That Time The Ford Mustang Almost Went Front-Wheel Drive

If not for a massive outcry from loyal enthusiasts, the front-wheel-drive coupe we know today as the Ford Probe could have become the fourth-generation Mustang
That Time The Ford Mustang Almost Went Front-Wheel Drive

When Ford put the Mustang on the market in 1965, it took the auto industry by storm. Until then, the notion of a sports car for ordinary people seemed like nothing more than a pipe dream for most Americans. Not surprisingly, it didn’t take long for petrolheads to fall in love with the Mustang, an affair which shows no signs of ending any time soon.

Like any good love story, however, the Mustang story is not without its share of heartache. The oil crisis of the early 1970s served to suffocate the V8 horsepower of American cars, including the Mustang. The resulting second-generation Mustang II was a shell of its predecessor, and is often regarded as one of the worst cars that Ford ever made. Things would get better with the introduction of the third-generation Fox Mustang, but sales continued to slump.

That Time The Ford Mustang Almost Went Front-Wheel Drive

By the mid-1980s, the rear-wheel-drive pony car was starting to look like a bit of an antique in comparison to the wealth of cheap front-wheel-drive coupes coming in from Japan. These cars, particularly the Acura Integra and Toyota Celica, were lighter and more efficient than the Fox-body Mustang, yet were still fun to drive in their own right.

A Mazda 626, the car which the fourth-generation Mustang was intended to be derived from.
A Mazda 626, the car which the fourth-generation Mustang was intended to…

The practical advantages of front-wheel drive were impossible for Ford executives to ignore when it came time to refresh the Ford Mustang for its fourth generation. By 1987, plans were underway to christen the fourth-generation Mustang as a front-wheel-drive car. Through Ford’s growing business relationship with Mazda, the “New Mustang” would have been based on the same platform used by the humdrum Mazda 626. But Ford reckoned that this plan would work since Mazda had already used this platform to create the MX-6, which proved to be a decent two-door sports car, albeit not a particularly exhilarating one. The relatively lightweight coupe would be nimble and efficient, powered by either a four-cylinder or six-cylinder engine.

There was just one problem with this plan. Loyal Mustang fans wanted none of it.

The first-generation Ford Probe.
The first-generation Ford Probe.

When word hit the street that the future Mustang was about to get a transverse FWD drivetrain, the outcry was immediate. Ford’s head office was inundated with hundreds upon thousands of letters from angry Mustang devotees. The message was clear: to give the Mustang a front-wheel-drive platform would be to ruin it.

Despite sinking a huge sum of money into the front-wheel-drive platform, Ford decided to acquiesce to the demands of Mustang fans. Rather than kill off the Fox Mustang in 1989, as the company had planned to do, Ford kept it in production in spite of mediocre sales volumes. But there was no way that Ford could let its investment into the Mazda-based coupe go to waste. So they decided to build the car anyway and market it alongside the Mustang. It was believed that this car, now called the Probe, would prove a point and handily outsell the old-school Mustang.

This couldn’t have possibly been further from the truth. When the two cars went on sale together, the Mustang easily outsold the Probe, despite having architecture that was over ten years old. Pleasing the people had paid off for Ford, and it proved that American muscle wasn’t out of fashion.

That Time The Ford Mustang Almost Went Front-Wheel Drive

The same couldn’t be said of the Ford Probe. Although it was primed for international sales, the American cousin of the Mazda MX-6 would never achieve the fan base of the car it was supposed to replace. Maybe it was because it didn’t have a V8 engine. Maybe it was because it was an American coupe with front-wheel-drive. Maybe it was because it was named after something usually associated with proctologists.

In fairness, the Probe wasn’t a terrible car. But it certainly wasn’t a great one, either. After all, it was essentially just a boring family car with two doors and pop-up headlights. No amount of early ‘90s radness could save it.


As for the Mustang, the time had come to finally retire the third-generation “Fox-body” design. Amazingly, Ford once again considered a front-wheel-drive platform, this time based on the Escort. But that notion was quickly dismissed when Ford couldn’t find a way to fit a front-wheel-drive transaxle to its Modular V8 engine. Instead, Ford decided to heavily modify the old Fox platform with modern lines that reflected the true heritage of the Mustang. Codenamed “SN-95”, the fourth-generation Mustang hit the streets in 1994. Ever since then, Ford hasn’t looked back. Over ten million Mustangs have been built, and they’ve all remained true to their rear-wheel-drive, rubber-burning roots.



How would it spin out and hit a crowd if it were front wheel drive though

08/12/2018 - 10:47 |
48 | 20

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Some idiot would floor it, and it would torque-steer into the crowd instead.

08/12/2018 - 11:44 |
24 | 0
Matt Robinson
Matt Robinson

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)


08/12/2018 - 12:07 |
54 | 0

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Lift-off oversteer

08/12/2018 - 12:53 |
14 | 0
White Comet

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

I think Ford may have invented a time machine and saw the mustang crashes in the future, so they attempted to prevent the issue. The Probe was created under the pressure from Crowd Protection Association (CPA).

08/13/2018 - 16:48 |
4 | 0

I like the Ford Probe. I think it looks really cool, probably it just featured as many 1990s styling elements as you can possibly fit in a single car. It was a good idea to not sell it as a Ford Mustang though.
Whenever you try to make a classic American car appeal to the people who buy Japanese or European cars, it’s always a lead balloon. Most people who buy a Ford Mustang (in the US as well as in Europe) don’t even want a car to compete with the Japanese or European sports cars. The people who buy a Ford Mustang generally want a cliched American car (especially on the European market) with a big V8 and rear wheel drive. If they wanted a Japanese car, they’d buy a Japanese car.

08/12/2018 - 10:51 |
80 | 0
Chewbacca_buddy (McLaren squad)(VW GTI Clubsport)(McLaren 60

No FWD Mustang concept?

08/12/2018 - 11:42 |
8 | 2

When Ford almost gone Mitsubishi…

08/12/2018 - 12:04 |
6 | 0

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

But they have…….

08/12/2018 - 13:30 |
18 | 0

If the Ford Probe was RWD, it would have been twice as popular

08/12/2018 - 14:03 |
34 | 0

Copying without understanding is rarely a good idea. They could have imported multiple hatch from europe and japan to study them and understand why they are more used outside america.

08/12/2018 - 14:28 |
2 | 0

Ford Probe is a great car tbh. I have one from 1996 with only 80k miles on it. OK, it’s not RWD and not that fast but other than that it’s great. Handling, interior, looks. Suspension is great and it’s not built with cheap ass materials. Fuel economy is also good. Earlier models have some electric problems e.g. distributor failure but everything can be fixed fairly cheaply.

08/12/2018 - 14:44 |
10 | 0
Marco Dominguez

I wonder if the probe would have done better with the yamaha sho v6 or v8. Also wonder if ford would have built a better rwd 4th gen if they had not planned to make it fwd. The 3rd gen and 4th gen are very similar.

08/12/2018 - 21:04 |
2 | 0

Pretty cool considering my dad actually owned a Probe in the day.

08/12/2018 - 21:15 |
0 | 0

can relate. my first and second car were 1991 ford probe gt turbos. i loved them, though they were major shitboxes. rust everywhere, gas guzzling like crazy and just 147ps. still, i’d like to have one again.

08/15/2018 - 23:11 |
0 | 0


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