Design Notes: 1989 Ford Probe
SN8 no more
It seems that Mustang’s launch date was far enough away, and there was mention of a missed deadline, that it generated internal concerns that SN8 might look dated by the time it was released.
So, it was back to the drawing board, literally.
By December of 1983, one of Mr. Saito’s proposals was approved; that is the design shown in these two sketches. By this point, the project was no longer referred to as SN8; instead, it was known as the ST16 Mustang. As you can see, this design was to be radically updated.
Keep in mind that Ford was still making its popular rear-wheel-drive, optionally V-8-powered, third-generation model. It’s interesting that this new front-wheel-drive interpretation appears to be striving for sheer modernization rather than bearing any semblance of Mustang heritage.
From what I could determine, this full size ST16 clay model (shown below right and left) was completed in early 1984. It’s sort of weird to see “Mustang” badging on this model since it looks so close to a production Probe.The most obvious differences between this and a production Probe are probably found in the nose’s detailing.
Another interesting thing about this ST16 is its skirted rear fender wells.
So, at what point did the ST16 cease to be the Mustang’s heir apparent? It was right around this time that the media and, consequently, fans had caught wind of what was in store for Mustang. And they were not happy.
In fact, Ford was inundated with mail demanding they not strip the model of its traditional engine and drive layout. Sales of the existing car reportedly spiked as rear-wheel-drive-loving Mustang buyers thought they might be snatching up a soon-to-be extinct breed.
Ford took notice and, in a rare act of domestic-brand decisiveness, made the decision to not cancel the Fox-based Mustang. In addition, they decided to go ahead and produce the coupe they’d invested so much time and resources into.
But, they were going to need a name for the new model. Ford had already used the Probe name on a series of futuristic, high-tech and highly aerodynamic concepts, so they decided move it to prime time.
Thus, Ford’s 1989 Probe.
[EDIT: The first-year production Probe was initially labeled in this post as a “1988” model, in error, and was subsequently repeated in a couple of locations within the article. In actuality, the Probe’s first model year was a 1989 model. The correction has been made and a hat-tip goes out to Sci_Guy for bringing it to my attention.]
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