If you’ve read any of my other car articles, then you know all about the Automotive Dark Ages that swept North America between 1973 and 1987. This dark decade-and-a-half did its darndest to suck all the fun, excitement and even mild lack of disappointment from drivers, and replace it with automotive products that were as uninspiring as they were unforgivably utilitarian and generally tepid to drive. Thankfully, the veil had started to lift by the mid ‘80s, and performance and sporty driving were no longer whispered in low tones, lest the EPA Gestapo should hear and make you disappear.
To satisfy this newly revived hunger for more excitement, a new range of models promising “more” for the new generation of drivers began to find its way to showroom floors. The last few bastions of performance driving, namely the Corvette, Mustang and GM’s F-Bodies (Firebird and Camaro) began to find themselves in the company of decidedly more modern-in-approach, and theoretically refined, competition for performance dollars. Fieros, Turbo Sunbirds, GTZ Berettas and their ilk struck a chord with those wanting economical performance.
At the same time, Ford had been considering revamping the Fox-platformed Mustang. They wanted a new breed of pony for the future. They had seen the writing on the wall, so to speak, and had come up with a new, aerodynamic body for a front-wheel-drive, modern sporty car. This vehicle shared its genes with the Mazda MX-6 Mystere, and promised a new kind of driving experience. However, if it’s one thing Ford should have known, it was LEAVE THE MUSTANG WELL ENOUGH ALONE! The avalanche of vitriol heaped upon the Mustang II by enthusiasts (despite its excellent sales) should have taught them this lesson. However, Ford was, once again, considering taking the popular pony car and throwing an established winner to the wind.
As we all know, this didn’t happen. The buyers wanted a Mustang that was American, with a V8 and the back wheels driving. Sure, the Mazda-engineered chassis they were considering was a good sporty car, but it wasn’t in the true Pony Car spirit. The Mustang stayed as a rear-wheel-drive 2+2, and has survived the years intact. What, then, of its erstwhile replacement? Well, there was too much invested to throw it away, so Ford just made it into another car. That car was the Probe.
When it made its debut in 1989, the Probe was very well received. It had all the right features for the time; slippery aerodynamics, Ford’s trademark wraparound rear window and pop up headlights. It looked like the future was here! Considering it replaced the EXP as Ford’s sporty coupe, you can see why it was so popular. Not only was it WAAAAY less of a slutty Escort, it also had a rear seat, just in case you needed it! The top of the heap was the GT model, with a 145hp, 190 lb*ft turbocharged 2.2L engine.
The arrival of the Probe did not get overlooked by the modelling world. While the practice of making “everyday” cars was almost at an end, AMT/Ertl produced three distinct Probe GT kits in 1/25. One is silver, and has a Ferrari-esque nose, the next is red with the normal “GT” nose, and one is the wildly flared IMSA model, which would make a dandy ricer. Today, let’s look at the “vanilla” GT; the other two are largely the same, save the body kits.
The Probe is a typical AMT/Ertl kit. It’s passably detailed but it isn’t as good as an MPC. Unlike the Beretta, I don’t believe the Probe kit started as an MPC; if it did, they had let their interior detail quality suffer. The model is moulded in that almost buttery light grey of which AMT is so fond, with clear windows and a rack of completely misplaced chrome. Nothing on a Probe GT is chrome, and although the box shows the wheels as chrome, they aren’t supposed to be. The tail lights are in clear red, which is a nice bonus.
The most interesting part of the kit is the body; it looks so odd with no rear window pillars. This, however, is more than odd. My copy had warped a bit, due to no structural support, and getting it back right is almost impossible. Also, it makes the kit quite hard to hold, and even harder to assemble, when you have no structure to which to glue the windows later!
The interior and engine are passably detailed, with the engine being better than the interior bucket. There are some nasty injector pin marks on the parcel shelf and on the floor, and while there’s some carpet detail, the seats are largely devoid of texturing, which is what makes me think it was not an MPC mould originally. However, the engine and engine bay are very nicely detailed, which is an MPC hallmark. I don’t know what to say about this, but since this car came out after MPC died, I’ll say it’s an AMT original, until someone can prove otherwise.
The instructions are simple to follow, but not overly detailed. Like most AMT instructions, they’re on a large two-sided piece of paper, which is somewhat unwieldy while building.
Building and Painting:
Just a note: this was one of my earliest car kits, so I don’t have as many “in process” shots of it as I’d like to.
I did start with the engine and chassis. I hosed the chassis black, since that was how I thought all chassis looked. Nowadays, I do primer grey with black subframes, overspray etc.; the whole kit and caboodle. However, since this was early days, I thought that since no one looks at chassis, black would be fine.
I did the engine in Model Master Acrylic Aluminum, and the transmission in Gunship Grey. I gave both a light washing of Baddab Black and Devlan Mud from Citadel to improve their patina and make them look more like metal. I did the valve and turbo covers in MMA Light Ghost Grey and gave them a very, VERY light wash of the same, to bring out some detail. I used MMA Steel on the Master Cylinder and the two canisters on the firewall, and used Aircraft Interior Black on the air box, intake hose, rad hoses, radiator and battery. I did the fluid bottles in white, with black lids and then used tinted Future to simulate the fluids. No one else ever seems to do this, but when you see a car in real life, most of the time there is fluid in the bottles.
The interior is typical of ‘80s interiors; grey! There are a few different shades, and I used Light Ghost Grey for the lighter parts and Gunship for the rest. To simulate the carpet, I took a dark grey pastel and “ground” it into the textured floor pan. I then flat coated this in place once the excess was shaken off, and the result was passably carpet-like. I also used some pastels in the seats to highlight and shadow the cushion contours. I applied ground up pastel to the seat “cracks” with a fine paint brush, and then sealed it with a flat coat. I did the same to highlight the panels in the parcel shelf.
The parts of the interior that are plastic were given a light hand-applied coat of water-thinned Future. This helps to give them a bit of a plastic ‘sheen’ without being fully glossy. The dashboard was quite detailed, with good radio and A/C button detail, and nice gauges. Again, this is an MPC-esque feature of the kit, so maybe it was an MPC design originally?
Before painting, there are a few things to glue to the body, though. The big pieces are the side body mouldings. These fit surprisingly well, or would have if the kit wasn’t warped. Thankfully, with the plastic being pretty soft, the Ambroid ProWeld glue I used melted everything together nice and tightly. The end caps/bumpers also went on well. The spoiler was a bit tricky to get lined up, but once the trunk seams were matched, it was simple to glue it down. It never tried to break off or separate despite the flexing during painting and sanding!
The body colour was mixed from various Jacquard pigments, Future, MMA Guards Red, Tamiya Purple and likely some black. The goal was to get the dark maroonish/black cherry colour seen on GTs. After some messing around, I was able to get a colour that, I think, came pretty bloody close. The paint was sprayed on in a couple of coats, and then lots, and lots, of Future was applied. I applied it very thickly, until the car turned white. No biggie, it dries clear. The problem is, that much Future takes FOREVER to dry. I had to wait weeks until I could sand the body. That’s why, now, I use thin coats with light sanding between them, as well as a dehydrator, to speed things along.
Once the paint was nice and smooth and sanded down, I used Turtle Wax Ice Wax to give the car a final shine. Now, I don’t bother with this, but for the Probe I didn’t have the Tamiya Fine and Finish compounds, and the wax did a good job. I decided to white letter the tires, to try and make the car a bit more “muscle-y”, but I hit a problem with the wheels. I got this kit second hand, and I didn’t have all the wheels. Thankfully, my brother let me dive into his spares box and I found some old Ford wheels; I think they were from his SHO kit, but I can’t be sure. It’s been a while! They fit perfectly, though, so it was “problem solved”. I painted them silver and then did the ovals in the middle blue.
The trim on the Probe is all black, and with the help of a Gundammarker, getting the edges sharp was easy. The trim was given one light coat of water-thinned Future to make it a bit more satiny, as if the car was brand new.
The hardest part of the car was installing the windows. Once the black on them was painted, it was time to glue them into the body. However, the warp, caused by the lack of any B-Pillar due to the wraparound windows, made this a harrowing experience. I don’t like to use CA on or near clear pieces. So, I used white glue. The problem is that white glue dries far too slowly. So, to hold things in place, I used a jar full of lead shot to weigh everything down. I had to wait hours for it to dry, and when I was done; there were gluey fingerprints, smudges and runs all over the car.
Thank your deity of choice that white glue is water soluble, because with a bit of gentle coaxing, a baby wash cloth and some warm water, I got all the excess off! Even better, I did it without the windows popping out! Once this was done, I put the interior and chassis on, and they helped to secure the large window piece. A bit more buffing and I put on the tires and some engine by accessories and that was it!
The AMT Probe is an interesting kit of a pretty important car. Sure, Probes are long gone from dealerships, and you see fewer on the roads all the time, but back in the day, they were very popular and I do remember seeing tonnes of them through the ‘90s and early 2000s.
Sure, this kit isn’t perfect, but it’s the only game in town if you want a Probe GT, and I’m sure there are more people out there that drove one of these than ever owned a 1957 Corvette or 454 SS Chevelle. This makes the kit more of a “nostalgia” build than a “dream car” one, and that’s the kind of build I prefer.
It’s not, on the surface, a difficult kit, but it is hard to work with, nonetheless. The weird rear window is very troublesome, and there are a lot of little things in the engine bay to give those who aren’t that comfortable with cars some pause. I wouldn’t give this kit to a novice modeller or a child, either, since it is like to cause consternation rather than engendering a feeling of accomplishment. Even I took a break from cars when I was done it, just because it was that challenging in the final assembly.
Would I recommend it? Sure thing! It’s a great addition to any “everyday” car lineup, and with some care and control, builds up into a nice replica of a car that fought back against the Dark Ages. While it’s no Ferrari or Lambo, it’s still a sporty, good looking car that oozes ‘90s Zeitgeist. For that alone, it’s worth picking one up if you see it!