Ingersoll is a small community of about 12,000 residents nestled in the 401 corridor in Southwestern Ontario. It has a storied history. In 1866, one year before Canada became a nation, a giant block of cheese weighing 7,300 pounds (3,311 kg) was produced at the James Harris Cheese Factory for promotion of the town’s cheese industry. The “Big Cheese” toured England with a stop at the New York State Fair in Saratoga Springs.
This odorous antiquity serves as the backdrop for my Tempo adventure. I’ll now offer up a bit of whine to go along with that cheese.
“Special” Touring Edition. S. T. E. The driving lights, which made the car look like it had six headlights, definitely made it special.
The work I was doing in 1986 involved a commute through Ingersoll, driving past Shelton Ford, the local Ford dealership. I was in the market for a newer car; as a young 20-something man with limited finances, purchasing brand-new was ruled out.
My short list included the Pontiac 6000 STE. For whatever reason, the car just appealed to me. The STE first came on the scene in 1983. If I could find a used one…
One Thursday afternoon I noticed a fine example on display on the main lot at Shelton Ford. I pulled in to investigate.
It was high mileage for its age, but the salesman assured me the car was locally owned with “highway miles”. The previous owner used it for business. Toronto was about 2 1/2 hours to the east of town, so I understood how the highway miles could accumulate.
My excitement built as I waited for him to fetch the keys to take the car out for a test drive. Usually a salesman would insist on riding shotgun with me, but he – and the dealership – appeared to have homespun, relaxed attitude that appealed to me.
“Don’t be too long,” he said, as he handed me the key ring. “We’re gonna close soon.”
The car – was cool. Powerful. Sporty. Everything a young man would want or need in a car. I nearly wiped out tackling the on-ramp to the 401 too quickly. I recovered after a series of over-corrections. This car was challenging me. Sold!
I was very pleased to find the price of the three year old car was in my budget because of its high mileage and first and second year depreciation. I told the salesman I would like to try to arrange financing through my local bank.
“No problem, kid. When would you like to pick it up?”
The store was open on Saturdays until noon. This arrangement would work perfectly for me since I lived about an hour away and had to arrange a ride to get the car.
We shook hands. He assured me he needed no deposit or bill of sale drawn up on that day. The place was closing; he told me to bring a certified check with me on Saturday and they would handle the rest.
The next day, I approached my bank for the loan, which was approved quickly. I had been in the market for a newer car for a while and I’d been pre-approved to a set limit. I recall there was a bit of push-back from the loan officer regarding the mileage, but ultimately I was successful in securing a certified bank draft made out to Shelton Ford Sales.
I arrived about 15 minutes prior to the store opening that Saturday. My friend, who had driven me to get the car, asked the question that I would soon be asking the salesman myself: “Where’s the car?”
1983 grey on grey two-tone Pontiac 6000 STE. Nowhere to be found.
“It must be in the service bay,” I thought. Hoped.
The salesman came out to meet us. As he approached, the look on his face told me something was terribly wrong.
“We… uh… sold your car last night,” he said, voice trailing.
With that, he started into a detailed explanation about how everyone in the dealership knew the STE had been sold except for Chet the part-time guy who only works on weekend nights and I guess he didn’t read the memo because it’s gone now and he’s really sorry and…
He saw the certified bank draft in my hand. “Let me call the owner. We have to make this up to you.”
As he scurried back into the office, I looked over at my friend in amazement. We began to pan the landscape, looking – wondering – what possibly could replace the car I had my heart set on. This was a Ford dealership. I did not consider myself to be a Ford man.
About 15 minutes later, the salesman returneth.
“Look over there.” My eyes followed as he pointed to a dark blue 1985 Ford Tempo 2-door coupe.
A Tempo? No way. It wasn’t my style and besides, it was too pricey. The list price painted on the window was around $2,000 more than the Paymaster amount imprinted into the check in my hand.
“Less than a year old. Only 18,000 kms. A/C, cruise. Certified. We will sell it to you for the amount of that check you have in your hand. Taxes included. Everything.”
Of course, the most important component was missing – the radio was a base AM/FM job. After a sidebar discussion with my friend about potential aftermarket stereo upgrades, I told the salesman I would take it. He informed me that they would rush to prep it, and it would be ready by noon.
Looking back, I wonder if he didn’t take me seriously when we discussed buying that 6000 STE. I’m sure not many guys in my “back in the day” demographic would be able to pony up the cash.
The interior of the car looked like this. Well, not quite; it was grey, not beige. That odd “A” frame steering wheel housed the cruise control buttons, which was a neat leading edge feature; all of my previous cruise experiences were a stalk protruding from the wheel hub. As I started the drive back home in my nearly new car, it occurred to me how awfully similar this Tempo was to my buddy Ed’s. He purchased a black two door Tempo GL a few months back. He hadn’t reported many problems with his, which may have influenced my decision to take the 11th hour Shelton Ford offer.
This COAL was ignited as a comment by yours truly in a recent CC Outake / COAL. Read between the lines…
My dark blue ’85 Ford Tempo had hubcaps that matched Ed’s ’84. He bought his Tempo brand new, and only owned it a couple of months when he lost one front wheel hubcap. He said it came off when he was cornering the on-ramp on to the freeway. He never bothered replacing it. I always thought it was odd that a relatively new vehicle was missing something that really detracted its appearance.
When I stopped by to show off my new ride (which, other than colour, was pretty much identical to his), he casually said, “I’m going to steal one of your hubcaps someday.” I laughed off his prediction.
A short time later I was over at his place on a Friday night and had a few too many drinks, so being a responsible citizen I left my car there. I went to retrieve it the next morning and was out and about stopping in here and there around town doing errands. When I came out of one store I noticed my left front hubcap was missing. “&$@^&**#!! Ed!!!”
I proceeded to drive directly back to his place and confront him at the door.
“Ed, give me back my hubcap.”
“What are you talking about?”
I was really irritated that he actually went ahead with his foretelling, and my hangover was quickly changing my mood to anger as I heard him feign ignorance. I reminded him that he clearly told me he was going to do what he just did.
The conversation degraded into a war of words. “Bill, I think you should go and look at my car before you accuse me of this.”
I went out and looked at his car. Three hubcaps. Front left still MIA.
I felt terrible. I went back to his door and apologized. My mind started running through how and where I might have lost my hubcap. Ed and I sorted through some scenarios.
“Did you jump on the 403?”
Why yes.. yes… I did! The freeway cuts a swath right through the city so many locals use it as a quick cross-towner. I must have lost my hubcap the same way he lost his… doing the freeway on-ramp loop…
“Hey, I’m really sorry, man. I’ve got to get back to that on-ramp.”
I searched all around the area of the on-ramp; I even peered out over the interchange bridge to get a longer and wider view. Nada. Nothing.
As the months passed, my annoyance of also only having three hubcaps on my car began to wane. I checked out the cost of a replacement; they were pricey, and Tempos were still relatively new to the market so used ones were hard to come by. Now I understood why Ed didn’t replace his. We were both in our twenties and money was tight. A full set of Ford Tempo hub caps were a “nice to have”, not a “must have”.
One day I was sitting at his kitchen table, nursing a coffee and discussing nothing in particular as the setting afternoon sun filled the room. The stainless steel appliances on the counter began to gleam brightly. Suddenly, something shiny caught my eye between the fridge and the portable dishwasher.
I reached in and pulled out my missing hubcap. Ed began to laugh hysterically. His SO jumped in and proclaimed, “You finally found it!!! Do you know how many times you’ve sat right in that chair, drinking a beer or a coffee, and never noticed that $%%$#* thing sitting there???”
Road grime accumulated on my finger as I ran it across the disc. Ed had laid down the house rules. It was to just sit there, dusty and dirty, leaning against the fridge, in the same condition it was the night I left in a drunken stupor and he pulled it off my car.
The car had been the recipient of some customization by the time I had replaced that missing hubcap. The factory stereo was swapped out for a slick Sony unit that had a remote control fob to adjust the volume! I used like confusing people by adjusting the loudness with it. “What’s wrong with your radio? Why is it doing that?”
The Tempo gave me about two years of reliable service. One day I was cruising at highway-speed when I was greeted with a sudden, painful jolt accompanied by a loud “Bang!”. I immediately shifted it into “N” and coasted to the road side.
I did an inspection in, out, around, and under the car. “What was that?” No noticeable leaks; the car was idling okay; I was bewildered.
I proceeded to finish my drive. I thought it may have been an issue with the transmissiony but it appeared to be shifting all right. But – it seemed like from that point forward, little niggly problems began to plague it. Window switches; door locks; heater fans… in retrospect, I wonder if that loud din was the vehicle making a formal announcement that it had passed its “best before” date.
After about four years of ownership, I placed a cardboard sign with black permanent marker in the window of my Curbside Drastic: $1,800 OBO. The car had around 87,000 kms on it. I felt sorry for the people that bought it.
That dark blue Tempo is now just a chapter in the book of cars I’ve owned; Ed’s black beauty is a distant memory too. Ed and I have been lucky to have a Friendship of a Lifetime. I attended Ed’s backyard garden wedding a couple of years back. In a fun twist, the guests provided the entertainment.
Ed (left) and yours truly singing “To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before”. I did the Willie Nelson bit; Ed sang the Julio Iglesias part like Jean Chrétien.
This post is my first entry as an official contributor to Curbside Classic. I helped out a bit with the initial launch of this site in early 2011. I did a bit of “under the covers” tech work, including linking posts to Facebook news feeds. It appears that solution is working better than Chrysler’s “Lean Burn” system.
In June 2011, I had a little mishap on my motorcycle that sidelined me. If you would like more details, lobby Paul… he might add a new category called “Concussions of a Lifetime”.
Until then, sit back and enjoy the show.
– Bill Hetherington (BillHaven)
Nice job and a great story!
Few things worse than getting your heart set on a car and having it sold out from under you. My mother test drove a brown 74 Gran Torino sedan at Joe Duthler Ford in Fort Wayne. She wasn’t bowled over by it, but liked it well enough. She reached a handshake deal with the salesman (whose name I still remember – Fred Midget). For a deposit, they would hold the car for 24 hours so she could check with someone who had expressed an interest in buying hers. Upon leaving at closing time, she wondered if anything was wrong that she had not signed anything.
As soon as she got home from work the next day (and well within the 24 hours), she got on the phone to tell Fred that she was coming in to do the deal. He apologized but said that the car had been sold and that he would be putting her check in the mail back to her. My mother was furious and if she could have shot the salesman without legal recourse, she would have. Turned out to have been a blessing in disguise, as she “settled” for a 74 Luxury LeMans that was probably a better car than a 302-powered 74 Torino 4 door.
And glad to see your are doing so well!
I consider myself very lucky. I don’t ride or own a motorcycle anymore (not that I’m afraid to, it’s just that the incident was very stressful on my family.) The main reason I’m still around to annoy everyone is I was wearing the proper gear. I shudder when I see bike riders and passengers in shorts and T-shirts. Ironically, my bike jacket was called the “Twist of Fate”.
Bill, Good to see you here on the front page finally; it was worth the wait.
Paul, thanks for your embellishment with the picture you found of the Ingersoll Mammoth Cheese! Interesting the picture notes “Made in 1866, Ingersoll, C.W.” C.W. (Canada West) was the name of the province of Ontario prior to the confederation of Canada in 1867. Quebec was Canada East.
Good story .
The local Ford dealer diddled me the same way in 1973.
My 19 year old self fell in lust/automotive love with a 1971 Plymouth Satellite Sebring Plus (WHAT a mouthful of a name!) late on a Saturday night. All of 9K on it, spotless and scratchless. After a brief test drive I was in “put a fork in me I am done”.
The salesperson and I “dickered on the sticker” and arrived at a compromise price. I signed over my just picked up paycheck as a deposit, promising the balance of my savings account for the payment on Monday morning.
Come 10:20 am Monday morning, I was there, clutching the proceeds of my emptied out savings account.
The Satellite was gone, my paycheck in a brown envelope with my name on the outside.
I was informed that somebody walked in the dealership after me, 10 minutes before closing and purchased the car, with cash, at their asking price.
That dealer went out of business about 4 months later. I stood at the curb and clapped, cheered & muttered phrases the would had gotten a bar of Lava soap shoved in my filthy mouth by my Mother as the old dealer’s sign was removed.
A shame that you missed out on the Pontiac. Something with a bit more character likely would have allowed you to overlook any durability flaws. With a transportation tool like a Tempo any annoying flaws are magnified.
The flip side of this is the old line “I’ve got someone coming to look at it first thing tomorrow morning…” It’s a lie 97% of the time, but it’s that 3% that hooks you. Got me to pay full asking price on the Mark VIII I bought when I was 24 and stupid. (Stupid for paying full asking, not stupid for buying it…I loved that car and it treated me well during my all too brief 2 years of ownership.)
Closest I’ve ever come was a response to an ad for an ’86 Monte Carlo, back in 1998. Something like 80k miles, 4.3 V6, listed for something like $1500. I called, got some info about the car, then called my mechanic, who told me without hesitation to jump on it at that price. I called back within an hour of the original call, ready to go look at it as soon as the seller was available, and he informed me that it had been sold right after my first call. Disappointing, but I’m sure not as heartbreaking as arriving cash in hand to find nothing but an empty space where your dream sat 12 hours prior.
My “one that got away” was an ’03 Focus in ’07. 5-door hatch, every option except automatic, silver – to this day I think the original Focus hatchbacks are one of those cars that look *good* rather than just blandly acceptable in silver – underside you could eat of. I test drove on Friday, couldn’t do the deal over the weekend because of work, on Monday it was gone.
You’ve mentioned a model which will be the subject of a future COAL for me. My current ride is an ’07 Focus wagon, which is the only vehicle I’ve bought brand-new. There is no comparison between the Tempo and Focus when put under the lens of reliability. ’07 was the last year the Focus was available as a wagon. The sales person I dealt with lamented the change – the wagon body style garnered a considerable percentage of total Focus sales in Canada, but were not high enough in North American totals to justify a carry over with the ’08 restyling.
My sister and BIL owned a NON STE 6000, it was one of the biggest pieces of crap they would ever own. But then again, my BIL had a sort of “Midas touch….in REVERSE” when it came to cars.
The closest I came to having a new car dealership sell a car out from under me was when I went looking for a new car in late summer 1976. The (very) small town Ford dealership where my father always bought his new cars had a couple of Pintos, Bobcats, and Mustang IIs and I saw THE Mustang II that I wanted on one side of the main dealership building….too small for a showroom. That car was the only one in that group that was sold. I eventually settled for a nice, baby blue Pinto hatchback but almost bought a Granada. Being a 4 door sedan, though, my Granada “infatuation” was short lived.
We called that the “King Feces Touch”.
I also made a deal on a Ford that was subsequently sold out from under me. It was a large dealership in Milwaukee; we settled on a price for a ’78 Fiesta dealer demo on a Friday evening. I came back Saturday morning, check in hand, to discover another salesman had sold it. Needless to say, I was pissed and ready to walk. The salesguy almost begged me not to leave, disappeared into the office for ten minutes, and came out with another Fiesta. It had fewer miles (5K), was a better color (white instead of yellow), and had the “S” package, for the same price. In exchange I lost air conditioning. Turned out it was my salesman’s demo (his personal stuff was still in it) which he wasn’t crazy about losing.
In the end I lucked out and got what i think was the better car, but it easily could have gone the other way.
Great story, the hubcap incident is too funny! Selling cars is cutthroat. Some times it is a bait and switch, often it’s getting caught in the middle of battling salespeople. Glad you recovered from your accident, hopefully intact. Look forward to more write ups. Sounds like your dealership tried to make things right for you.
You’re still friends with this Ed guy? I tell ya, if any “friend” of mine ever laid his mitts on my new car in that manner, it would bang, zoom, over the moon. Like this guy says, you never mess with a man’s automobile.
Yes, we’re still good friends. We live in different cities now so unfortunately we don’t get the chance to get together often. I miss Ed’s quick wit and sense of humor, like this gem…
We’re at a party and a mutual friend, who served as an auxiliary policeman, was telling a tale of chasing a “perp” through back yards, over fences, around pools, and shrubberies. He was imbibing and chain smoking while he recounted the tale. We were all imagining how this fine example of physical fitness would really be feeling if the story actually played out like he was telling it. As his story came to its climax our friend said, “I finally cornered the perp and yelled…”
Before he could finish, Ed piped in with “Stop! … or I’ll puke!”
Years ago my company would provide our sales reps with cars – back then there was a fleet of Pontiac 6000s – and ironically enough they had a habit of losing hubcaps. The sales reps would then “steal” a hubcap from someone else’s car to avoid getting charged for the replacement.
Great story, and glad to see you’re recovering well. I have my own Tempo/Topaz stories, but they are much less kind than yours, so I will refrain.
I too have a weird obsession with cars adorned with the Pontiac dart. The STE was a constant dream of mine in the early-mid 1980’s. I eventually ended up with a Trans Am instead….
When I think about a Tempo, I think about this weird old guy I used to work with, who had all kinds of weird old basket case vehicles. He was restoring a Chevy Luv for some odd reason! He drove an old Escort until it was unsafe, and his wife demanded he buy a new car that she could actually depend on. So, he bought a Tempo, kind of a green blue, I think it was a ’95. It was pretty loaded up, more than anything he had ever had before. My favorite memory of him was how close a driver he was. He was almost 6′ tall and had the seat all the way forward. One day, he came in and said his wife was pissed at him because he had somehow jammed the seat all the way forward and she couldn’t stand to drive that close. He resisted taking it in to get fixed, even though it was still under warranty. A couple of days of driving it like that got his wife very angry about it, and when she picked him up one morning, she got out of the car and threw a grapefruit at him and hit him in the neck. “What the hell Mama?”. She started hitting him while he was trying to get into the car and was still hitting him as he drove away. He went right to the dealer to get the seat fixed, of course. The next time I saw him, he denied that she had hit him in the neck, or punched him as he got into the car, even though he had bruises all over his arms, and a big one on his neck. “Mama wouldn’t hit me!” I bet that Mama was a real prize at home. No wonder their kids never came back for holdays.