The Carchive: The 1993 Ford Probe


Welcome to Thursday’s burp of activity from the foggy gulch that is The Carchive.

Today we’re looking at a car brochure which is absolutely terrifying me when I look at it. It’s sitting right next to me as I type this, staring at me. Here I am, in the living room in our house, watching Nicola doing her yoga from a DVD showing on our own Sony LCD TV, sipping the last dregs of a coffee brewed on our stove, in our kitchen, and right here on an IKEA coffee table is a brochure that I picked up from a Kissimmee Ford dealership twenty one years ago.

Twenty one years. I’m sorry to do this to you, I’ve done it before, I know. But here comes yet another depressing Carchive where we collectively remember how old we’re all getting. It’s the ’93 Probe.


Like admitting to liking Dire Straits, enjoying The Archers on BBC Radio 4 and occasionally sneaking a glimpse into a railway magazine in the newsagents, admitting a love of the Ford Probe is one of those things that society dictates that you Must Not Do. Fords Mustang replacement that never was/never could; irrespective of any Mazda DNA or anything like that, was something that came and went, certainly over here. But it came and went hard and fast, and left an indelible imprint in my conscience on its way.

“A pure sports coupe in which all that really matters is the pleasure that comes in being in direct link with the road”

Before we fillet, roast and digest this brochure, let me set the scene. Bear with me. It’s 1993, and England hasn’t seen a Ford Coupe since the death of the Capri in ’87. The car magazines have been muttering quietly about “The Next Capri” for ages, now, and though there have been rumours, nothing has ever materialised. Of course, we had all read imported copies of Motor Trend, and we know that Ford in America sell something called a Probe, which has a load of bits of Mazda MX6 underneath it, but that’s all basically irrelevant. Any talk of a New Capri seemed like hopeless conjecture.

And then I went on holiday. America was, of course, awesome. That my first ever flight should be in a Delta L1011 got things off to a great start, then driving from Orlando International to Indian Wells, Kissimme, in a red on red on red Alamo Lumina Euro, a huge and other-worldly affair compared to the suddenly-boring Sierra back home, these were exiting times for twelve year old me.


And then came the visit to that Ford dealership. The very pleasant guy on the forecourt, polishing his Harley as we cruised up, could obviously relate to my predicament; he disappeared inside and emerged with a fistful of volumes, F-Series, Taurus, Crown Victoria and Thunderbird all being accounted for. And Probe, too. At first I paid it little attention; I spent that first evening staring in shock and awe at the sheer American-ness of the Crown Vic, all bench-seats, column shifts and very ruched velour, and absolutely nothing like the Fords I had left behind for a fortnight.

The Probe didn’t really click with me until I got home, when suddenly I realised some stuff. All those magazines which had been spouting off about a “New Capri” had shown pictures of a slightly ugly, bland appliance, nothing like as charismatic as our hoary old rear-drive Capri had been. But this new Probe was something else. The more I looked at it, the better it looked. And in GT trim, in Rio Red or Electric Currant Blue, and without a front license plate, this was the best looking thing I had seen with a Ford badge in, like, ever.

When I first brought this brochure into school, those of my mates who gave a toss about cars were beside themselves. None of us had ever seen a Ford with pop-up headlamps before. Ford was a very important name to a lot of us, XR, Cosworth, these names meant everything. And when we made the mental leap that this thing would be that “New Capri” we had been promised for all those years, it was like suddenly being given a new hope for the future of mankind.


“After driving it, Motor Trend called the GT a “world-class” sports coupe.

We DID get the Probe in the UK. Our first brochures were released in ’94 and two models were offered; 16V and 24V, corresponding roughly with US SE and GT spec. We didn’t get the basic Probe; not for us were plastic wheel covers, keep-fit windows, non-remote central locking or a missing rear screen defroster. Ours were all pretty well loaded. One unwelcome feature we were saddled with, though, was the obligatory front license plate.

This was like forcing Angelina Jolie to permanently wear a dust mask. That sweeping nose with those aggressive intakes lost so much impact for having been marred by the rectangular carbuncle mandated by British road law.


“Prized by driving enthusiasts who really appreciate quality-engineered performance”

For a start they sold really quite well, satisfying the long-held hankering for a Ford Coupe that middle aged blokes had suffered from for years. And they reviewed well, too, being easily class-competitive for ride, handling and performance. Jeremy Clarkson enjoyed one he drove on test, though the 24v V6 always rated far higher than the slightly lacklustre 16v I4.

The 2.0 with 115hp simply wasn’t enough for a car with such sporting pretensions, and the smaller 15″ wheels didn’t have anywhere near as much visual impact as the five-spoke items that the 2.5V6 enjoyed. Nobody seemed very happy about the interior, though. They rated the seats, with their adjustable-width bolsters, as comfy and supportive, but the plastic-city dashboard and a steering wheel seemingly modelled on the Golden Arches was seen as a let-down. And we were miserable because we didn’t get the snazzy graphic equalizer that US cars could.

I get the feeling that the reviews were good because the magazines wanted the Probe to be good. By any reasonable reckoning, there was nothing much wrong with the lithe American coupe, but it felt a little bit more like an up-to-date product than a future legend. The fact that the Probe has not really endured would seem to support the fact that, once the initial buzz interest had waned, people were pretty quick to start wishing for the next “New Capri” to come along.


“You can tell a great Sports Coupe by the way it covers the bases, all four of them. Aerodynamic styling. Driver-control ergonomics. Agile handling. Responsive power”

I’ve never driven a Probe, and I’d really like to. I still think they look great, I know the V6 ones sound terrific. They range on eBay at the moment from £500 for something usable but shabby through to about £1,500 for an absolute world-standard pebble beach concours winner. But I’ll never own one unless my neigbours get rid of one of their cars so I can park another one in their spot. I suppose asking can’t hurt…

So what about you? Any amusing Probe anecdotes? Good, Bad?

(Disclaimer: All images are of original manufacturer publicity materials, photographed by me. Copyright remains property of Ford, who appear to have forgotten about My Bloody New Capri)

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