastic before) and the trunk carried a more subtle version of the “spare tire hump” associated with earlier Mark Series cars. HID headlamps became standard and were placed in larger housings compared to earlier models. A neon brake light ran across the rear decklid. Side mirrors now came with puddle lamps, which, upon unlocking the doors, illuminated the ground for the driver and passengers to see when entering the car. The side-view mirror housings also incorporated flashing LED turn signal lamps to warn other drivers of an intended lane change or turn. The interior included ‘theater lighting’, which softly illuminated the driver’s controls and handles. The 4.6 L InTech V8 carried on as before, but now came with a distributorless coil-on-plug ignition system, eliminating the use of high-voltage spark plug wires. Some of the internal components of the 4R70W automatic transmission were reinforced for greater durability and reliability in late 1997 models and all 1998 models. LSC models had firmer shocks and larger stabilizer bars for even better handling and control. All-speed traction control was now standard, and could be deactivated via the onboard systems status computer when desired.[13][14]”

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lincoln_Mark_VIII

  • avatar
    slavuta

    A little longer hood and a little more tear-drop cabin and you have 240 sx. But that was RWD.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    None of these three engines was quite right for a sporty coupe. The right engine was the Mazda V6 in the second-gen car.

  • avatar
    SilverCoupe

    Why are two three-quarter rear views shown and no front view? I remember looking at these when I was in the market in ’84, but I just did not like the front end as much as the that of the ’84 Chrysler Laser turbo that I ended up buying. I also don’t recall that the Probe had a turbo engine available in ’84, which probably sealed the deal against it.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    The platform code is fitting, since Mustang owners didn’t want their car replaced by a GD Mazda.

    The car for sale here looks great, and should sell pretty quick at that price. You’d probably just want to convert the a/c to R-134a, if it hasn’t already been done (the ad just says it’s cold). And track down a center cap for the wheel.

  • avatar
    Carrera

    My dad owned one of these for 2-3 years. He got it from a family member’s estate sale so he got it for a killer price. His was a 1989 LX with all digital dash. The car wasn’t driven often while the estate was liquidated and it was about 3 years old almost when he got it in 1992. It had very low mileage, something like 8000 but I think it was just out of warranty. I know the AC needed a charge every month or so and my dad was buying R12 from Walmart very cheap. He got some quotes to fix the AC but he didn’t like the price so he just added freon as needed. My dad kept it until 1994 and drove it about 20,000 miles. The day he was going to trade it in, he charged up the AC and right when we were about the leave for the Honda dealer, the passenger power windows failed. He cursed and cursed, but he fixed it somehow then trade it in that day for a brand new 1994 Honda Civic. He got more on the trade in than he paid for the car..a lot more but he never bought American after that.
    To this day, I thought the digital dash was something from Startrek.

  • avatar
    285exp

    “The base GL used a 2.2-liter Mazda engine (110 hp) and boasted modern luxuries like seats and air conditioning.”

    I always hated having to stand up all the time in the older cars.

  • avatar
    JMII

    “these used to be everywhere” – so true, then what happened? I see Mustangs and other cars from this era often, but I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw a Probe. Its like someone flipped a switched and poof they were all gone.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Bears remembering that the “survivor” Mustangs are generally the V-8 powered performance versions; the lesser-powered “sportier commuter car” versions probably got recycled a long time ago. Unfortunately for the Probe, Ford never really made a hotter performance version of the model; if it had, I bet they’d have survived, just as you find things like Omni GLH Turbos still kicking around.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      A few things killed these off:

      1) Fast & Furious set VTEC Yo! stickers make it go fast where is my electric turbo dude I used a coffee can for a muffler set.

      2) Deferred maintenance on the timing belts caught up when the fifth owner started neglecting them.

      4) 4-speed automatic transmission failure – the end.

      5) The rear taillight seals disintegrated resulting in Niagara Falls straight into the spare tire well. Instead of popping the rubber drain they just drove around wondering, “what the Hell is that smell” until toxic mold, rust, or both destroyed everything from the c-pillar back.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Forget about the transmission. All it takes for most things this old and uninspiring is a bad starter.

        Although the above Probe wouldn’t be crusher food, except for that bad trans. That’s why I coach everyone to get the most exciting car they can afford. Yeah suffer bigger payments now, except you’ll have a car you won’t dread owning 5+ years from now, never mind 10. Plus life’s too short for some cars.

        Inflation helps, but even if you plan on trading the boring car in by then, you never know what life will throw at you. Heaven forbid you end up married to the thing for 30 years.

        I sort of followed my own advise, by getting the new ’05 F-150 supercab V8 4X4 STX, which is a basic truck and some lipstick, but as ’04 to ’14 Lariat/FX4/King Ranch examples started showing up at junk yards, I now have leather seats (custom console), 20″ FX wheels with BFGs, running boards, power windows/locks/remote, Pioneer monitor/BT, Cameras, CB/whip, rear pwr slider, monochrome bumpers w/fog, etc, etc.

        The same could be said about Wranglers/Cherokees/pickups/etc, but in 7 years you could see things much differently. I’m 51, no pension and still not a millionaire. In the next couple decades, I have to earn/invest all I can and avoid depreciating assets (like The Plague) if I’m going to retire wealthy and or early.

        • 0 avatar
          ToddAtlasF1

          There are limits. These days, the magazine test versions of some cars have tires that last one qualifying session and brakes that cost more to replace than the hit from throwing away a ten years old car.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    Well, thanks to a 1st gen probe article….I now know why my hand-me-down 1990 Mazda 626 often had random water in the spare tire well for years. Get it out and eventually it was back. Nobody ever seemed to know how this could happen, so in the pre-internet days I lived with it until the car got rear ended and that was that. I had little idea Mazda didn’t know how to do seals….

    I believe this probe had the same 2.2L my 626 had. It was fine. Didn’t like to rev terribly, but had a bit of low grunt. Family also had a 1991 Honda Accord and, honestly, the Honda was so much better it wasn’t even close. Maybe a little weaker at low RPM but from there the Honda was far better. Smoother, revved like crazy, more power, and sounded great. But we also never had any issues with the Mazda engine beyond a valve cover gasket that had to be replaced, easy and cheap enough.

    The 626 was a good car for us. About 190,000 miles on it when it was hit. Original clutch. Minimal oil consumption. Everything still worked. It was a good family car and a good high school and college car. The taillamps (I now know) leaked. And for some reason the headlights were really prone to rock chips and cracked glass.

    Never got a chance to try the turbo 4. I think this may have only been available in the top trim MX-6?

    I don’t know about today, but as a kid the 2nd gen Probe I always thought was the one to have. Fantastic styling for the time.

    Oh, and I seem to remember the 4 speed auto in the Probe/MX-6/626 were trash even back in the day. Get the manual and all problems solved.

  • avatar
    brn

    The only way this was really intended to be a Mustang replacement was if they wanted the Mustang to be targeted toward women. The Probe was very much designed for women. Interestingly, it was popular among young men who wanted something sporty-ish and economical.

    I was one of those young men. Great car. Reliable (my most expensive repair was the muffler). Not all that fast (2.2L NA), but fun with the stick shift. Great mpg. Lots of cargo room. The power seat belt was evil.

  • avatar
    theoldguard

    I remember first seeing this car and thinking how pretty it was. I drove it and thought the V6 was sweet. And the seats on that Ford were good for the time. I almost bought it, but instead got a Jetta GLI 16V. It wasn’t the 16 valves that sold it to me (imagine that badge being stuck on a car!), it was the real Recaro seats. I had to buy German to get curves like that.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Wish you could get a quality interior in today’s new vehicles like the one in this car. Miss those nice plush velour interiors which were comfortable and wore like iron. Today’s new vehicles give you upholstery made from recycled 2 liter pop bottles or you can pay the premium and get pleather or bonded leather which is passed off as leather in many vehicles. The carpet in most new vehicles is closer to thin astro turf.

  • avatar
    theoldguard

    I remember first seeing this car and thinking how pretty it was. I drove it and thought the V6 was sweet. And the seats on that Ford were good for the era. I almost bought it, but instead got a Jetta GLI 16V. It wasn’t the 16 valves that sold it to me (imagine that badge being stuck on a car!), it was the real Recaro seats. I had to buy German to get curves like that.

  • avatar
    Professional Lurker

    Oh, boy! I’m glad to see the Probe get some love around here!

    I had a ’91 LX from 1998-2006. Being only my second car since I learned to drive, I’m pretty sentimental about it. Some of my recollections:

    1. We found water in the trunk when we bought it. Fortunately, that was fixed with some gasket sealer or some such thing; it remained dry until I got rid of it.
    2. The engine compartment with the 3.0 was quite full, and it was easy to get burned on the exhaust manifold while trying to get the oil filter out. I eventually got a long filter wrench and had oil changes down to a science. In fact, I could change the oil without ever even lifting the front wheels.
    3. The fuel pump is easy to access. The bottom of the rear seats flip up, and all that is needed is to remove eight or so screws and pull the assembly out of the tank. I think a replacement was something like $90 at the time and maybe an hour of work.
    4. The antenna was retractable on mine, and naturally it broke. Fortunately, AutoZone had a suitable replacement off the shelf.
    5. The sunroof never leaked–yay!
    6. I managed never to have trouble with the pop-up headlights. Most of the other Probes I saw had these permanently propped up.
    7. It was fun to have friends in the car not expecting the automatic shoulder belts.
    8. The trunk was pretty generous and the seats fold flat. I brought flat-pack furniture home a few times in that thing effortlessly.

    What eventually did it in was our botched replacement of the driveshafts in 2001, which had broken outer CV joints on both sides. For some reason, the wheel hubs didn’t separate from the control arm or the driveshafts easily, and I suspect we incurred collateral damage in the process of replacement. My brother drove it briefly in 2006, and when the time came to do something to the front end (Steering? Driveshafts? Can’t remember), the only way the driveshafts were coming out was to take the transmission with it. It got sent to the recycler with 160-170k miles.

  • avatar
    bg

    My wife had the GT version of this car when I met her. It was a rocket! It handled nicely and was beautiful in metalic teal.

    But it had three major shortcomings. In any kind of snow, the wide stock tires were useless. And more importantly, between the turbo kicking in and the 4-speed automatic, the car never settled down. It was constantly shifting and boosting. And in hilly Colorado, there was no respite from it. And it also had those ridiculous automatic shoulder belts that ran up a track along the door frame.

    Then one hot summer her rear view mirror detatched itself from the windshield, and no glue would rejoin them. Knowing that the car shared many parts with the Mazda MX-6 I noticed that the Mazda’s rear-view mirror was attached to the headlliner above the windshield. In the Probe there ws a small square plastic filler panel there. I pried it up and found rwo mounting holes. I went to the parts yard and found the MX-6 mirror and it had bolts in the same location. I bought it for a couple of bucks, removed the Probe’s filler panel and mounted the Mazda mirror which fit like it was meant to be there.

    The metallic green paint began to flake off, so my wife sold the car and bought a 1998 Grand Caravan, which I loved…no really, such a nice ride, and versatile, plus the last year of the 3.0 liter 6-cyl in the long-wheelbase. What it lacked in punch and oomph, it made up for in MPG…30+ on the highway if you kept it under 65, which the wife insisted on.

    I myself had an ’89 Mustang 2.5 Liter with a 5-speed, which is a whole ‘nother bunch of stories.

    That Probe was a real looker.

  • avatar
    SaulTigh

    I was in middle school when these came out, and several teachers immediately signed on the dotted line. I though they were pretty cool, and certainly something my own parents would never consider.

  • avatar
    N8iveVA

    An Arizona car without window tint? Is that even legal?

  • avatar
    socalstew

    I owned a 1990 LX with the V6 engine. Still miss that car. It was great on the open road. Plenty of power. The rear compartment, with the seats down, was enormous. Sigh.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    I would worry about the automatic transaxle. They were notorious for grenading when these were late-model cars, and most were replaced–if the cars weren’t scrapped. But this car’s mileage is just low enough to be ready for a failure–with parts much less available to boot.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    I still remember the Talon/Eclipse ads with the title, “How to wax a Probe”.

  • avatar

    Vulcan V6? Really? How could they do that. Who came with idea to utilize laggard like Vulcan in sport coupe? 2.2L Turbo – yes.

    Otherwise Probe looks better built than Fox Mustang. And interior looks nicer too. In general it looks like coupe made by Japan Inc in late 80s early 90s.

    • 0 avatar
      SPPPP

      I agree, the Vulcan seems like an odd engine choice. But as I think back, Ford’s engine cupboard was pretty bare in those days. A 3.8L was not likely to happen in this car, and it was a low-revving non-sporty engine anyway. The 2.3L HSC and 2.5L HSC four-cylinders were nothing too exciting. The non-turbo Lima 2.3L (Pinto) engine wasn’t too great. The straight-six and the V8s were obviously not going to fit. I guess all that was left was the Vulcan engine.

      Which probably explains why Yamaha came into the picture for the SHO in the late 80s. Once the Duratec 4-cam V6 came out, things got a lot better for Ford in terms of engine performance.


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