Just the name ‘Probe’ alone was enough to scare people away. But yes, Ford did name a car the ‘Probe.’ The lackluster sports car was around for the ’80s and ’90s and featured just about everything that you didn’t want in a car. Rivaling cheap offerings from Chrysler and GM, the Probe was an affordable sports car. But the sports part wasn’t there and the car had a plethora of quality issues which plagued it for years.
There were talks inside of Ford that the Probe was a replacement for the Mustang, but this never came to fruition. Many consumers couldn’t get over the nameplate to even give the car a chance. The Probe did have some redeeming qualities, but they were few and far between.
Much like the SUV boom we see now, the ’80s also had a small SUV boom. The Ford Bronco II was the first of them to hit the road to rival the AMC Jeep Cherokee. The Ford Bronco II could have been a good SUV had there been a little more effort put into it. The first problem with the Bronco II was the lack of a removable top, which was a big selling feature for the full-size Bronco.
In addition to that, the Bronco II had a lackluster powertrain that came from the Ranger pickup. While it was fine for the little Ranger, the Bronco II was just too awkwardly designed. The little SUV worked its way into the ’90s until it was replaced by the much better Ford Explorer. The Bronco II has since become a collector’s item.
Ford was having an identity crisis during the ’90s and the brand had a far-reaching product portfolio. Sedan-wise, the company had a couple of cars all very similar in size and design This headache was known as the Contour, a sedan which didn’t fit in anywhere in the Ford lineup. The Contour was the same size as the cheaper Escort, looked almost identical, and was competing against the company’s own Taurus. What was the point of the Contour?
We’re not sure, but the sedan had a good deal of quality issues that plagued it into the next product cycle. The Contour could have been a hit for the company if it wasn’t already selling a trio of sedans. This was a problem for Ford, and as such the Contour went off into the sunset before the new millennium hit.
The Aspire was another blip in the ’90s saga of Ford. What the Aspire offered was a Geo Metro with a Ford badge on it. You have to give the company credit for offering some solid colors, but that was about it. The Aspire was grossly underpowered and didn’t offer anything buyers were looking for. The compact Aspire could have been a hot seller for the company had it put more design and implementation into the little car.
The Ford Aspire was also notoriously hard to get parts for, and to this day you really can’t find parts for it. The last of these little cars are driving around until the engines stop and then the Aspire will go off into the sunset. Ford later replaced the Aspire with the much-improved Focus.
A classic car revival was among us in 2003 and the Ford Thunderbird was one of the first models. While the car had all the hype to become a hit, it lacked in design. The Lincoln LS based Thunderbird didn’t come with a backseat, had a lethargic V8 engine, and a cheap interior. To make matters worse, the company commanded a premium price tag for the retro coupe which sent a lot of buyers to the hills.
Ford had a good plan with the Thunderbird, but the car was just lacking in the overall design. We have to think that the Thunderbird will have some sort of resurgence in the future. But for right now, the Thunderbird was just another sad blip in recent history that we know as Ford.
Yes, the Mercury brand is a part of Ford, and as such, the Villager was another painful vehicle. During the ’90s, the success of the minivan took the company by surprise and the Ford Aerostar wasn’t able to compete. While Ford worked on retooling the Windstar, the Mercury brand went to Nissan for a little help. We got the undersized Villager. When you first look at the tiny van with its giant light bar grill you can’t help but wonder what the company was thinking. Of course, at the same time across the pond, GM was selling dustbuster minivans, so it’s not too much of a stretch.
We have to look back and wonder what Ford was doing with the Mercury brand. Because all in all, the ’90s were a time of painful badge-engineered vehicles. The Villager was one of the first vehicles to be developed through Ford’s partnership with Nissan. To this day, the van remains a relic of the ’90s.
The little compact car that was released during the late ’80s was known as the Festiva. This compact car was developed by Kia. The Festiva didn’t offer much in the way of anything and was barely legal transportation. The car was incredibly small and lightweight in addition to being underpowered. A good wind would blow this car off the road and there were reports of that happening.
Ford replaced the Festiva with the Aspire, which was an equally as bad car. The Festiva could have been a reasonable compact car had the brand put some effort into the. The car was competing with the likes of the Metro and the Swift. Ford did offer a limited edition performance version later on, which Jay Leno owns one of.
Perhaps one of the most memorable cars of the ’90s was the all-too-oval Taurus. The big family sedan was designed to be a part of Ford’s new design scheme made to turn up the heat on Japanese cars. The oval Taurus had a whole lot of ovals throughout the car from the dashboard to the doors. There wasn’t too much of the car that wasnât oval and Ford liked it this way. Sadly, buyers didn’t latch on and this became one of the poorest-selling Taurus models.
The Taurus brand was responsible for saving Ford at a time when the company was on the fritz. The oval Taurus, however, was a plight of bad design and the car didn’t offer anything unique. On a side note, there was a limited-edition V8 model of this Taurus that came in the SHO package.
When the Ford Probe went the way of the crusher, Ford needed another cheap sports car to fill the void. Thus the Escort ZX2 was brought into the picture. While the car had a fun-looking design, that was about it, and it just went skin deep. The ZX2 was a notable addition to the Ford lineup because of its cheap price and limited features. Ford was quick to refrain from adding a GT version to the mix which meant that all you got was the ZX2.
This is probably one car that the Ford motor company regrets making because it didn’t add any value to the brand whatsoever. The ZX2 was clunky and slow, lacking any real luxury features to make it a competent coupe. The ZX2 remained in production until the 2005 model year when it was finally let go by the company.
The 1999 Mercury Cougar was another weird looking car that came from Ford’s “new edge” design philosophy. The Cougar was to be an addition to the Mustang lineup, but instead, the company didn’t base it on the Mustang. This was a more watered-down Cougar then had ever been in the lineup before. So why did Ford clip the Cougar’s nails? Well, the car was being marketed toward a more female demographic and thus the company wanted the car to be more feminine.
This fits more in line with the female-focused advertising that Ford was going for with the Mercury brand. The Cougar could have been a very popular sports car with some more options and maybe a bigger motor. But the styling was also quite limiting and a far cry from what it once was.
As if the ’80s weren’t bad enough for Ford, the Tempo hit the scene. This ugly sedan was probably one of the worst American sedans ever made. The Tempo was notorious for reliability issues and this plagued the car well into its life. The Tempo could have been a hit for Ford but when these things came off the lot they experienced issues. This was sad for a company that once prided itself on quality. We have to wonder where things went wrong for the Tempo.
The car offered a couple of options, including leather-appointed seating. But power was limited and the car just couldn’t keep up. Get the Tempo in the wagon version and you were in for something even slower. The Ford Tempo just didn’t stand a chance, and at this time, domestic cars were notorious for bad quality.
Another paltry excuse for a car during the ’90s was the Mercury Mystique. At least Ford could have put some effort into designing a car, but instead we got the lackluster Mystique. What served for a sedan was nothing more than a Ford Escort with a waterfall grille. The company didn’t even try to hide what this car was. Yet, there was the Mercury premium that was being charged for it. Ford had many bad badge jobs during the ’90s and the Mystique was one of them.
Mercury went downhill during this period and the Mystique was one of the reasons why. The car just really lacked in terms of quality and we have to wonder why on earth Ford didn’t put more effort into it. The car could have been a good seller if it had some sort of design difference from the average Ford Escort.
Where do we start with this travesty? The Lincoln LS was a product of the Lincoln brand trying to be hip. The sedan was marketed as a modern and sophisticated sports sedan, but in reality, it was nothing more than a badge-engineered Jaguar. The problem with that was how bad the quality of Jaguar products was at the time. It rubbed off on the Lincoln as the LS was notorious for having quality issues. Where some big American luxury sedans were making progress, the Lincoln LS was taking a step back.
Sure, you got a roomy interior and powerful V8 engine but in reality, the LS was a blunder. These cars went on for a few years and were sold until the 2005 model year. There are a plethora of reliability issues on these cars and repairs were quite expensive. This was the main reason why the car never managed to sell very well.
The SUV boom was among us at the end of the ’90s and Ford needed something to compete with the Suburban. The Ford Expedition was a big SUV, but it couldn’t compete with GM’s extended-length family hauler. Thus the Excursion was born. Based on the heavy-duty truck platform, the Excursion was everything that the Suburban wasn’t. But the Excursion also had an immense amount of drawbacks to it. The first of which was the fact that the spark plugs would blow out the side of the engine.
To top things off, the vehicle got horrible gas mileage due to its massive Triton V10 engine. If you needed an SUV that can tow a house and still go to the beach then the Excursion was for you. But for the average consumer, the Excursion was just too much vehicle to be practical for everyday use.
Ford didn’t even advertise the Ford Escort Wagon when it was on the market. Escort wagon buyers were a select few who just needed additional cargo space. The wagon didn’t offer any unique features you’d expect. The thing was just an Escort with the back stretched on it and Ford had always offered one. The wagon could have been something unique, but Ford execs just didn’t see a market for it.
Sadly, if you need an inexpensive wagon with a lot of room, the Escort was a good deal. But finding one that hasn’t been put through the wringer is going to be hard. These little cars are a dime a dozen in today’s market and a good deal of them have been used for parts.
When you think of an iconic car that almost took down an automaker, the 1996 Explorer is it. The little SUV which is one of the best-selling vehicles of all-time was involved in the infamous Firestone lawsuit against Ford. These things would tip over and explode because of the tires, causing injury and even death. Court findings revealed that the roof on these models was intentionally designed weaker than the outgoing model. For what you got, the Explorer from this generation was a good deal.
You got V8 power in an attractive and compact package. But at the cost of your health or even death, this obviously wasn’t worth it. Ford ended up settling out of court for millions and you seldom find Firestone tires on a new Ford vehicle any longer. There was just too much scarring done by the company.
Fewt know what Lincoln was thinking, but for one year in 2002, the company released the Blackwood. This odd and expensive pickup truck featured the first satin bed to ever be used in a production pickup truck. To make things worse, the Blackwood was only available in black, which meant that there was no customization. The Blackwood could have been a great truck for the Lincoln brand had it not been so limiting. The truck had a lot of features that just made it useless.
Sure it was a good show truck, but you could go and get an F-150 for way less and still have all of the features that came in a Blackwood. The truck is seldom remembered nowadays and when you see one you quickly notice what it is. Aside from the name and the bodywork, there was nothing special about the Blackwood.
When you think of performance trucks there is one that you probably think of first. The Lightning was a performance truck on a mission, but with the second generation, Ford missed the mark. Here’s why – the truck only came in a single cab format. This alienated a good portion of the buyers who had children. Drivers want a fun truck but also need the space that comes with an extended cab truck.
The SVT Lightning could have been a great truck in the second round had there been some more options. But the fact that it was only a single cab knocked a lot of potential buyers out of the running for these. Still, the value is holding firm on these trucks to this day.