Hey, There’s a Cool Car: Second-Gen Ford Probe GT

By Charles Krome

Somewhere in an alternate universe, this car is thought of in nearly the same terms as the 1963-1967 C2 Corvette: In that place, both represent second-generation vehicles that transformed their predecessors from “me too” wannabes to full-on, award-winning sports cars that would be followed up by a long, ongoing run of high-performance progeny.

Here in our world, on the other hand, the second-generation Ford Probe, produced from 1993-1997, was a one-hit wonder that morphed into the “modern” Mercury Cougar before being put out of its misery in 2002, a victim of America’s addiction to low fuel prices.

The story here starts in 1989, with Ford using plenty of help from long-time companion Mazda to try to develop a sporty compact car to take on the growing tide of front-wheel-drive, semi-high-performance cars from the Asian automakers. That and perhaps move the Mustang to a V6/FWD setup to reduce costs. The results were just encouraging enough to spark a second iteration of the Probe, and this time Ford and Mazda appear to have taken the project more seriously. Certainly, the buff books did. The Ford Probe GT was Motor Trend‘s 1993 Car of the Year and was named to the Car and Driver 10Best list in both 1993 and 1994.

The GT was driven by an advanced-for-its-time 24-valve V6, a 2.5-liter mill capable of developing about 164 hp and 160 lb.-ft. of torque. Under the hood of a car weighing in at 2,900 lbs., and mated to a five-speed manual back when that was the fast way to do things, this was good enough for a C&D-clocked 0-60 time of 7.1 seconds. The mag also listed the Probe GT as capable of 0.86 g on the skidpad and able to go from 60-0 in 182 ft.

That was eye-opening performance at the time, as evidenced by the following from MT‘s Car of the Year review of the Probe GT:

“[T]he darn thing corners like it was only two inches off the ground, yet ride quality is impressive. Whether on the road course, driving through the mountains, or cooking through the slalom, the Probe GT sticks like burnt eggs to a frying pan. Its combination of marvelous road manners and a smooth, torque-drenched powerplant makes it a joy to drive under any circumstance, even in traffic around town. The 2.5-liter V-6 engine is a masterpiece. Churning out 164 horsepower, it provides quick, immediate response and a wide powerband.”

MT editors end up waxing lyrical about the Probe GT heralding “a renaissance of historic proportions” for U.S. automakers, with the Ford located “at the leading edge of a revitalized domestic car industry.”

Unfortunately for the Probe, it was another Ford, the Explorer, which really kicked off the automotive renaissance that started in the late 1990s. And when relatively cheap gas led to exploding demand for full-size pickups and SUVs, cars like the Probe quickly lost their audience. Today, I suppose its legacy lives on in cars like the coming hi-po versions of the Fiesta and Focus, along with the occasional appearance of the “floating roof” design cue (see the Mini Cooper Coupe).

Leaving the daily driver pictured here, showing the Probe’s still-fresh streamlined shape and huge greenhouse, standing as an interesting testament to what might have been.

Author: Charles Krome

Charles Krome is a long-time automotive journalist who spent more than 10 years on the inside at General Motors and Ford, and also has corporate communications experience with Audi, Porsche and BASF Automotive Refinish. As a big motorsports fan growing up in the Detroit area, Krome was lucky enough to be able to attend numerous NASCAR, Indy car, F1 and SCCA events while still in his formative years. This, combined with a childhood that included significant (passenger) seat time in cars from Lotus and Jensen Healey, made him a car guy at an earlier age. Today, he lives in metro Detroit with his car wife, raising car kids.

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19 Comments

  1. The best car I ever owned. Perfect in almost every way (the seats weren’t the best). Looked like a bullet, drove like one. The silky-smooth KL-series Mazda V6 felt and sounded like expensive, precision machinery. I miss it terribly.

    The Probe’s problem was Ford’s short attention span. All Jacques Nasser cared about was SUVs and trucks, natural given the profits they churned out, but his short-sightedness would kick Ford in the shorts just a few years later. If Ford spent just a fraction of the resources on the Probe that they lavish on the Mustang they would have a Dynamic Duo not unlike Batman and Robin.

    I wish Ford would do another Probe. I like the Mustang, but it is too big and too heavy for my tastes. I want a light, nimble car. The Mustang’s V6 would be nice, but all the Probe ‘3’ needs is the 212-bhp, 3.0-liter V6 from my Mazda 6. (And maybe a small-displacement EcoBoost four as the base engine.) This way, then you still have nice separation between the Mustang and Probe.

    It wouldn’t be too hard or expensive to do another Probe. You just need to ‘want’ to do one. As with the Gen 1 and 2 models, start with the bones of the Mazda 6 (back then it was the 626). Or, since the new 6 is too big and too porky, start with the 2011 Focus’s platform, add bullet-shaped styling, stir well.

  2. James2: “The Probe’s problem was Ford’s short attention span. All Jacques Nasser cared about was SUVs and trucks, natural given the profits they churned out, but his short-sightedness would kick Ford in the shorts just a few years later. If Ford spent just a fraction of the resources on the Probe that they lavish on the Mustang they would have a Dynamic Duo not unlike Batman and Robin.”

    Bingo. Really, the Probe is just another example of poor leadership and brand management by Ford in the 90s, joining the Tempo, Escort, Thunderbird, and Taurus, as cars that were initially designed well (or brilliantly in the case of the Taurus), sold well, but ignored and starved of updates until being given a merciful death – or reborn as a different car. However, I wouldn’t say the Mustang was “lavished” with resources in that time either. The update in ’94 was really just an interior and exterior restyle, the 4.6 SOHC (installed in ’96) was the same motor used in the Vic, and it was still based on the old Fox platform. Not until ’05 did Ford really start putting work into the Mustang. But I agree, would love to see the return of the Probe as a sporty small coupe alongside the Mustang.

  3. Another factor who killed the Probe, was insurances, SUV was cheaper to insure then a sport-cars and they got less stricter safety and emissions standards.

    The Probe wasn’t the only victim, others sport-cars of that era (Honda Prelude, Nissan 240SX & 300ZX, Toyota Supra, Mazda RX7, Subaru SVX, Mitsubishi 3000GT/Dodge Stealth) and even if it’s more a muscle-car, the 1994-96 Impala SS (and to a latter extent, the whole GM B-body family including the big Caprice/Roadmaster wagons), and the personnal luxury coupes Ford Thunderbird/Mercury Cougar/Lincoln Mark VIII meet the same fate. You can see a list of other victims from this archived site http://web.archive.org/web/20030204013807/http://poseur.4×4.org/scourge.html

    I like to see a sportier small Ford, besides the Probe, I also taught of the Capri (the European Capri, not the Fox-body rebadged Mustang for Mercury or the 1950s Lincoln Capri or that roadster of the early 1990s)
    http://ateupwithmotor.com/sports-cars-and-muscle-cars/219-ford-capri-history.html?start=1

  4. I had a new 1994 GT with the rare Wild Orchid feature car package that turned heads until the day it was totalled in 2006! While the looks may seem a bit bland now, it was and still is very clean and timeless and LOW! I think the overall design is the best of Ford from the 90’s…
    I still miss the way it handled and the way the V6 pulled in all gears….the Mazda V6 really hauled for 160-hp! And boy could I fit stuff in that huge hatch! I love Mustangs but agree with the others, Ford would do well to add a FWD Probe hatch again.

  5. I drive a 1993 probe,V6 Gt and also love the car.Easy to drive,quick,great on gas consumption and a big cargo area under the hatch.Yes it is only really a 2 seater,but it is a sport coupe, not a station wagon.Mine is fully loaded with all options,except leather interior,(which I wish it had ) and I also think that Ford should put out another probe,maybe a bit bigger V6 motor,but the 2.5 L is good for me.

  6. I also should comment on the handling of the Probe,I didn’t know it cornered so well,It doesn’t even lean in corners.Very stiff suspension,almost like a race car.

  7. I have owned 5 Probe GT’s, every year of the 2nd gen GT. The 93 and 97 are my favorite model years. The 93 because of the beautiful curvy dash that has no passenger side airbag and the very unique stripe. And the 97 because they were the most solid built ones and i loved the minor exterior updates. I have driven more than 100 cars in my life, and none, not one, could match the handling of the Probe GT nor the sound of the sexy Mazda KL V6 engine. I’m the sports car type of guy so I’ve driven quite a few fast cars. Some were faster than the Probe GT, but none could match the handling and sound of the Probe. These cars are a masterpiece, and would still be around to this very day if it wouldnt have been for the morons running Ford at the time of the Probe’s dimense. Ford killed off the Probe, redesigned it, then released it as the Mercury Cougar. Shows what morons were running Ford at the time, why would you put a sports car under a senior citizen car brand? And why would you call it a cougar? it was nothing like any Cougar ever made. if they would have released the 3rd gen Probe (Cougar) as the Probe in 99, it would have sold very well just as the 2nd gen Probe did. The people who have owned these cars will never forget them. I know tons of people who “upgraded” to a newer, faster car and they come tell me alot that they miss their Probe GT. Theres just something really special about these cars. I love my two Probe GT’s and plan on owning many more in the future.

  8. Any C4-c6 Corvette or Viper have a lower center of gravity will out handle it.

  9. To Brian J

    I have driven more than 100 cars in my life, and none, not one, could match the handling of the Probe GT nor the sound of the sexy Mazda KL V6 engine. I’m the sports car type of guy so I’ve driven quite a few fast cars. Some were faster than the Probe GT, but none could match the handling and sound of the Probe. These cars are a masterpiece

    ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS???

    I TO HAVE OWNED A 97 FPGT AND I HAVE TO SAY THAT THEY ARE SUCH UNREALIBLE POOLRY MADE HEAPS OF SHIT!!

    I GOT MINE WITH 73OOO MILES,ONE OWNER SERVICE HISTORY AND THE CAR GAVE ME NOTHING BUT GRIEF!!! I HAD IT FOR 2 YEARS AND SPENT OVER $4000 IN REPAIRS (NOT INCLUDING SERVICES) DUE TO FAILING MECHANICAL’S AND SOME ELECTRICS.. THE PROBE ALWAYS PRODUCED NEW RATTLES FROM EVERYWHERE… THE CAR JUST FELT TINNY..I SOLD IT DUE TO HAVING FOUND OUT THAT THE REAR HEAD GASKET WAS FAILING..THE FP ONLY 101000 ON IT WHEN I SOLD IT ..YEAH SURE IT HANDLES WELL AT LOW SPEEDS BUT @ HIGHER SPEEDS IT WAS KING OF UNDER-STEER..

    I WOULDN’T RECOMMEND ANYONE BUY A FORD PROBE UNLESS YOU WHERE DESPERATE ..

    ONCE A HAPPY THEN QUICKLY SAD PROBE OWNER,NEVER AGAIN!!!!

  10. @ Crazytimes

    so just because you got one that had problems mean they are all shit? you are a moron. Ive owned 5 and they have been very reliable and trouble free except my 97. the 97s are the most unreliable. the 95s are the most reliable. I have a good feeling you are a liar and just posted that to make Probe owners look bad.

  11. @ Brian J.

    Well yeah it does. They are truly known for unreliability and i found this out through various mechanics.

    Your calling me a liar but you are claiming to own 5 reliable probes?? Oh please…You are either lying about having 5 of them or you are a probe nut thats buying a new probe every so often due to your previous probe ending up in the junk yard…No idiot would buy 5 probes and claim that they where reliable..

    ON A SERIOUS NOTE. Please do explain HOW the 95 is more reliable than the 97??
    I really would like to here this one.

    btw, I am not trying to make probe owners look bad. Are you forgetting that i OWNED a PGT??

  12. The probe is a car that you buy if it has less than 50000 miles on the clock.. They arr built very poorly and fail fast. They did handle great and go well but in saying so, the ride was tertible and the engine used plenty of fuel. I AGREE with CrazyTimes. The probe is very unreliable and is built like shit. It has the typical Ford finish.
    The probe is about as reliable as a Suzuki or Dodge. Only an idiot would buy a second one.

  13. Excuse the spelling. Phones are not the best thing to use in a hurry

  14. I have a pgt and it has 348 670 km runs like new just smoked a mustang yesterday! You either love ’em or hate ’em!!!

  15. The switch to obd2 caused a lot of issues with the last couple years. 95 or 96 was the year it switched. I also loved the sound of the v6. It was a special car.

  16. I have two stock Ford Probes that haven’t been altered. A 93 GT with 315,586 miles and a Probe SE with 302K miles. I’ve known the full history of the SE since it had 3 miles and purchased from my Father in-law. Both are Manual Transmissions and both drive perfect. Original non-rebuilt engines that do not smoke and run great. SE had trans rebuilt at 287K

    Simply Put:

    Great cars when they’re not abused or have had a history of people modifying and tinkering around with the electrical and mechanical aspects they know nothing about.

  17. I’ve had a 96 build for 5 years as my daily driver, she is coming up on 170, 000 km and has been a great car. Only one break down (failed clutch hose) in that time.

    I’m ex motor industry and have to say she is one of the best handling FWD cars I’ve ever driven.

    There are cars that are faster, and more fun to drive stupidly, but the Probe just seems more sophisticated.

    No plans to upgrade any time soon, I wouldn’t have any idea what to replace her with.

  18. I own a 93 Ford Probe SE and I love this car.It’s my second one.I owned a 96 2.0 about ten years ago and it was reliable.I let it sit and neglected it for 3 years as it sat in a friends back yard but then when I went to go get it and take her back home, I just put a new battery in and she started right up and ran for a lonnnng time after but hard times made me sell her.She was fun to drive.I always said I would own one again so then about 4 years ago I bought a 93 2.0 and I love it.I had a blown head gasket when I first bought it but that was an easy fix me and a friend did ourselves and since then it has ran beautifully without any problems.I think some of these were owned by retards back in the day and they didn’t maintenance them good so they ended up breaking down or getting crushed.I know that a few years ago when they did the cash for clunkers, a lot of people junked them.Sad, but I love mine and drive it everyday.I was going to sell it but been scared because I know I won’t find another used car that is this reliable.I know everything that has been done to mine and everything and it’s lovely.I think these cars aren’t for those who can’t maintain them properly.I love how every time I drive mine, some kid at the light always asks me what kinda car is it and then how friends and family members of the older generation always tell me stories about how they had one and used to get mad p***y when they had one lol I always laugh at that one.Almost everyone I know who owned one always says they want to get another one and they miss their old one.I drive mine every other day cuz I have a few other cars but the Probe is my favorite to drive and I love how you hardly see any on the road.The whole 4 years I’ve owned this one, I’ve only seen 4 others on the road.At the DMV doing an emissions test, the people in the next lane, the girlfriend of the guy getting his car tested was asking him what kind of car was it and kept smiling at me lol I love this car though man.

  19. Anyone who talks crap about the 2nd generation Probe GT never owned one. I owned 3 Probe GT’s in my teens (2003-2007 I owned Probes), first car was 1994 automatic Probe GT in Rio Red. Second car was a 1995 Probe GT (also Rio Red) that I got in 5 speed, third car was a 1989 Probe GT turbo, 5 speed as well. The 89 GT wins in terms of speed and power, but the 2nd generation Probe GT will forever be my favorite car. Not only was it fun, it handled well, sounded great, looked mean and got countless stares in traffic. To this day, that car still looks good, it was so ahead of it’s time with that styling and form factor. I see them every once in a while in SoCal, usually since they’re a CA car, they’re in pretty good shape. I would give anything to own a 2nd gen PGT again. Thinking about that car just brings back so much nostalgia. I truly miss the symphony when you would mash the pedal on that 2.5L V6. I had a Flowmaster exhaust on mine and it sounded exotic. God I loved that car and always will. I am honored to have owned such a great piece of machinery.

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