Home » Sporty Coupes For Less Than A Grand: 1990 Ford Probe vs 1996 Acura Integra

Sporty Coupes For Less Than A Grand: 1990 Ford Probe vs 1996 Acura Integra

Sbsd 9 26 2023
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Welcome back to Shitbox Showdown! Today’s contestants are a pair of well-used sporty liftback coupes – a category of cars that doesn’t even exist anymore, and I miss them. Even better, they’re both stickshifts, and they both run! Don’t get too excited until you see them, though. And before I show them to you, we need to finish up yesterday’s kei battle:

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Well, that’s a surprise. From the comments, I expected the Life to win it, and that’s the one I’d rather have. But the little Acty pickup found enough silent fans to give it the win.

I’ve expressed my fondness for small sporty front-wheel-drive coupes before, and lamented their disappearance from the market more than once. But every time I find one for sale, their absence from new car lots stings a little more. Used examples are still around, of course, but usually they’re overpriced, or completely hammered. Since a lot of our showdowns have been on the high-priced side recently, I thought it would be fun to aim low for a change, and see what I could find for under a grand. I’m pleasantly surprised, and I think you all will be too. Let’s take a look.

1990 Ford Probe – $950

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.2 liter overhead cam inline 4, five-speed manual, FWD

Location: Shoreline, WA

Odometer reading: 260,000 miles

Runs/drives? Yep!

This is a car I know quite well. I owned an ’89 Probe for a couple of years when my wife and I first moved to Oregon, a non-turbo manual like this one. It was a great car to drive, very reliable, surprisingly comfy, and it managed about 35 mpg on the highway. I even drove it to Los Angeles and back once. In fact, the only reason I sold it was that I found a dirt-cheap Miata, and you don’t pass up a dirt-cheap Miata. But our parking situation was limited, so I reluctantly put the Probe up for sale. To my surprise, a buyer flew in from Florida, because it was exactly like the car he had in high school and he just had to have it, and drove it all the way back.

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The Probe, of course, was supposed to be the next Ford Mustang, but after AutoWeek infamously spilled those particular beans in 1987 and the Mustang faithful bombarded Ford with letters of protest, Ford relented and the Mustang continued its Fox-body bloodline. The Probe is a mechanical twin to Mazda’s MX-6 coupe, itself a derivative of the 626 sedan. As such, it’s powered by a 2.2 liter Mazda engine driving the front wheels, both cardinal sins among Mustang traditionalists. But honestly, I’ve driven more than one four-cylinder Fox-body Mustang, and the base-model Probe is a better car in every way.

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Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of information to go on when it comes to this particular Probe. All we know is that it has 260,000 miles on it, fewer miles on the engine, and that it runs and drives well. But that last part is the important part – a running $950 car that’s actually a pretty nice car to drive? Hell, I’d be tempted to pick this one up for myself, if I had a place to park it.

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It’s straight, it’s rust-free, and it isn’t sinking into the mud in someone’s side yard. I have no idea if the registration is current, because the license plate is covered up, and we only get the four exterior photos and none of the inside or under the hood, but again, $950. You can forgive a lot for that price.

1996 Acura Integra – $995

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Engine/drivetrain: 1.8 liter dual overhead cam inline 4, five-speed manual, FWD

Location: San Marcos, CA

Odometer reading: 300,000 miles

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Runs/drives? Indeed it does!

For only $45 more, if you’re down in the San Diego region, you could pick up this absolutely beat-to-hell Acura Integra, Honda’s defining sporty coupe of the ’90s that is ironically far more of a legend than an Acura Legend. Once the darling of the tuner crowd, many of these cars met untimely demises through stupid modifications, or stupid driving, or both. This one escaped the modifications, and it only has one sign of stupid driving, but it has seen some things, it looks like.

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It’s the best color Acura ever put on one of these, that wonderful deep emerald green, but it’s missing nearly all its clearcoat, and someone did something terrible to the left rear corner. The damage looks superficial, and was partially pounded out, but best to check that the rear hatch opens and closes properly. Remarkably, it still wears its original steel wheels and plastic hubcaps. The hubcaps aren’t a surprise – Honda hubcaps are held on by retaining rings on the lug nuts so they don’t fall off – but the fact that no one has swapped them for aftermarket wheels is.

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This ad is as terse as the one for the Probe, but at least we get an interior shot. It looks as tired inside as it does outside, but it’s all there. Clean, low-mileage examples of Integras this age have sold for some really idiotic prices in recent years, but personally, I like this one better. It has lived a full life and it has the scars to show for it, and it wears them with dignity.

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Come to think of it, we had an Integra for a while as well. It wasn’t a bad little car, but it had some electrical shenanigans from a previous owner that caused problems, we paid too much for it from a fly-by-night ripoff artist used car lot, and it was an automatic. Actually, I like this Integra better than that one, too.

My cheap old beater days are probably behind me now, but cars like these remain near and dear to my heart. It’s nice to see you can still find something that is at least serviceable in theory for less than a thousand dollars. Either of these cars would be worth a look, in my mind. Which one is the better deal? You tell me.

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(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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Honda R 157
Honda R 157
5 months ago

If it was an MX-6 or 626, I’d go that route, but the Ford is such an orphan… I think I’d go Integra, personally, but for someone that likes working on things and finding good deals on parts, either car is probably a good project.

Oldskool
Oldskool
5 months ago

I doubt any tuner crowds exist in the rural north. An old Probe would have more parts availability and mechanic experience.

Not only that, but the Probe looks straight and well taken care of, despite inevitable sun fade. I bet Chris Fix could have that thing sparkling after a weekend in his driveway.

Jason Roth
Jason Roth
5 months ago

I thought the first gen Probe looked cool, then the second gen came out and made it look like a big hog. But I still voted Probe without hesitation—looks good on the outside, has a stick, runs. What more do I need for under a grand?

Geekycop .
Geekycop .
5 months ago

My first reaction is a terrible dad joke but here goes anyway.

Probe me.

I had a 1990 probe for a bit, base model five speed in silver with the grey cloth interior. I loved it, it was just dynamic enough to be fun but not so crazy that I felt like I needed to thrash it everywhere I went. If I can find one in decent shape when it’s time to teach my daughter to drive it’s definitely going to be high on my list of perfect first cars, also I really want to take a first gen probe and drop a first gen taurus SHO powertrain in the back to make a mid engined Ford Wraith-ish car. Imagine that intake manifold in full view under all of that glass.

El Jefe de Barbacoa
El Jefe de Barbacoa
5 months ago
Reply to  Geekycop .

That guy sure likes the ‘ol Probe.

CubSmurf
CubSmurf
5 months ago

Always go for the popup headlights

Dar Khorse
Dar Khorse
5 months ago

Even the (probably) dirty undies on the license plate didn’t dissuade me from jumping on that Probe. That Acura has lost all Integra-ty.

Last edited 5 months ago by Dar Khorse
AlienProbe
AlienProbe
5 months ago

Didn’t read. Voted probe.

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
5 months ago

Integra! No Fix Or Repair Daily

Bruno Hache
Bruno Hache
5 months ago

This is probably the first and only time I would consider a Ford over a Honda product.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
5 months ago

I was leaning to the Integra until I saw the collision damage. So the Probe for me in this case.

SlowCarFast
SlowCarFast
5 months ago

Whomever decided that “Probe” would be a name to replace “Mustang” should have had their marketing degree revoked!

I think they should have shifted the Capri name over to it,or find another horse name. Even “Gelding” would have been preferable to “Probe”!

Ricki
Ricki
5 months ago

Always had a soft spot for the ol’ Probe. Had a high school girlfriend that had one, and I was always a little envious of it, because I was forced to drive my parent’s GM sedans around.

But most of all, that Integra has seen not just some shit, but a lot of shit in its 300k lifespan. As nice as that interior is, I’d much rather have a solid car around it.

XLEJim700
XLEJim700
5 months ago

Welp, after seeing the condition of that Integra this equates to one more time when I miss out on ownership.

The first was back in ’88 when I tried to buy a new Integra off the floor at a dealer in North Jersey. They had a markup on it that I think was $500., or it may have actually been $1,000. In any case I offered them MSRP on the spot. They refused, I walked.

I did wind up with an ’88 Accord LXi 5-speed, so the world didn’t end.

And that Probe looks like it might be fun!

Mike B
Mike B
5 months ago

I dig the Probe, I haven’t seen a 2nd gen in YEARS, never mind a first gen! Bonus points for the period correct aftermarket wheels.

Hotdoughnutsnow
Hotdoughnutsnow
5 months ago

I can’t believe this was my take, but; the Ford Probe is more… interesting. Whatever happened to them? Where did they all go? Integras are still around, but you hardly ever see a Probe. Clean it up and take it to Radwood.

Farty McSprinkles
Farty McSprinkles
5 months ago

This is a choice where you really could not go wrong for the price. I chose the Integra, for a reason I can’t justify.

Cyko9
Cyko9
5 months ago

I didn’t want to vote for the Probe; I found them heavy and underpowered in the day. But that Integra has had it. The Ford is the better deal here, and a high school kid can try patching up the Acura.

Mat Borton
Mat Borton
5 months ago

My wife had a Probe when we got married. I’m certain that the experience we had with it was mostly due to the way it was treated before it came into her possession. Even still, I’m scarred and I didn’t even read the descriptions. I just scrolled down and voted for what ever is up against it.

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
5 months ago

The Ford’s an easy choice — especially because this is an LX, which in 1990 came standard with the 3.0L Vulcan V6 out of the Taurus. Assuming the replacement engine is the same variety, a V6/5 speed sports coupe sounds like a hoot.

SlowCarFast
SlowCarFast
5 months ago
Reply to  Geoff Buchholz

GOOD CATCH, Geoff! That V6 will put a lot more kick into the Probe’s acceleration!

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
5 months ago
Reply to  Geoff Buchholz

Plus the LX came with some desirable things the base model didn’t have… such as 4 wheel disk brakes, rear window defroster, tilt steering, dual power mirrors and interval windshield wipers.
https://autocatalogarchive.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Ford-Probe-1990-USA.pdf

EmotionalSupportBMW
EmotionalSupportBMW
5 months ago

You had me in the first half, I’m not going to lie! I can’t believe I’m voting against a lift back 5-speed DC. Someone just put this poor thing out of its misery. Look what you’ve done to my boy, person in/or around San Diego!

Chump Change
Chump Change
5 months ago

In college I had a friend who wanted to trade his Ford Probe for my Sprite, but his girlfriend wouldn’t let him. Probably a wise decision for all involved.
I picked the Probe.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
5 months ago

Voting for the sub rosa Mazda. I don’t like it, but there it is.

JDE
JDE
5 months ago

The correct answer here should always be the Acura, BUT, the body damage and Newer engine ins an already pretty cheap Ferd with a manual is hard to pass up. I am not sure I would want to spend much money keeping it going after purchase, but I would winter beat the Probe until it died and then probably part it out, or scrap it for 300 bucks

Cool Dave
Cool Dave
5 months ago

Hard decision until I saw the dent in the Integra.. Probe all day long!

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