Future Classic Friday: Ford Probe

It may have been woefuly outdated at the time it was replaced, but the Ford Capri was sorely missed from the minute it went out of production.

An all-time classic, its sales petered out in the 1980s due to a drop in demand for traditional coupes and its archaic Ford Cortina underpinnings.

But despite calls for a replacement, a new Ford Capri wasn't forthcoming. A move that was steeped in irony, as less than 18 months after the Ford Capri's demise, the Vauxhall Calibra appeared and kickstarted a coupe revolution.

The Vauxhall Calibra was exactly what the Ford Capri was 20 years earlier - a sleek, two-door sports coupe based on the chassis of a fleet-favourite repmobile (in this case, the Vauxhall Cavalier), and it was an overnight success. 

Others followed suit. Toyota, Mazda, Volkswagen, Audi, Nissan - by 1990, the affordable coupe market was booming, but with one notable omission: the very company that popularised the concept back in 1969. 

Ford didn't rejoin the party until 1994, with its 'New Capri' in the shape of the Ford Probe - a two-door coupe co-developed for the US market with Mazda and which shared its platform with the Mazda MX-6. 

Perhaps the biggest mistake that Ford made was to pitch the Probe as a Ford Capri successor. Whereas the Ford Capri was the car you always promised yourself, the Ford Probe wasn't.

For starters, it was front-wheel-drive - something that didn't hamper the success of its European rivals, but was not what fans wanted from their miniature Ford Mustangs.

Then there was the interior. While Ford of Europe had made huge strides with interior quality, the plastics inside the Ford Probe cabin were woefully below par, and the steering wheel truly hideous, like something you'd find in a Lincoln Town Car rather than a sports coupe. 

The Ford Probe wasn't quick, either. The entry-level 2.0-litre had just 118bhp, took 10.6 seconds to reach 60mph and had a top speed of only 113mph, while the beefier quad cam 2.5 V6 was more like it - 7.0 seconds to 60 and a top speed of 132mph, but with the power delivery of a refined grand tourer rather than a sports car. 

The Grand Tourer character was evident in the ride and handling, too. The Ford Probe was extremely comfortable - perhaps its biggest charm - but was also somewhat sloppy when driven hard, with excessive bodyroll, too much understeer and a lack of predictability on the limit. 

The media reviews were underwhelming to say the least, and most of its rivals were better cars. But to discount the Probe on those points doesn't factor in its positives.

For starters, it was practical, with a decent boot and slightly more rear legroom than most of its peers. It proved itself to be quite reliable, too, other than an appetite for suspension and anti-roll bar bushes.

And for all its dynamic indifference, it was arguably one of the prettiest cars in its class, providing you did away with the standard three-spoke alloys, which taste had clearly overlooked.

Plus, as we've already noted, it was comfortable, making it a commendable choice for company car drivers who wanted something with a bit more dash about it than a Ford Mondeo or Vauxhall Cavalier. Find a classic Ford for sale.

Ask HJ

Can I take my SORNd car out of the garage to wash it?

Can I take my SORNd car out of the garage to wash it?
If the car is SORN it must not be driven or kept on a public road. If the area in front of the garage is on private land then you can take it out to wash it. If not and it is being washed on a public highway or driven to a car wash then you must ensure it is taxed.
Answered by Craig Cheetham
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