I bought the car Mustang fans laughed at, and I love it

By automotive-mag.com 11 Min Read

When Ford unveiled the original Probe in the late 1980s, it was met with derision from Mustang enthusiasts. The front-wheel-drive coupe was posited as an ambitious departure from the V8-powered RWD pony car, yet it failed to capture sufficient interest from potential buyers, compelling the automaker to revamp the Mustang and reintroduce it to the market. Instead, the Probe was positioned as a competitor to the Toyota Celica and Honda Prelude in the burgeoning realm of affordable FWD coupes. Ford even ventured to market the second generation of the coupe in Europe, where a modest number found their way onto the continent. One such specimen was delivered brand new in Germany in the first half of 1994, and fate has now placed it under my ownership.

I acquired this 1994 Ford Probe GT approximately a month ago for a mere £2,000. After years of possessing estates and more recently transitioning to electric vehicles, this marks my inaugural foray into the realm of coupes, V6 engines, and Mazda engineering. Why Mazda, you might ask? Because the Probe was the fruit of a collaborative effort between Ford and the Japanese manufacturer, heavily drawing from the platform of the Mazda 626. A litany of firsts accompanies this three-decade-old vehicle, yet I have already developed a fondness for it and am eager to restore it to a (nearly) pristine factory state. Here’s the story of how I came to possess one of the scant few Probes in Eastern Europe and what I’m going to do with it.

Preceding circumstances

As previously mentioned, my automotive history predominantly features estates, with Fords dominating the roster. Commencing with a 1996 Ford Escort, succeeded by a first-generation Focus Tournier, followed by four Mondeos, culminating in the possession of a resplendent 2017 Mondeo Vignale. Equipped with an array of amenities including adaptive suspension, massage functionality, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats and steering wheel, programmable diesel heater, adaptive cruise control, electric memory steering column, and sundry others, this vehicle provided unparalleled comfort and functionality for family excursions. Alas, despite its impeccable condition, I opted to part ways with it in early 2024 due to the escalating costs of maintenance and insurance.

Despite its relatively high mileage of about 115,000 miles, it was in as-new condition, mainly due to my obsession with replacing every single part that was not at 100 operating capacity. This included brakes, hoses, belts, fluids, engine mounts, and many other components, which were replaced with OEM parts way before it was time to. The dark grey estate felt like it had 50,000 miles on it, not 115,000, and fetched a sum slightly exceeding the market average in my country – £13,500 to be precise.

2017 Ford Mondeo Vignale
2020 Renault Zoe

Meanwhile, in 2022, my family acquired its maiden electric vehicle—a 2020 Renault Zoe sporting a 52 kWh battery. A commendable compact car equipped with respectable features and offering a decent range. With the departure of the Mondeo, we were left solely with the Zoe, a predicament exacerbated by the presence of two regular drivers, a ten-month-old infant, and several extended journeys slated for the summer months. It became evident that we required a larger electric vehicle, a proposition that necessitated some persuasion to my spouse. Just a few weeks later, a splendid 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 Pro Max graced our garage, intended to serve as our primary mode of transport for daily commutes and extended trips. Nevertheless, a secondary vehicle was imperative for instances when my wife and I needed to travel independently, particularly given our rural locale, situated a mere ten minutes from Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital. It was within this context that the notion of acquiring a more unconventional vehicle—a project/secondary/weekend car—germinated in my mind.

Sealing the deal

Convincing my wife of the necessity of a 1990s sports coupe in our possession proved to be a tricky task. Admittedly, I harboured some reservations myself, but my allegiance to the Ford brand remained steadfast. The requirements were simple: the vehicle must hail from the 1980s or 1990s, be equipped with air conditioning, boast a larger engine (in contrast to my prior four-cylinder Fords), and be in operational order at the time of purchase. Prior to procuring the Probe, I inspected a 1996 Ford Scorpio featuring the 2.9-litre V6 Cosworth engine. However, the vehicle necessitated a comprehensive overhaul of its electrical system as a first step, spanning both the engine and automatic transmission. Furthermore, the saloon’s violet hue and bubbly aesthetic failed to resonate with my preferences. Thus, my attention shifted to a crimson 1994 Probe GT with a 2.5-litre V6, prompting a visit to its owner in Plovdiv—a city situated approximately two hours from my home.

1994 Ford Probe
1994 Ford Probe
1994 Ford Probe

Upon laying eyes on the vehicle, I was nearly certain of its acquisition, even before igniting its engine. Extensive photographic documentation provided by the previous owner had prepared me for the car’s condition and notwithstanding some visible rust along the side skirts and exhaust pipes teetering on the brink of disintegration—common afflictions befitting a 1990s Ford—the car exhibited satisfactory performance, save for a slight idle irregularity. All systems were operational, no warning lights illuminated the dashboard, and even the air conditioning dispensed cold air. Supplemented by a secondary set of tyres, complete original documentation within the glove compartment, and a comprehensive repaint conducted approximately four years prior, the acquisition seemed all but inevitable. Following negotiations, the final price settled at 4,500 Bulgarian levs, roughly translating to £2,000 at current exchange rates.

What’s the condition?

The initial ardour waned as I inspected the car thoroughly upon hoisting it onto a lift jack when I got home. To my dismay, the extent of rust exceeded my initial estimations, despite the absence of any conspicuous rust indicators on the exterior. A profusion of rust spots pervaded the undercarriage, accompanied by additional corrosion in the engine bay. On the day of purchase, the passenger side window ceased its operation, and en route home from Plovdiv, the exhaust system perilously flirted with detachment.

Moreover, the car was shod with winter tyres nearly a decade old, while the alloy wheels—eight in total—required refurbishment. Audible noises emanated from the engine belts, the power steering pump laboured particularly when the engine was cold, and the idling issue deteriorated. A meticulous interior examination unveiled a wobbly driver’s seat, a fractured driver’s side mirror, and pervasive squeaks from the plastic components. The exterior paint needed several small corrections and a complete polishing, while the suspension was producing prominent knocks.

1994 Ford Probe
1994 Ford Probe
1994 Ford Probe
1994 Ford Probe
1994 Ford Probe

At this juncture, I harboured misgivings regarding the wisdom of my decision. However, the euphonic hum of the V6 engine beneath the bonnet, the deftly shifting five-speed manual transmission, and the agile steering assuaged my doubts. Clearly, the car necessitated comprehensive attention—while I have no intentions of undertaking a meticulous bolt-and-nut restoration, I am resolute in dedicating the ensuing months to procuring requisite parts and rectifying nearly all discrepancies.

In consideration of the car’s enduring value, I anticipate its price trajectory to be invariably upward, rendering this acquisition not only gratifying from a sentimental standpoint but also shrewd from a financial perspective. Nevertheless, the financial aspect was scarcely a consideration for a vehicle destined to metamorphose into a weekend charmer.

What’s next?

Upon acquiring the car, I made an online order for some essential components. Brake callipers, discs, pads, and hoses for all four corners were swiftly acquired. Subsequently, on the following day, a comprehensive replacement of the exhaust system ensued, extending from the exhaust manifold to the chromed twin pipes adorning the rear. This transformative alteration imbued the vehicle with an entirely rejuvenated demeanour, accentuating the V6’s smooth operation and fostering further optimism regarding the Mazda-engineered, Detroit-made coupe.

Discussions have commenced regarding a comprehensive restoration of the undercarriage, encompassing the eradication of rust, sandblasting the entirety of the floor and axles, painting all pertinent surfaces, and the installation of new brakes and suspension components. The prospect of integrating coilovers into the ensemble now appears increasingly plausible, notwithstanding my overarching objective of preserving the vehicle’s original configuration.

1994 Ford Probe GT brakes parts

First parts already delivered!

The commencement of the rust restoration project is slated for a later date, likely to transpire several months hence. This temporal reprieve allows directing attention toward the engine. The primary undertaking on this front will involve conducting a thorough assessment of all rotating parts, fluid conduits, and electrical cables and connections. A prompt resolution to the idling issue is anticipated, concurrently with ongoing efforts to source interior components from salvage yards spanning across Europe and the United States.

I will keep you all updated on the progress made on a monthly basis. Hopefully, by the end of the year, I will have the car in the condition I want it to be. And hey – do you know someone selling Probe parts? Email me!

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