The 1989 Ford Probe GT was a “terrific rocket ship”

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In the ’80s, Ford almost discontinued the rear-wheel-drive Mustang in favor of a more fuel efficient and affordable front-wheel-drive alternative based on a platform imported from Mazda. However, since both fans and Ford engineers were rather opposed to this idea, Dearborn decided to revamp the Fox platform instead for the ’94 Mustang, while the already finished front-wheel-drive project codenamed SN-16 could hit dealers as the 1989 Ford Probe.

The 1988–92 Ford Probe was based on the Mazda MX-6 coupé, powered by the same 2.2-liter four-cylinder as the more conservative Japanese original. That meant 110 hp in naturally-aspirated form, or 145 hp and 190 lb-ft of torque in the turbocharged Probe GT. Paired with a tight five-speed manual, this 12-valve DOHC engine granted a 0–62 mph run in 7.6 seconds and covered the quarter mile in 15.3 seconds at 92 mph. Paired with the “Ride Adjust” suspension offering Soft, Normal, and Sport modes and ABS brakes that remained optional on the GT, Ford’s front-wheel-drive 2+2 was a potent answer to the Celicas, Preludes, and Eclipses of its day.

Ford Probe
Ford / Flickr Alden Jewell

Built in America, the Probe’s popularity also had a lot to do with having a much sportier body, featuring pop-up headlights, a deep chin, and side mirrors that flared out from the fenders. And with a base price of $13,600—under $16,500 fully loaded—when first announced, the Probe proved that Ford could give America an affordable yet fun car, one that looked the part while returning 26 miles to the gallon.

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