Ford Probe
2nd Ford Probe GT
Manufacturer AutoAlliance International
Parent company Ford Motor Company
Production 1989–1997
Assembly Flat Rock, Michigan, United States
Predecessor Ford Capri (Europe)
Ford EXP (North America)
Successor Ford Cougar (Europe)
Ford ZX2 (North America)
Layout FF layout
Related Mazda MX-6
Mazda 626

The Ford Probe was a coupe produced by Ford, introduced in 1989 to replace the Ford EXP as the company's sport compact car. The Probe was fully based on the Mazda G-platform using unique sheetmetal and interior. The instrument cluster and pop-up headlight mechanisms are borrowed from the FC RX-7. While it was sold worldwide as a sporty coupe, the Probe was intended to fill the market niche formerly occupied by the Capri in Europe, and although it was intended as the replacement to the Ford EXP, it was also considered a possible replacement for the Ford Mustang in the North American market as a direct competitor with the Acura Integra 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 the 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. With US sales numbers dropping from 30,079 in 1996 to only 16,777 in 1997, the decision to stop producing the Probe was made due to it being the worst selling Ford vehicle of that year.[1]

Background Edit

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.

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.

The Ford Probe was introduced to the U.S. market in 1988 and was completely different from the Mazda MX-6, which was a 2-door sedan 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, and more-prestigious brand, for the price of a Ford Probe.

1989–1992 Probe Edit

First generation
Ford Probe front 20071119
Production 1988–1992
Body style(s) 2-door hatchback
Platform Mazda GD platform
Engine(s) 2.2 L 110 hp (82 kW) I4
2.2 L Turbo 145 hp (108 kW) I4
3.0 L 140 hp (104 kW) V6
Transmission(s) 4-speed F-4EAT automatic
5-speed manual
Wheelbase 99 in (2,515 mm)
Length 177 in (4,496 mm)
Width 67.9 in (1,725 mm)
1988–1990 GT: 68.5 in (1,740 mm)
1991–92 GT: 68.3 in (1,735 mm)
Height 51.8 in (1,316 mm)
1991–92 LX: 51.9 in (1,318 mm)
1991–92 GT: 52.0 in (1,321 mm)
Fuel capacity 15.1 US gal (57 L/13 imp gal)

The Ford Probe was a coupé based on the Mazda GD platform, and powered by a 2.2 L SOHC 4 cylinder Mazda F2 engine. The first generation Probe appeared in 1988 and lasted until 1992 in the United States. In some markets the model years were from 1987 to 1991. It was based on a series of concept cars of the early 1980s, that were seen in films like Judge Dredd, Back to the Future Part II, and Total Recall.

The first generation was available in several trim levels that differ depending on the market the vehicle was sold in. In the United States, the Probe was available in GL, LX, and GT trim levels:

  • The GL was the base model with the 110 hp (82 kW)/130 lb·ft (176 N·m) F2 2.2 L engine and few options. Most Probes sold in the U.S. were equipped with air conditioning.
  • The LX added; power locks, and power mirrors, and different other interior options, as well as an optional flip-open air roof. Starting in 1990, the LX was available with the 3.0 L "Vulcan" V6 engine, that was also used in the Ford Taurus, Ford Ranger, Ford Tempo, and Ford Aerostar.
  • The GT included all the equipment of the LX, but featured the F2T 2.2 L turbocharged, intercooled engine that produced 145 hp (108 kW) and 190 lb·ft (258 N·m) of torque. It came with an IHI RHB5-VJ11 turbocharger and an intercooler to the intake tract, as well as a knock sensor and electronic boost controller to the engine-control system. The boost pressure was 7.3 psi (0.50 bar) in the vicinity of 2,500 rpm. The GT version also came with 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS, a 3-way adjustable suspension utilizing variable damping shocks, and a speed-sensitive variable-assist power steering (VAP). The Probe GT's suspension system was based on a Mazda design, but its tuning was different and included nitrogen-gas pressurized front and rear struts, with stabilizer bars.

The 1991 Probe was given a 4-star crash rating in collision tests conducted by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.[5]

Engine specifications Edit

Mazda 2.2 L SOHC 12 Valve I4[6]
Type Inline 4
Displacement 2.2 L (132 cu in)
Compression Ratio 8.6:1
Engine-control system Mazda with port fuel injection
Power (SAE net) 110 hp (82 kW) @ 4700 rpm
Torque (SAE net) 130 ft·lbf (180 N·m) @ 3000 rpm
Mazda 2.2 L Turbo SOHC 12 Valve I4 [6]
Type Inline 4
Displacement 2.2 L (132 cu in)
Compression Ratio 7.8:1
Engine-control system Mazda with port fuel injection
Power (SAE net) 145 hp (108 kW) @ 4300 rpm
Torque (SAE net) 190 ft·lbf (260 N·m) @ 3500 rpm
Ford 3.0L Vulcan OHV 12 Valve V6 [6]
Type V6
Displacement 3.0 L (183 cu in)
Compression Ratio 8.6:1
Engine-control system Ford EEC-IV
Power (SAE net) 140 hp (104 kW) @ 4800 rpm
Torque (SAE net) 160 ft·lbf (220 N·m) @ 3000 rpm

1993–1997 Probe Edit

Second generation
1994-1996 Ford Probe liftback 02
Production 1992[7]–1997
Body style(s) 2-door hatchback
Platform Mazda GE platform
Engine(s) 2.0 L 118 hp (88 kW) I4
2.5 L 164 hp (122 kW) V6
Transmission(s) 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)
1995–97: 102.8 in (2,611 mm)
Length 1993–94: 178.9 in (4,544 mm)
1995–97 Base: 178.7 in (4,539 mm)
1995–97 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)
Fuel capacity 15.5 US gal (59 L/13 imp gal)

For the 1993 model year, the Ford and Mazda design teams merged once again to give the Probe a complete restyling and the second generation Probe was born. Again the new Probe was to share its understructure with Mazda's MX-6 and 626. Ford concentrated on the interior and exterior styling, while Mazda engineered the engine and chassis. Technically speaking, the second generation Probe is 60% Mazda and 40% Ford. The Ford/Mazda team added 2 inches to the length of the new Probe as well as 4 inches to the width, while still managing to shave off 125 pounds. Along with numerous other enhancements from lessons learned since the first Probe's debut, Ford brought the experience of many days at the track to the design table, creating one of the best handling cars on the road. The base model received a new Mazda 2.0 liter 4-cylinder engine with 16 valves and dual overhead cams producing 115 horsepower at 5500 rpm and 124 foot/pounds of torque at 3500 rpm. The GT model was powered by the new 24-valve Mazda 2.5 liter V6 engine with multi-port fuel injection, four cams, and a computer controlled variable induction system. The V6 produced 164 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 156 foot/pounds of torque at 4000 rpm. The second generation Probe was then introduced in August of 1992 as a 1993 model.

The base model started at just over US$13,000 and came standard with a 2.0 L I4 engine, performance instrument cluster with tachometer and full gauge compliment, and electronic AM/FM stereo radio. The sportier GT model started at $15,504[8] and came standard with a 2.5 L V6 engine, 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. By 1997, the GT with every option would total about $22,500. Both engines featured double overhead cam designs with the choice of a 5-speed manual transmission or a 4-speed automatic transmission.[9]

Two automatic transmissions were available to the Ford 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.[7]

In 1994 there was a "Feature Model" Probe which included Wild Orchid exterior paint, unique floor mats that had "PROBE" embroidered into them, and black GT cloth bucket seats with unique purple inserts. It went on sale in Europe in the spring of that year, filling the gap left there by Ford in that market sector since the demise of the Capri seven years earlier.

A new SE (Sports Edition) trim level was available from 1993-1996 which included the GT front fascia (without fog lamps), unique 15-inch (380 mm) aluminum wheels, P205/55R15 BSW and Sport Edition "SE" nomenclature.[10]

Ford Probe rear 20071025

rear view

The rear spoiler was made standard on the 1996 Probe GT's. Previously it was a very popular dealer installed accessory.

In 1997 (the Probe's final year of production) a GTS trim level was offered. It had no more performance than the regular GT, but exterior modifications 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. Chrome wheels and a spoiler were also included in the package, as well as having a "blank" center reflector which lacked "GT" lettering that was characteristic to the Australian and European models which were available in either 16V and 24V versus "GT","SE",or base model in North America.

When Ford released the new Mustang in 1994, Probe sales began to deteriorate. Due to the decreasing sales, Ford planned on discontinuing the Probe, making the ’96 model the last Probe year, but then continued production through to the ’97 model year. During that year, Ford only sold 16,777 Probes, making it the worst selling Ford car for that year. On March 17th, 1997, Ford announced the discontinuation of the Probe, Thunderbird, Cougar, and Aerostar. Although the Probe, Thunderbird, and Cougar were discontinued, Ford planned on reintroducing the three in the coming years.

In Japan, the 2.5 L V6 was the higher performance KL-ZE. In Europe and America, the 2.5 L V6 was a lower performance KL-DE (often incorrectly referred to as the KL-03) and the 2.0 L was the FS. The primary difference of the Japanese version is that it produced 36 hp (27 kW) more power though higher compression pistons, aggressive camshafts, intake manifold and head. It also lacked an emissions control component called Exhaust gas recirculation that is required by law in North America and Europe.

Models Edit

Year Model Engine Power Torque 0–60 mph (97 km/h) ¼ mile (0.4 km) Top speed
1993–1997base, SE1,991 cc (1.991 L/121.5 cu in) FS-DE I4118 hp (88 kW) at 5500 rpm127 lb·ft (172 N·m) at 4500 rpm9.2s16.8 [8]113 mph (182 km/h)
1993–1997GT2,497 cc (2.497 L/152.4 cu in) KL-DE V6164 hp (122 kW) at 5600 rpm156 lb·ft (212 N·m) at 4000 rpm7.0s[8]15.5 at 89 mph (142 km/h) [8]133 mph (214 km/h)
1997GTS2,497 cc (2.497 L/152.4 cu in) KL-DE V6164 hp (122 kW) at 5600 rpm156 lb·ft (212 N·m) at 4000 rpm7.1s[8]15.5 at 89 mph (142 km/h) [8]133 mph (214 km/h)

Year to year changesEdit


  • The right side of the dash is redesigned to house a passenger side airbag.
  • The stripe on the dashboard is gone, but remains on the 2 piece door panels.
  • ABS light on instrument cluster is redesigned
  • New Ford CD4E automatic transaxle for base and SE models.
  • CFC-free air conditioning.


  • Redesigned tail lights ; the 4 cylinder model's are outlined in black, the GT's are outlined in red.
  • Door panels are redesigned and are now a 1 piece design. The stripe is replaced by a cloth insert.
  • Cloth seats get new fabric that have a unique "wild" pattern.
  • Illuminated exterior door locks are dropped.
  • Floor lighting is dropped.
  • ABS is standard on GT models
  • GT models receive center reflector with 'GT' logo between tail lights. License plate indent moved down onto bumper.
  • GT decal on rear bumper replaced with metal '24v' badge.


  • Base model dropped ; SE is now the standard model
  • GT model's tail lights are now outlined in black.
  • New muffler on GT models
  • GT models get more refined suspension in response to criticism of the harsh ride.
  • Cloth seats are restyled and get new fabric
  • GT models now have spoilers standard.
  • Rear seats are redesigned
  • New seat belts with automatic locking retractors
  • Rear windshield wiper dropped as an option
  • OBD-II compliant


  • SE model is dropped ; base model returns with GT's front and rear bumpers.
  • Base models get base model Mazda 626's wheel covers with 15" 3 spoke alloys from 95 and 96 Probe SE models optional.
  • Rear windshield wiper returns as an option.
  • ABS is no longer standard on GT models and is now an option
  • GT logos behind the front wheel wells have new letter styling.
  • GT models no longer have "24v" badge beside the "PROBE" badge.
  • Side door intrusion beams redesigned to meet 1997 Federal Side Impact Standards
  • GTS appearance package added to the GT's option list. Includes 16" chrome plated directional wheels, "GTS" logo behind front wheel wells, racing stripes, and blank rear center reflector.

US production numbersEdit

Model year
1993 119,754
1994 85,502
1995 59,261
1996 30,079
1997 16,777


1999-2002 Probe Edit

The third generation Probe was to be built on the same platform as the Ford Contour and Mercury Mystique as the earlier generation Probes were built on the Mazda MX-6 and 626 platform. The base third generation Probe would have the same dual overhead cam 16-valve Zetec 4-cylinder engine that powers the Contour, producing more power then the old engine with 125hp at 5500 rpm and 130 foot/pounds of torque at 4000 rpm. The GT's engine, like the 4-cylinder, is the same engine as available in the Contour...the Duratec 24-valve 2.5L V6. It will produce 170hp at 6250 rpm and 165 foot/pounds of torque at 4250 rpm. Unfortunately, as the Probe was born from what was to be the new Mustang, the new Cougar was born from what was to be the new Probe. In June of ’98, Ford introduced the new Probe as the 1999 Mercury Cougar.

Awards Edit

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 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.

See also Edit

References Edit

  1. "Probe History". (1997-03-17). Retrieved on 2010-06-27.
  2. History of the Ford PROBE, Concept Cars[dead link]
  3. mojo1961 (2010-05-02). "1981 Ford Probe III". Retrieved on 2010-07-21.
  4. Sergio (2008-06-10). "1985 Ford Probe V (Ghia)". Retrieved on 2010-07-21.
  5. "NHTSA". Retrieved on 2008-02-29.[dead link]
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "Ford Probe Specs". Retrieved on 2008-02-29.
  7. 7.0 7.1
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 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. Ford original sales brochure, Litho in Canada 9/93, Page 14
  11. "Probe production numbers". (2008-11-11). Retrieved on 2011-07-7.
  • Kevin Smith, "Ford Probe GT", 'Car and Driver' (August 1992): 32–37. 
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