A Photo For Sunday: 1990 Ford Probe

This could also have been Something Rotten In Denmark. However, it isn’t listed on-line so it’ll have to be a Photo For Sunday.

1990 Ford Probe mirror

I had not taken two photos before the owner leaped out of his workshop nearby to tell me that this beauty had only covered 89,000 km. The green tinted body-work and phenomenal condensation inside the car strongly spoke against the vehicle in practice. In principle, it’s a Mk 1 Ford Probe which detail further argues against it. One other nice aspect of buying this car is that if you absolutely had to buy it, you’d still need to fork out the import tax the Danish government cheekily calls “registration” tax.

1990 Ford Probe.

About the Ford Probe in general: another in a line of Ford’s poorly received smaller coupes. Yes, yes, yes, the Mustang and the dear old Capri. However, the Probe succeeded the EXP (a warmed-over Escorty thing) and lasted three years before the Probe Mk2, another loser. (The Cougar didn’t go over and the delightful Puma burned brightly but briefly).

The Probe Mk1 shared much under the skin with the Mazda MX-6, Ford Telstar and the Mazda 6 family. Despite its sporty appearance it began its sales career with a 2.2 L4 (which today’s specimen has under its verdant hood) and not the V6 it needed and later got). Somewhat amazingly, Ford imagined this front-wheel drive car should be a Mustang, an attitude that changed when customers revolted.

1990 Ford Probe

The bit I find interesting is that, up close, that swoopy side-mirror fairing doesn’t really blend with the door underneath. The standard triangular cheater panel is still there and you can see it peeping out on the top photo. The mirror itself doesn’t blend completely with the faring. I had a look at library photos of the car and some of them have a slightly different design which is more cohesive. The one here looks OEM though.

Slighty weirdly, the faring is continuous with a shape on the wing which has some kind of an undercut. The design seems to be unfinished and the front bumper has too many elements that don’t work together.

Let’s go around the back:

Much the same

We find the voguish glazed c-pillar of the period. Dearborn drew inspiration from the Euro-market Ford Granada (and others, as we have discussed here). We also find a blacked out lamp panel. A wish to have it narrow and wide led to the need for a strip of body-colour between the lamp and the bumper which leads to the little vertical panel gap that doesn’t really meet the lamp silhouette so well.

Subliminally, the Probe has pretensions to swoopiness that are defeated by the slabby profiles of the flanks.

There’s the essence of a quite good sports car here, an essence confounded by poor detailing. The 1990 MX-6 made a better effort of the genre and today still looks like a pretty fine two-door:

1990 Mazda MX-6: momentcar.com

That Mazda all makes sense, I think, unlike the 2.2 litre four-cylinder nail with which this article deals.

When I first saw one of these cars which was parked in Dublin c. 1990-something I considered it to be a bit of a duffer. And twenty-five years later my opinion hasn’t changed at all.


Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

9 thoughts on “A Photo For Sunday: 1990 Ford Probe”

  1. A basically good shape where every single detail is so wrong.
    A friend had a Puma, into whose back she managed to get three quite big dogs. Worked fine for her.

  2. Is that sill extension factory fitted?

    The side mirror fairing is second only to the Autech Zagato’s in terms of clumsiness. I guess the idea behind the Probe’s take on this was remotely similar to what ended up the Opel Vectra B’s defining stylistic feature. Which wasn’t that smart or attractive, but very competently resolved, compared to this.

  3. That door mirror housing is an epic fail. I’m amazed that it got approved for production. Most of the online photos show a modified one-piece design, which is rather better integrated:

    1. Yes, a lot look like that grey car. What’s even more surprising is that the mirror sail panel is still visible. On the 1995 Vectra it’s entirely hidden and the same goes for the Citroen XM.
      I haven’t found any similar ones on-line. This might be something after-market, maybe a repair for damaged original mirror fairings.

  4. That’s a post-facelift first-gen Probe, confirming prevaling opinions about facelifts. The launch version was free of all that cladding and much more elegant. It was, at the time, the most aerodynamic car you could buy in the US.

    The 2.2 was low-tech, despite it’s 3 valves per cylinder, but it was utterly reliable. Mine already had 100,000 miles when I bought it, and twice that when I sold it, with nothing more than basic maintenance. The hot engine was the Mazda-sourced turbo. Ford also offered a Taurus V6 on this generation, which was probably terrible.

    Those mirrors are not original.

  5. I can forgive the odd solecisms in that Probe’s gestalt. It comes from a time when designers were prepared to break the rules and take the criticism when things didn’t turn out as well as might have been hoped. There are a few rough edges, but it doesn’t turn my stomach. For that, try the Australian made 91-94 Mercury / Ford Capri, a pointless and ungainly two seater convertible.

    The Probe pictured is the first generation which didn’t make it to the UK – don’t know about the rest of Europe. The 1993MY came over officially, and wasn’t a great success. There seemed to be a resistance in the UK to Fords not originally intended for us. The Explorer was offered in RHD about the same time. Despite demand for 4x4s of the Discovery / Shogun / Trooper class far exceeding supply, the Explorer found few customers, and most of those were oafs and criminals.

    The Mondeo-based Cougar, built in Flat Rock, Michigan but “finished” in Köln-Niehl did rather better. I still occasionally see examples, always on either Polish or Lithuanian numberplates.

    There were quite a few Cougars in my neighbourhood in the early years of this century, but only three of them were cars.

  6. Those mirrors are the folding jobs for the European market. North American models received the fixed, faired-in design.

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