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    Oct 2004
    The Ford Probe was a liftback coupé produced by Ford, introduced in 1988 and produced until 1997. The Probe was the result of Ford's collaboration with its longtime Japanese partner, Mazda, and both generations of Probe were derived from the front-wheel drive Mazda G platform that underpinned the Mazda Capella.

    The Probe succeeded the Ford EXP, and the instrument cluster of the first-generation Probe and pop-up headlight mechanisms were borrowed from the FC RX-7.

    Based on the Mazda MX-6 as a sport compact coupe, the Probe was intended to fill the market niche formerly occupied by the Capri in Europe, and it was originally intended to be the fourth generation Ford Mustang in the North American market as a direct competitor with the Acura Integra, Nissan 200SX, and the Toyota Celica. During that time, Ford's marketing team had deemed that a front-wheel drive platform (borrowed Mazda GD and GE platforms) would have lower costs for production, and also because the platform had been gaining popularity with consumers.

    Mustang fans objected to the front-wheel drive configuration, Japanese engineering, and lack of a V8, so Ford began work on a new design for the Mustang instead. On March 17, 1997, Ford announced the discontinuation of the Probe.

    Starting in the late 1970s, Ford and Ghia started exploring a series of futuristic designs with the "Probe" series of concept vehicles. The Probe I, first shown in 1979, was a wedge-shaped design that incorporated a number of drag-reducing features like covered rear wheels and pop-up headlights. This was followed the next year by a much more conventional looking Probe II, whose hatchback styling was also reminiscent of the pony cars. The 1981 Probe III was an advanced demonstrator with covered wheels, but its bodywork evolved into the more conventional Ford Sierra (or Merkur XR4Ti) and styling notes that were used on the Ford Taurus. The 1982 Probe IV was a more radical concept car with a low Cd (drag coefficient), and evolved into the equally radical 1984 Probe V.

    After the 1979 energy crisis, the economic slump initiated by high fuel prices prompted Ford to give the Ford Mustang a major redesign. The new design would be based on a totally new platform introduced to Ford by Japanese automaker Mazda, who had been partnering with Ford since 1971, and whom Ford had owned a 25% stake in since 1979. Toshi Saito, a North American-based designer working for Ford, took the lead in envisioning styling directions for the front-wheel drive Mustang, and a design by Saito was chosen and finalized in late 1983. The project was then transferred to Mazda in Hiroshima, Japan and in internal Ford parlance, was referred to by the codename "SN-16". It was intended to gradually phase out the RWD Fox platform Mustang under the name "Mustang Classic" and have it eventually supplanted by the SN-16 as the "Mustang."

    By 1985, Mazda acquired the former Ford Flat Rock Assembly Plant in Flat Rock, Michigan and intended to commence production of the two Mazda-badged GD platform cars for North America, the 626 along with the MX-6, and the SN-16, contracted by Ford, in 1987.

    Christopher Sawyer, writing for AutoWeek magazine, in their issue for April 13, 1987, was the first to publicly reveal the existence of the SN-16 Mustang in a sensational report that featured an artist rendering on the issue's cover of a vehicle nearly identical to what would be released as the 1989 Ford Probe GT stating "Exclusive: The '89 Mustang," along with detailed technical reports about its Mazda origins and switch to front-wheel drive. The public outcry was immediate, with many Mustang fans and pony car purists detesting the SN-16's Japanese engineering, front-wheel drive platform and lack of a V8 engine, which were anathema to traditional Mustang buyers and enthusiasts. Ford Motor Company executives, along with many car magazines received strongly-worded letters of criticism decrying the decision.

    Neil Ressler, the then-chief of small car engineering at Ford, spoke about the internal cultural differences at Ford Motor Company which led to a strong disagreement between two factions that had radically different notions about what the Mustang should be:

    This idea came forth that we would replace the Mustang with this front-drive car, the ST-16. There were a lot of people who thought that was a great idea—a modern car. There were also a lot of us who were appalled by that. It was like the champagne sipping crowd replaced the beer drinking crowd. The idea that we would replace the Mustang with a Japanese car—a different car from a different culture aimed at a different audience—this is not going to work.

    By 1987, Alex Trotman, the newly-appointed vice president in charge of Ford's North American operations, with strong urging from Ford Marketing vice president Bob Rewey, a dedicated performance enthusiast, decided that in the light of consumer outrage, the SN-16 would not make a suitable Mustang. At this point, somewhat ironically, Mustang sales, which were lackluster, grew substantially after the article's publication, out of fear that it would be the last opportunity to purchase a traditional RWD V8 Mustang. While Trotman approved the development of a RWD successor, there were many difficulties, notably that the engineering budget for the Mustang was spent on the SN-16 and Ford was still recovering from a financial crisis of the early 1980s that brought the company close to bankruptcy until the Taurus arrived.

    John Coletti, Ford's small-car engineering manager and a vociferous opponent of the SN-16 Mustang, said of the project, "I would rather have seen the Mustang name die than put the Mustang name on the Probe ...".

    Ken Dabrowski, Ford's small-car line manager, tapped Coletti to lead a skunkworks team that would develop a RWD Mustang successor with the understanding there would not be a full budget to create an entirely new car. Coletti's team heavily revised the 1979 Fox platform for the new car, which eventually became the fourth-generation Ford Mustang released for the 1994 model year.

    However, production for the SN-16 was about to commence, meaning Ford had to put it on sale or lose its development budget along with further potential financial headaches if Ford would break its production contract with Mazda. It was decided that the SN-16 would be released as the Ford Probe in 1988, taking the name from Ford's line of futuristic concept vehicles, and be sold alongside the Mustang, which would continue production in its then-current form with minor refreshing. Instead of being aimed as a successor to the Mustang or as a rival to its traditional competitors, the Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird, Ford would aim the Probe against popular imported sports coupes of the era such as the Toyota Celica and Honda Prelude.

    Both generations of the Probe were sold in Japan as Fords, at Ford/Mazda sales channels called Autorama. Japanese models were not in compliance with Japanese Government regulations concerning exterior dimensions and engine displacement, resulting in Japanese buyers being held liable for additional taxes as a result.

    The Probe was a sales success in its first model year, owing to its futuristic styling and enjoyable driving experience. In fact, demand exceeded supply in 1988, enough that buyers were paying list price or higher for a Probe, and Jim Mateja, the automotive columnist for the Chicago Tribune, urged potential Probe buyers who couldn't find a Probe to consider its sibling, the Mazda MX-6. Sales of the first-generation Probe were successful enough that Ford partnered with Mazda again, with further Ford engineering from the beginning of the project, to create a second-generation Probe for the 1993 model year developed alongside a second-generation Mazda MX-6. A proposed third-generation Probe, which would have been based on the Ford Mondeo instead of being Mazda-derived, was eventually released as the 1999 Mercury Cougar in the North American market to strengthen the Mercury brand. However, it is important to note that Ford in North America considered the Escort-based ZX2 the official successor to the Probe and not the Cougar. After disappointing sales of the Cougar and the waning popularity of front-wheel drive sport coupes in the late 1990s in favor of sport utility vehicles, Ford left the market segment with the 2002 discontinuation of the Cougar, and the 2003 discontinuation of the ZX2.

    First generation (1988–1992)
    The first generation Ford Probe was based on the Mazda GD platform, and was powered by a 2.2 L SOHC 4-cylinder Mazda F2 engine. It debuted in 1988 for the 1989 model year and was produced until 1992 in the United States. The Probe was available in several trim levels that differ depending on the market in which the vehicle was sold. In the United States, the Probe was available in GL, LX, and GT trim levels.

    The 1991 Probe was given a 4-star crash rating in collision tests conducted by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

    Source: Wikipedia
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    Last edited by Man of Steel; 01-05-2020 at 03:15 AM.

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