Ford Probe

Ford Probe
Manufacturer Ford
Production 1989–1997
Assembly Flat Rock, Michigan, U.S. (AAI)
Body and chassis
Class Sports car
Layout FF layout
Related Mazda MX-6
Mazda 626
Predecessor Ford Capri (Europe)
Ford EXP (North America)
Successor Ford Cougar (Europe)
Ford ZX2 (North America)

The Ford Probe is a liftback coupé produced by Ford, introduced in 1989 which replaced the Ford EXP as the company's sport compact car.

The Probe was fully based on the Mazda G-platform using unique sheet metal and interior. The instrument cluster and pop-up headlight mechanisms are borrowed from the FC RX-7.

Based on the Mazda MX-6 as a sport compact coupe, the Probe was intended to fill the market niche formerly occupied by the Capri in Europe, and it was originally intended to be the fourth generation Ford Mustang in the North American market as a direct competitor with the Acura Integra, Nissan 200SX, and the Toyota Celica. During that time, Ford's marketing team had deemed that a front-wheel drive platform (borrowed Mazda GD and GE platforms) would have lower costs for production, and also because the platform had been gaining popularity with consumers.

Mustang fans objected to the front-wheel drive configuration, Japanese engineering, and lack of a V8, so Ford began work on a new design for the Mustang instead. On March 17, 1997, Ford announced the discontinuation of the Probe.[1]


Starting in the late 1970s, Ford and Ghia started exploring a series of futuristic designs with the "Probe" series of concept vehicles.[2] The Probe I, first shown in 1979, was a wedge-shaped design that incorporated a number of drag-reducing features like covered rear wheels and pop-up headlights. This was followed the next year by a much more conventional looking Probe II, whose hatchback styling was also reminiscent of the pony cars. The 1981 Probe III was an advanced demonstrator with covered wheels, but its bodywork evolved into the more conventional Ford Sierra (or Merkur XR4Ti) and styling notes that were used on the Ford Taurus.[3] The 1982 Probe IV was a more radical concept car with a low Cd (drag coefficient), and evolved into the equally radical 1984 Probe V.[4]

After the 1979 energy crisis, the economic slump initiated by high fuel prices prompted Ford to give the Ford Mustang a major redesign. The new design would be based on a totally new platform introduced to Ford by Japanese car manufacturer and Ford partner Mazda. But when the new generation of the Ford Mustang neared its release date, oil prices dropped to an all-time low and Ford Mustang buyers expressed their displeasure in the style of the proposed replacement. The car was eventually released, not as a Ford Mustang but as the Ford Probe.

Ford also worked with their Australian division to create and introduce a redesigned 1989 Ford Capri, as a two-seat roadster based on Mazda engineering, and introduced in North America as the 1991-1994 Mercury Capri.

The Ford Probe is a product of the joint Ford and Mazda venture called the AutoAlliance International. Its unique body panels and interior were designed and manufactured in the AutoAlliance assembly plant located in Flat Rock, Michigan, the same facility that manufactured the Mazda MX-6 coupe and Mazda 626 sedan for the North American market. Both generations of the Probe were sold in Japan as Fords, at Ford/Mazda sales channels called Autorama. Japanese models were not in compliance with Japanese Government regulations concerning exterior dimensions and engine displacement, resulting in Japanese buyers being held liable for additional taxes as a result.

The Ford Probe was introduced to the U.S. market in 1989 and was completely different from the Mazda MX-6, which was a 2-door notchback coupe with traditional fixed headlights. The Ford Probe shares most of its mechanical parts with the Mazda MX-6 and 626. Both the Ford Probe and the Mazda MX-6 were based on the Mazda GD platform from 1988 to 1992, and on the GE platform from 1993 to 1997.

Initially planned to replace Mustang, Ford executives also expected the Probe to achieve success in the market. However, the car fell short of Ford’s expectations. The Probe's styling, while modern, was not universally accepted. It was also not affordable, making many buyers choose another, more-prestigious brand, for the price of a Ford Probe.

1989–1992 Probe

First generation
Production 1989–1993
Body and chassis
Body style 3-door liftback
Platform Mazda GD platform
Engine 2.2 L 110 hp (82 kW) Mazda F2 I4
2.2 L Turbo 145 hp (108 kW) Mazda F2T I4
3.0 L 140 hp (104 kW) Vulcan V6
Transmission 4-speed Mazda G4A-EL automatic
5-speed manual
Wheelbase 99 in (2,515 mm)
Length 177 in (4,496 mm)
Width 67.9 in (1,725 mm)
1989–1991 GT: 68.5 in (1,740 mm)
1991–93 GT: 68.3 in (1,735 mm)
Height 51.8 in (1,316 mm)
1991–93 LX: 51.9 in (1,318 mm)
1991–93 GT: 52.0 in (1,321 mm)

The first generation Ford Probe was based on the Mazda GD platform, and was powered by a 2.2 L SOHC 4-cylinder Mazda F2 engine. It debuted in 1988 for the 1989 model year and was produced until 1993 in the United States. The Prove was available in several trim levels that differ depending on the market in which the vehicle was sold. In the United States, the Probe was available in GL, LX, and GT trim levels:[5]

The 1991 Probe was given a 4-star crash rating in collision tests conducted by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.[6]

Engine specifications

Engine Configuration Compression ratio Engine-control system Power (SAE net)
Mazda F2[7] 2.2 L (133 cu in) SOHC 12-valve inline-4 8.6:1 Mazda with port-fuel injection 110 hp (82 kW; 112 PS) @4700 RPM
Mazda F2T[7] 2.2 L (133 cu in) turbocharged SOHC 12-valve inline-4 7.8:1 145 hp (108 kW; 147 PS) @4300 RPM
Ford Vulcan[7] 3.0 L (182 cu in) OHV 12-valve V6 9:3:1 Ford EEC-IV 140 hp (104 kW; 142 PS) @4800 RPM (1990)

145 hp (108 kW; 147 PS) @4800 RPM (1991-1992)

1993–1997 Probe

Second generation
Production 1993–1997
Body and chassis
Body style 3-door liftback
Platform Mazda GE platform
Engine 2.0 L 118 hp (88 kW) I4
2.5 L 164 hp (122 kW) V6
Transmission 5-speed G5M manual
4-speed F-4EAT automatic (1993 only, I4 engine)
4-speed CD4E automatic (1994–1997, I4 engine)
4-speed F-4EAT automatic (V6 engine)
Wheelbase 1993–94: 102.9 in (2,614 mm)
1994–97: 102.8 in (2,611 mm)
Length 1993–94: 178.9 in (4,544 mm)
1994–97 Base: 178.7 in (4,539 mm)
1994–97 GT: 179.5 in (4,559 mm)
Width 69.8 in (1,773 mm)
Height 51.6 in (1,311 mm)
1993–94 GT: 51.8 in (1,316 mm)
Curb weight 2,894 lb (1,313 kg)

The Ford and Mazda design teams merged once again to give the Ford Probe a complete redesign for the 1993 model year. As before, the Probe was to share its under-structure with Mazda's MX-6 and 626. Mazda engineered the engine, transmission, and chassis, while Ford engineered the body and interior. Technically, the second generation Probe is 60% Mazda and 40% Ford. Despite the car being extended 2 inches and widened 4 inches, it was 125 pounds lighter than the first generation Probe. The second generation Probe was introduced in August 1992 as a 1993 model. As first planned during 1992, it finally went on sale in Europe in the spring of 1994, filling the gap left there by Ford in that market sector since the demise of the Capri seven years earlier. The Capri had regularly been one of Britain's 10 best selling cars throughout the 1970s, but its popularity declined in the early 1980s as Ford launched high performance versions of the Fiesta, Escort and Sierra hatchbacks. Such was the falling demand for this type of car that by 1986, when the end of Capri production was announced, Ford decided against launching a direct replacement.

However, the late 1980s and early 1990s saw the sales of affordable sports cars recover, first with a rising demand for Japanese built models like the Honda Prelude, Nissan Silvia, Mitsubishi Eclipse, and Toyota Celica, and then with the Volkswagen Corrado and the Vauxhall/Opel Calibra from Ford's direct competitor General Motors.

Ford had been hoping to sell around 20,000 Probes each year in Britain as the car market recovered from the effects of the recession from 1992, but in the three years it was sold there, a total of just over 15,000 were sold - around a quarter of the projected figure for that length of time. By February 2016, just 718 examples of the Probe were still in use in Britain.[8]

The base model started at just over US $13,000 and came standard with the 2.0L Mazda FS-DE 16-valve 4-cylinder engine, performance instrument cluster with tachometer and full gauge compliment, and an electronic AM/FM stereo. The sportier GT model started at $15,504[9] and came standard with the 2.5L Mazda K engine KL-DE 24-valve V6, low profile P225/50VR16 91V Goodyear VR50 Gatorback tires, 4-wheel disc brakes, unique front and rear fascias, fog lights, 5-spoke aluminum wheels, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and driver-seat power lumbar/seat back side bolster adjustment. Both engines featured dual overhead cam designs with the choice of a 5-speed manual transmission or a 4-speed automatic transmission.[10]

Two automatic transmissions were available in the Probe. At first both engines shared the same automatic transmission, the Ford F-4EAT transmission, but from 1994 onwards this changed. The V6 engine continued to use the 4EAT, but the 2.0 L I4 engine used a different automatic transmission, the Ford CD4E transmission. It was sourced by Ford, and manufactured at Ford's Batavia Transmission plant in Batavia, Ohio.[11]

A new SE (Sport Edition) trim level was available for 1995 and 1996. It included the GT front fascia (without fog lamps), unique 15-inch (380 mm) aluminum wheels, P205/55R15 BSW and Sport Edition "SE" nomenclature.[12]

In a coast to coast road test by Automobile Magazine in search of the best cars in the world, the Probe GT scored third place, behind an $80,000 Mercedes-Benz and an $80,000 BMW. In the article, the Probe listed at about $15,000.

Special editions

For 1993 and 1994, Ford offered a "SE" appearance package on the base model Probe. The package offered 3 spoke swirl-style alloy wheels, the GT model's ground effects, and the GT model's front bumper. Unlike the base, you were able to opt for power windows and mirrors on the SE package. Appearance wise, the only noticeable differences from the GT model was the wheels, "SE" nomenclature, rear bumper w/o air slot and lack of fog lights. "SE" was an appearance package and not an actual model or trim level. "SE" became a trim level in 1995 and was the middle grade model in the Probe lineup ahead of the base but behind the GT.

In 1994, Ford released a limited edition of the Probe, marketed as the Probe "Feature Car", but officially called the "GT Plus" package. This special package is better known to the general public and enthusiast community as the Probe "Wild Orchid Edition". Included on this limited appearance package was Wild Orchid exterior paint, "PROBE" badge on floor mats outlined in Wild Orchid, black cloth bucket seats with unique Wild Orchid inserts, and the "PROBE" badge on the rear outlined in Wild Orchid. This package was offered in 1994 only, and was exclusive to GT models. After dropping the Probe Feature Car after only a year of production, Ford carried over the Wild Orchid exterior color for the 1995 model year which was available on all Probe models.

In 1997, a "GTS" package was offered on the Probe GT. It was essentially nothing more than an appearance package, as performance was identical to the GT, but differences with the exterior were distinct. Dual racing stripes available in either white or black started at the top edge of the front bumper and continued on to the back lip of the hatch, terminating just below the center light reflector on the rear bumper. A chrome plated version of the GT's directional "swirlie" wheels and a spoiler were also included in the package, as well as having a "blank" center reflector which lacked "GT" lettering as the regular GT models have. The "GTS" was an appearance package and not an actual model or trim level. Very few Probes were produced with the GTS package and are considered today to be extremely rare.

Models/trim levels

In most other markets outside North America, trim levels were labeled as simply 16v (I4) and 24v (V6).

Appearance packages

1993 Ford Probe GT 
1994 Ford Probe GT 
1995 Ford Probe GT 
1996 Ford Probe GT 
1997 Ford Probe GT 
1997 Ford Probe GTS 

Engine specifications

Engine Configuration Power (SAE net) Torque (SAE net) 0-60 mph 1/4 mile Top speed
Mazda FS-DE 2.0 L (121 cu in) DOHC 16-valve inline-4 118 hp (88 kW; 120 PS) @5500 RPM 127 ft·lbf (172 N·m) @ 4500 RPM 10.6s[13] 16.8s[9] 113 mph (electronically limited)
Mazda KL-DE 2.5 L (152 cu in) DOHC 24-valve 60° V6 164 hp (122 kW; 166 PS) @5600 RPM 156 ft·lbf (212 N·m) @ 4000 RPM 7.0s[14] 15.5s @ 89 mph (142 km/h) [9] 132mph (manual transmission)

127.5mph (automatic transmission

Year to year changes





1993 Ford Probe GT with red interior 
1994 Ford Probe GT with black interior 
1995 Ford Probe GT with black interior 
1996 Ford Probe GT with saddle leather interior 
1997 Ford Probe GT with black interior 

US production numbers


Model year
1993 119,754
1994 85,502
1995 52,696
1996 32,505
1997 19,419
Total 309,876

Remaining registered 1993–1997 Probes on the road as of July 2011

Model year Base/SE GT Combined total
1993 13,294 11,001 24,294
1994 13,320 8,927 22,247
1995 12,841 5,895 18,736
1996 8,428 3,732 12,160
1997 5,369 2,548 7,917
Total 53,252 32,102 85,354
Difference from 2010 9,146 4,590 13,282


1999–2002 Cougar

The last Probe came off the assembly line on June 20, 1997. A 3rd generation Probe built on the same platform as the Ford Contour/Mercury Mystique was to be released in mid-1998 as a 1999 model. About 1/3 of the way through designing the 3rd generation Probe, Ford decided to change the name and bring back the Cougar nameplate and badge it as a Mercury.[16] This was done in an unsuccessful attempt to attract younger buyers into Mercury showrooms. As the Probe was born from what was intended to be the new Mustang, the new Cougar was born from what was to be the new Probe. Strangely enough, the Cougar was never considered by Ford to be a successor to the Probe. The Escort ZX2, released shortly after the discontinuation of the Probe, was considered the Probe's successor. In June 1998, Ford released the new Probe as the 1999 Mercury Cougar.


The Probe GT was Motor Trend magazine's Car of the Year for 1993. It also made Car and Driver magazine's Ten Best list for 1989, 1993, and 1994.

The 1993–1997 Probe was one of the few Fords through the 1990s that Consumer Reports recommended.[17]

The NASCAR Dash Series version of a 1990 Ford Probe driven by Jeffrey Collier set a new track record at Daytona International Speedway February 13, 1990 with a speed of 166.553 mph. That record still stands as the fastest closed course lap for a non-turbo 4-cylinder powered car.

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ford Probe.


  1. "Probe History". 1997-03-17. Retrieved 2010-06-27.
  2. History of the Ford PROBE, Concept Cars
  3. mojo1961 (2010-05-02). "1981 Ford Probe III". Retrieved 2010-07-21.
  4. Sergio (2008-06-10). "1985 Ford Probe V (Ghia)". Retrieved 2010-07-21.
  5. Geenen, Bernard (1988-03-31). "Ford Probe: La Maztang" [Ford Probe: the MazTang]. Le Moniteur de l'Automobile (in French). Brussels, Belgium: Editions Auto-Magazine. 3 (896): 120.
  6. "NHTSA". Retrieved 2008-02-29.
  7. 1 2 3 "Ford Probe Specs". Retrieved 2008-02-29.
  8. 1 2 3 Car and Driver, August 1992, Vol.38 No.2, Pages 32-37
  9. Ford original sales brochure, Litho in Canada 4/92, Pages 20-21
  10. "ATX Info". Retrieved 2008-02-28.
  11. Ford original sales brochure, Litho in Canada 9/93, Page 14
  12. "Ford Probe (94-98) – Facts and Figures". Retrieved 2013-09-05.
  13. "1993 10 Best Cars". Retrieved 2013-11-03.
  14. "Probe production numbers". 2001. Archived from the original on 2013-10-22. Retrieved 2016-02-11.
  15. "3rd gen Ford Probe released as Mercury Cougar". 2011-12-13. Retrieved 2011-12-13.
  16. "Probe awards". Retrieved 2011-10-10.
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