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1994 Ford Probe - Jealousy

Japan-Spec Guts In The Flat Rock Flier? I Never Knew, Till I. Met. You.

Jeff Koch
Aug 1, 2000
Photographer: Richard S. Chang

Day after day, I wind myself down into the underground parking levels of Super Street World Headquarters in sunny Los Angeles. The morning California sun, still too young in the day to be sweltering, becomes nothing but a glint of a memory in my mirrors as I descend deep into the bowels of the dark tower. This, some 12 stories above where we park, is the home of Super Street. And every day, thanks in equal part to its poor location and my overzealous counter-clockwise apexing, I nearly shunt a forlorn-looking little gray Probe, unmoved in what seems to be months, sporting oversized Enkeis and a chunk taken out of one of the rear corners, clear across the floor. That chunk is a testament to the care (or distinct lack thereof) of the cell phone-driving SUV crowd that now inhabits the City of Angels. Aaah, yes. That would be Mr. Editor Chang’s sad little ride. His very own Probe.

It is not sad because it is a Probe. Ford (or Mazda, depending) did a fine job cramming a V-6 pumping out honest-to-Eric torque into a car that would have only survived with a four were it built by anyone else. Nothing sad happening there. Nor would its factory grayness, a color surely more in tune with the mood of Chang’s native Boston than with the color carnival that dots the streets of Southern California on a daily basis, be to blame for such an assessment. Not even the cracked taillight lens and fractured, wilted ass-metal can take credit for its lonely, lowly state, isolated in the cold depths of automotive purgatory nestled deep into the crust of the earth. No, it’s just that Mr. Bigshot Editor refuses to maximize the potential of what is a stout performer straight from the factory. And so the Probe remains static and unchanged. Rotten shame, that is.

Perhaps this little purple number, owned by Jason Conklin of Baltimore, will help spark his memory, help get those desirous driving juices flowing once again. And get a sponge to mop them up, will you? They’ll leave a stain. Jason’s ride has enough power and style for two Probes. Perhaps it has been borrowed from Chang’s.

At the heart of the matter is a swap to a Japan-spec V-6. They say that there’s no replacement for displacement, except maybe to get the same displacement with the 40 extra horsepower that was allowed to run free in home-market MX-6 coupes but didn’t make it over on the boat. (They do say that, don’t they?—BM) The stock 2.5L V-6 pumping out 164 hp at 6,000 rpm and 156 lbs-ft at 4,000 rpm was removed from its office. In its place, winging its way from Japan via Portland, Oregon’s Mazda performance specialists Corksports, is a genuine Japanese-sourced KL-ZE, pumping out nearly 200 hp at 6,500 rpm and 165 kg/m at a much revvier 5,500 rpm. The bore and stroke remain the same, as does the block and many of the internals like the forged steel crank.

Changes? Compression is bumped from 9.2:1 to a far stouter 10:1. Though the compression is higher, the short-skirt pistons remain, making nitrous a risky proposition. The cams feature the same lift but sport an extra five degrees of duration. A 65mm throttle body (60mm in the U.S. car) feeds fatter intake runners and the flow-retuned Variable Resonance Intake System. U.S. cars feature an oval-shaped head port; the KL-ZE features a square port that has been port-matched to the intake. And then there’s the reprogrammed ECU, put together by EL Prototypes of Azusa, California, who set the fuel cutoff at 8,200 rpm even though the bottom end is beefy enough to withstand 10,000-plus rpm (power, according to Derrick at Corksports, stops at around 7,000 rpm).

From there, the rest of the mods only build, as does the power they provide: PRM air intake, Brospeed headers into a Borla exhaust, primarily. Anything you can bolt onto a Probe motor (or an MX-3 motor, for that matter, as they are externally similar) will bolt onto a KL-ZE with no problems. Jason now claims 168 hp at 6,700 rpm (with old plugs, mind you) at the front wheels through the ACT-clutched five-speed. Considering he started with 164 at the flywheel, and there’s no external power-adder in sight, that ain’t bad. The mod with the single biggest effect on handling, he says, was the addition of the rollcage to tighten up the unibody. Doubtless the 18-inch Yokohamas on TSW rims do their part, as well.

But will it be enough to stir our editor out of his self-induced malaise? Can purple prose and a purple Probe rouse Our Man Chang to action? Or will my even bringing this up banish me from the pages of Super Street until it is absolutely convenient to bring me back? I guess I’ll find out tomorrow morning and see whether or not I have to dodge his cold-storage Blue Oval yet again.

By Jeff Koch
24 Articles

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