Dropping the Ford Mustang for the Ford Probe: Say It Isn’t So!
The late 1970s were not good for the auto industry. As gas became more expensive and fuel needed to be rationed, automakers had to make major changes. One car that had serious trouble in the 1970s was the Ford Mustang. Many manufacturers had to turn their hotrods into front wheel drive gas sippers, and Ford turned to the unfortunate Mustang II. But, for fans of the Ford Mustang, the worst was still on its way.
The front-wheel drive gas sippers continued to be popular well into the 1980s when the foreign cars, specifically anything produced by a Japanese car maker, became more stylish and desirable. In 1985, Ford had the brilliant idea to swap out the rear wheel drive Mustang for a car modeled after the stylish Japanese cars of the day. Ford began to work alongside Mazda with the goal of phasing out the third generation Mustang, known as the Fox design with the triangular front nose.
Ford planned on selling the third generation as the Mustang Classic with a New Mustang that looked nothing like any other Mustang. They modeled the up-coming campaign after Classic Coke and New Coke (if you remember, that campaign did not go very well). The model that Ford wanted to use for the New Mustang was the second generation Mazda MX-6, which eventually became the Ford Probe.
Fortunately, the fate of the New Mustang went the same direction as New Coke: no where. In 1989, the Classic Mustang in rear-wheel drive was sold in higher numbers than the front-wheel drive Ford Probe. The low numbers did not deter Ford from continuing their research into designing a front-wheel drive Mustang.
After a few different designs, Ford decided the Japanese look was not right for them. They decided on the edgy looking fourth generation Mustang was one of the most popular designs of the day. This award-winning Mustang included a 3.8 OHV V6 instead of the small block V8 that ran the car for 30 years.
If it weren’t for the customers making their voices heard with their wallets, the Ford Mustang would probably look more like a Mazda Miata than the updated Muscle Car that it is today.