Home » Not Quite Clean As A Whistle, Baby: 1993 Geo Storm vs 1993 Ford Probe GT

Not Quite Clean As A Whistle, Baby: 1993 Geo Storm vs 1993 Ford Probe GT

Sbsd 6 19 2024
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Welcome back! We’ve got another two cars from a certain year with an album released the same year, and before we get into it, I need to give you a quick warning: Neither the lyrics nor the cover art of today’s album is particularly work-friendly, so grab your headphones and make sure the boss isn’t looking over your shoulder. Today we pay a visit to 1993 and listen to Liz Phair’s debut album Exile In Guyville, while we check out two quintessentially ’90s sport coupes.

Yesterday’s German car battle, set to the tune of the White Stripes, didn’t quite go the way I was Expecting. I thought for sure there was no way a coupe could win against a wagon when the coupe has so Little Room inside. I figured the complicated nature of the Mercedes would Offend In Every Way. But once in a while, even when I think I have things figured out, I get it wrong. Which is a good thing – I Can Learn, after all.

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Song-drops aside, I agree with the slim majority here. Either of these is going to be a handful, so you might as well make it a handful with a V8 and massive side windows. A lot of you disliked the beige color, but honestly, I don’t mind it on this car. Big Benzes of this era seem to default to silver; this is at least a little different.

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In the early 1990s, I was attending UW-Superior in Superior, Wisconsin, and I had a number of friends who worked at KUWS, the college radio station. The bulk of KUWS’s musical programming was jazz and classical, but on weeknights for a couple of hours, it switched to modern alternative rock, with a program called “The Dean’s List.” (Apparently, it still does.) My friends were DJs for The Dean’s List, and through them, I got introduced to some incredible music, including but by no means limited to Trip Shakespeare, Concrete Blonde, the Pixies, Jellyfish, the Jayhawks, Urge Overkill (whose frontman Nash Kato took the photo that became Exile In Guyville‘s cover art), and today’s featured artist, Liz Phair.

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Last year, my wife and I saw Liz Phair in concert, performing Exile In Guyville in its entirety, and what struck me was how much fun she was having. Listening to Guyville, or its follow-up Whip-Smart, you get the impression that Phair is kind of a brooder, aloof, and not very energetic. On stage, nothing could be further from the truth. She was smiling, animated, getting involved with the crowd, and telling stories. It was a wonderful show, and it gave me a new appreciation for Guyville, a record I’ve been listening to for thirty years now. The moral of the story: If you love them on the record, go see them live. It really is worth it.

All right; enough about that. Let’s check out some cool ’90s cars.

1993 Geo Storm – $3,300

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Engine/drivetrain: 1.6-liter overhead cam inline 4, five-speed manual, FWD

Location: Bothell, WA

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Odometer reading: 125,000 miles

Operational status: Runs and drives well

Did you ever have a car you always admired, but for one reason or another never ended up buying? For me, one of those cars is the Geo Storm, a captive import version of Isuzu’s second-generation Piazza/Impulse. I was all set to buy one once, a blue GSi model, but the salesman pissed me off over something, and I walked away. I remember seeing one on the lot in this bright magenta color as well, but twenty-something me wouldn’t have been caught dead in a pink car. Twenty-something me was kind of an idiot. This is a great color.

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This Storm isn’t a GSi, so it makes do with only a single-cam 95 horsepower version of Isuzu’s 1.6 liter four. It is a manual, though, so you can wind it out and make full use of the power that’s there. And this is a lightweight car – only about 2,200 pounds – so it doesn’t need a lot of power to have some fun. This one hasn’t been driven regularly since 2016, but it has been given occasional exercise to keep the juices flowing, and the seller says it runs and drives well.

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Like the rest of Geo’s lineup, the Storm was built to a price, so don’t expect a lot of luxury features. The interior is working-class fabric and plastic, and from what I remember, there isn’t a whole lot of sound deadening either. This one has held up well, it looks like, with only the typical wear spot in the seat bolster seen in a lot of used cars of a certain age.

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Outside, it’s, well, freakin’ magenta, is what it is. Not a color commonly seen on cars of any age. The paint is original, and it is shiny, but there’s one unfortunate dent on the driver’s side just below the fuel filler. It’s hardly a deal-breaker, though, as thin on the ground as Storms are these days. If you want a small, reliable, economical, excellent-handling sporty coupe for a little over three grand, you can put up with a dent.

1993 Ford Probe GT – $6,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.5-liter dual overhead cam V6, five-speed manual, FWD

Location: Fort Worth, TX

Odometer reading: 100,000 miles

Operational status: Runs and drives well

By now, we all know the story: The Ford Probe was supposed to be the new Mustang in 1989, but when Ford fans got wind of it, they complained, and the Japanese-designed, front-wheel-drive Probe was introduced as a separate model, and the Mustang continued on unchanged. But what’s interesting is that the Probe did well enough to warrant a second generation, introduced in 1993. The first-generation Probe was a really good car – I had one – but the second was a legitimate performance car, at least in GT trim like this one.

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The heart of the second-generation Probe GT is Mazda’s 2.5-liter KL-DE V6, a big step up in power and refinement from the Taurus-sourced Vulcan V6 available at the end of the first-gen’s run. Combined with a slick-shifting Mazda five-speed gearbox, four-wheel disc brakes, and fat sticky tires, that revvy V6 made the GT punch way above its weight. This is a fun car to drive. The seller says this one runs and drives well, and has a new clutch. The only issues noted are a small oil leak, and a weird noise when the air conditioner is set to “Max.”

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The second-generation Probe and its sister model the Mazda MX-6 were a bit further removed from their 626 sedan roots than the first generations were, and this shows in the driving position. This car sits low, and you sort of fall into it, like a lot of other sporty coupes. The earlier Probes sat much more upright. The interior of this one looks pretty good, though the seller says it needs some minor work. It’s a hell of a lot nicer inside than a Probe GT that I test-drove a few years ago, which had wires hanging from under the dash and a Crown Royal bag for a shift lever boot.

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Outside, its biggest flaw seems to be bleached paint and clearcoat, not surprising in the Texas sun. But it appears to be stock except for the window tint, and undamaged, so there’s that. If I remember right, the chromed wheels were a factory option. I prefer the standard matte silver versions myself, but beggars can’t be choosers.

I just noticed something these two cars have in common – unusual door handle designs that both use a small recess behind the door edge to access. The Probe has a little edge flap that pulls out, and the Storm has a tiny lever hidden behind the edge of the door. I guess in Jason’s door-handle taxonomy, that makes the Storm a Class 5, and the Probe a Class 5/10 hybrid. It’s also worth noting that, while the Probe has full pop-up lights, and the Storm’s headlights are fixed, earlier Storms had pop-up “eyelids” that covered the upper third of the lights when they were off. This design was phased out during the 1992 mid-cycle refresh of the Storm, because frankly, it was silly.

Anyway, take a look at these two long-extinct sporty coupes, and see which one you think is a better deal. And give Exile In Guyville a listen, especially if you’ve never heard it before. It holds up.

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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Rick Garcia
Rick Garcia
26 days ago

My first car was a red 93 Probe GT, so I’m definitely going with that.

It is definitely not stock though. You can see and intake and headers on it.

Colin Brown
Colin Brown
27 days ago

I’d have picked the Storm, but I’ve seriously wanted to probe Liz Phair for many years!

Timothy Swanson
Timothy Swanson
1 month ago

Needs a “both” option. The baby Camaro in a cool color, and a handsome sleeper car, both in manual. I have some teens who will be needing vehicles, so both.

MikuhlBrian
MikuhlBrian
1 month ago

I drove a couple of Probes of this generation when they were gently used cars. That V6 / 5spd combo was really good. Handled really well. I’d definitely love to have that Probe. For the bleached paint I’d need to knock a couple grand off.

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