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Prototypes and Concept Cars

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1979 Ford Probe 1

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Years before Ford angered Mustang fans with its plans to switch it to a Mazda-based front-wheel-drive platform that became the production Ford Probe in 1989, it showed off a series of five spaceship-looking concept cars also named Probe, all designed to explore the outer reaches of aerodynamic efficiency. That series of concept cars kicked off with this Ghia-built 1979 Ford Probe I, a Fox Mustang-based coupe powered by a turbocharged 2.3L four-cylinder (the same basic engine that wound up in the Mustang SVO) and good for a drag coefficient of 0.22. This particular car previously sold in June 2002 at Christieís auction of Fordís prototypes and concept cars. From the sellerís description:

Probe I represents the re-birth of the ďAmerican Dream CarĒ that Harley Earlís Buick Y-Job started in 1939 and GM continued with the Motorama Extravaganzas of the 1950s. By the beginning of the í70s the purpose built Dream Car was all but extinct.

Probe I is a product of the collaborative efforts of the famous Turin based design firm Carrozzeria Ghia and Ford. Ghia, which traces its roots in coachbuilding back to 1915 and is former home to design icons Giugiaro, Tjaarda and De Tomaso, handcrafted this one of a kind, fully functioning prototype.

Probe I marks the beginning of a new era. An era brought about by a fuel crisis, at a time where a shift in consciousness toward a cleaner environment was born.

As a facet of Fordís Project Alpha, Kopka, head of Fordís design department, reasoned that a design based upon serious aerodynamic science was an attainable solution to the fuel economy issue. At that time, there was a considerable bugaboo regarding aerodynamics in automobile design. It was argued that cars would all look like jelly beans and all look alike. Kopka believed there was considerable room for implementing advanced aerodynamics without sacrificing style and individuality.

Probe I was considerably more immune to the fluctuations of the petroleum market. Its sleek and angular aerodynamic shape achieved a drag coefficient in the wind tunnel of 0.22, some 37 percent less than the 0.40 then typical for a two-door, four-passenger coupe. Its use of the newly developed W Code Mustang Cobra engine was able to double the average fuel economy of the conventional 2 +2 sports sedan without sacrificing horsepower.

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