Curbside Musings: 1992 Ford Tempo GLS – The Tempo Is Allegro

1992 Ford Tempo GLS V6. Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois. Saturday, June 3, 2023.

I played the piano from between the ages of 9 and 21, with a years-long break in between.  All up, for about about eight cumulative years, one could find me on a wooden bench in front of the eighty-eights, practicing diligently.  I’ve always had music in me, as evidenced by many of my essays with some musical link or reference.  I had shown some apparent skill during the keyboard class of the two-week summer camp at Summerfield School after third grade, so upon my family’s return from a year spent in Liberia, I was signed up for piano lessons the fall of my fifth grade year.

Me at the piano, late 1970s.

At the piano, late 1970s.

Though I have always loved music and genuinely enjoyed playing the piano, I’ve never been intuitive on the keyboard.  I played very well and would sometimes be complimented after recitals by audience members, but my improvisational skills were nonexistent.  Classical music (Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart were a few of my favorite composers), and not jazz or anything highly syncopated, was my forte.  I’m highly structured and want to do things the right way, as best I can.  I came to understand that while I wasn’t necessarily a piano virtuoso, I had the gift of mastery, which translated into all kinds of endeavors I would later pursue.

I’m good at a lot of things, even if not always at the head of the pack.  I’m well-rounded, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I’m a better writer than I ever was a musician, but it’s also true that I’ve been writing over a longer, continuous stretch of time.  I quit the piano at the start of my senior year of high school when I got a co-op job at GM in place of a sixth period, after which I then resumed lessons during the year I had taken off from college in my early 20s.  I was most proud of learning and perfecting the first and second movements of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”.  That was almost thirty years ago.

1992 Ford Tempo GLS V6. Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois. Saturday, June 3, 2023.

Today, I couldn’t do even a C-major scale, though as a teenager, I would practice for an hour every day after school and also on Saturdays, also running through finger strength exercises, arpeggios, and usually three or four assigned musical pieces.  There was also time spent with pencil and paper with learning music theory, with ensuing homework assignments that would be graded.  My piano lessons were for an hour after school on one day of the week, with one Mrs. Patek being the most influential, exacting, and formative music teacher of my youth.  My involvement with piano added stress to the anxiety of a somewhat insecure childhood, with not only weekly lessons and occasional participation in recitals, but also during annual testing as a member of the Junior St. Cecelia Society, and later Student Musicale association as I entered high school.  This lengthy, introductory tie-in to my subject car lies solely in its model name: Tempo.

With Mrs. Patek, the best piano teacher, ever.

With Mrs. Patek after a recital, mid-1980s.  Wearing corduroys.

I think I’m a better-than-average mover on the dance floor, with an adequate amount of rhythm.  By no means have I ever been the guy that people have watched in awe as I did my thing.  All this is to say that I might have been slightly challenged in the rhythm department at one point or another.  I would be running through some stage of learning one of my latest pieces during a lesson, when Mrs. Patek would have to implement… the metronome.  In her thick, Afrikaans accent (she was originally from South Africa), she would advise me to watch my tempo, and clap along with the tick-tick-tick of the time-keeping device as I nervously tried to concentrate on the keys.  Call it a little bit of PTSD, but I can’t even sleep in a room with a ticking clock.  I absolutely loved Mrs. Patek (may she rest in peace), but that metronome…  It sounded like judgement in perfect 4/4 time, and I was getting plenty of that at home.

1992 Ford Tempo GLS V6. Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois. Saturday, June 3, 2023.

My mom would drive me to my piano lessons in (you guessed it) the family Ford Tempo.  It was an ’84 GL sedan with a red interior to match its exterior, and my folks had purchased it new from Al Bennett Ford on Clio Road on the north end of Flint.  Actually, the red one was Tempo No. 2 for the Dennises.  The first one we had picked up, in a stately slate gray, had been totaled by my mom just two days after we had taken it home.  The red sedan was one of two ’84s left on the lot at the end of that year, with the other one being periwinkle blue (which is why we went with the red one) . The tempo of that Tempo was adagio, at best, on a good day, and going downhill.  It was so slow.  It would keep pace with expressway traffic with no major issues, and it didn’t have air conditioning to bog things down, but it was loud, coarse, and thrashy under hard acceleration.  I’ll never, ever know how my brother managed to get that thing up to over 80 mph on I-75 and get a ticket as the rest of the family watched in slow, silent agony.

1992 Ford Tempo V6 print ad, as sourced from the internet.


It was a shock to come across this one-year-only ’92 GLS model at the beginning of this June while winding my way through a neighborhood-wide garage sale.  Our own MagnumSRT8 Brian had written an excellent firsthand profile and review back in 2016 of the ’92 GLS V6 he had owned, so I’ll recommend his essay for some factual data on this model.  In a nutshell, the ’92 GLS was like a baby Taurus, using the same 3.0 liter Vulcan V6 that made 135 horses in the Tempo (140 in the Taurus), with a standard five-speed manual transmission.  (Of course, the DOHC version of three-liter V6 in the Taurus SHO was a much more powerful mill, with 220 horses on tap.)  According to a review by Canadian automotive TV journal Motoring, their five-speed, two-door example was able to do the equivalent of 0-60 mph (0-100 kph) in just over nine seconds.  ABS wasn’t even an option, though braking was determined to be adequate, with handling reported to be one of the GLS’s strong suits.

1992 Ford Tempo GLS V6. Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois. Saturday, June 3, 2023.

This example doesn’t have the blacked out rear roof pillars that was one of the exterior identifiers of the GLS, though it’s also sporting aftermarket wheels.  While my license plate search results were inconclusive, I’m inclined to believe that this one is an actual ’92 GLS.  It has been years since I’ve seen any Ford Tempo in such fine nick, and with no offense to anyone who loves these cars, I don’t suspect there’s any kind of huge fanbase with members who would go to the trouble of sourcing GLS badges, body cladding, and other such accoutrement to affix to a lesser example.  Let’s face it… It’s still a Ford Tempo, and no Tempo has ever given its driver any significant amount of game, or at least any extra appeal that said driver didn’t already possess.

One of, if not the, final recital performances. Mid-'90s.

One of my final piano recital performances, if not the very last one. Mid-’90s.

When I had first seen the back of this car from the sidewalk, I had thought to myself, Wow, what a nice Taurus!  And then I recognized its Tempo-ness.  I’ve made reference here before to some of the tricky dynamics associated with siblings, similarities, sharing, and all of that, so I strongly suspect that if this Tempo could talk, it would be delivering those famous words delivered by the fictional Jan Brady in reference to its larger Ford sibling: “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!”  I’m sure it was hard to be a Tempo in a Taurus world.

1992 Ford Tempo GLS V6. Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois. Saturday, June 3, 2023.

The ace in my hand was that neither of my two brothers played an instrument, so in a way, playing the piano and doing it well was just one skill I had mastered to set myself apart from them.  Those guys had to sit through every single one of my recitals up to a certain point until my older brother had escaped the Dennis family unit to go to college.  The piano gave me power, confidence in my own abilities, and self-discipline.  I may have grown to dislike our ’84 Tempo, especially after I inherited it by the time it was not only slow, but also unreliable, but I’ve got nothing but respect for this white Tempo GLS V6, a model that had finally introduced V6 power to this model line.  Practice makes perfect, and even if the GLS or V6 models weren’t top-of-class in any area, the Ford Tempo had finally demonstrated mastery of a few skills.

Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois.
Saturday, June 3, 2023.

The 1992 Ford Tempo V6 print ad was sourced from the internet.