No, I am not developing a trend here. At least, not intentionally. I promise that next week’s car will not be from 1993. This week, though, I bring you an unlikely candidate for Car of the Week:
The 1993 Ford Probe SE
The Probe was not really known as a particularly good car, even when it was new. As time wore on it developed a reputation for being underpowered and unreliable. And that is why it is one of the most important cars in my automotive past.
Confused? Let me clarify. In 1999, one of my best friends was looking for a car. We first found him a well-cared-for 1987 BMW 325is sporting an “M” package. It would have been a great car for him, had his mother not vetoed the idea. Repairs for a BMW, she reasoned, would be too expensive. She may have been right, but we will never know. I have often wondered how different my experience working on cars would have been if he had bought it.
What they did settle on, though, was a white ’93 Ford Probe SE. I remember the day they brought it home: the whole group of us came over to “oo” and “ah” over the first car that wasn’t one of our parents’. When we left he was still just sitting in it in the middle of his cul-de-sac (the insurance hadn’t come through, so he couldn’t drive it) with a satisfied smile on his face.
That was probably the last time he was satisfied with the Probe. Over the next two and a half years, we spent more time fiddling with and fixing it than he did driving it.
We did our first experimenting with air intake systems on the Probe. It was the first of our cars to get an exhaust upgrade (a Flowmaster muffler). It was also the first to get audio upgrades. Considering how little we knew about what we were doing, it is amazing the car still ran at all.
This is not to say, though, that it was reliable. Quite the opposite, in fact. It always seemed to need something and we were always under the hood, trying to find a way to fix it on the cheap. By the time he got rid of it, the Probe had three working gears (having lost the fourth in a spectacular cloud of white smoke), two different tire sizes (including a 15-inch tire on a 16-inch wheel — don’t ask) and body work that had been replaced with household goods (venetian blinds in one instance, if I remember correctly). Still, dubious workmanship aside, I gained nearly all of my early automotive knowledge from two cars: my own Civic and the Probe.
It was a sad day when the latter was finally junked.
About the Car
Ford first introduced the Probe (and its mechanical sibling, the Mazda MX-6) in 1989 with the intention of eventually using it to replace the Mustang. Although it quickly became clear that the general public would never accept a small-engined, front wheel drive vehicle as a replacement for the historic pony car, Ford did enjoy some success with the Probe. So much so that it was given a redesign in 1993 — a substantial restyling that gave it a much more rounded, modern look. The ’93 model year also saw the engine options change to a 2.0-liter inline-4 (base model and SE) and a 2.5-liter V-6 (GT model).
Sales started strong but slowly declined until its final year of production, in 1997. Ford started development on a new Probe, but decided to let the name die. Instead, they resurrected another, more historic namesake. What was to be the next Ford Probe eventually debuted as the 1999 Mercury Cougar.
Some photos in this article were freely sourced from Google. If you take issue with usage of any image, please contact me and I will remove it.