(first posted 2/14/2014) My apologies to the Ford Tempo’s fans, but here is one of the cars I most hated during my childhood. I have to thank pv dave for taking such good pictures of it and allowing me the chance to whine.
I will admit to feeling a little bit of guilt for disparaging such a lovingly preserved car, and will also concede a degree of appreciation for what it is, but I don’t think there’s any denying how truly unappealing the Tempo/Topaz twins were.
They were everywhere when I was a kid and by the time the nineties came around, I’d have preferred to walk around my small town than be given a ride in one of these. Unfortunately, I often didn’t have the luxury of choice. The absolute worst thing about the Tempo was the fact that it was a relatively reliable car kept in production for an entire decade–the original K-car didn’t make it that long. I simply couldn’t get away from them, with their butt-on-the-floor marshmallowy seats, overly color-keyed soft vinyl interiors and strangely high (for the time) belt line. These things matter when you’re still a short kid.
One of neighbors owned a black GL sedan; unlike our Honda and our Nova, which rusted around their wheel wells, his car seemed to develop big puffy spots of raised black paint in the middle of its body panels. He must have been quite a patient man, however, as he would always answer the numerous questions I inevitably asked him as he slathered black Rustoleum over various spots on the body. It was eventually fully covered with dull, visibly brush stroked paint and replaced by a navy Eagle Premier. Incidentally, he had a fat orange tabby cat named Topaz.
My parents’ good friends also had a dark blue early production GL coupe which shared a garage with their ’84 Cavalier wagon (which I vastly preferred) and another brief acquaintance of theirs had a silver Topaz. Our paperboy was caught huffing something in his friend’s Tempo when it blew up after someone lit a cigarette while the interior was still full of fumes. I suppose one doesn’t make the best decisions in those circumstances, but I think he ended up okay in the end. He must have been enjoying his rubber cement in a GL Sport coupe, because I remember finding its streamlined, graphite blue sideview mirror at the foot of a nearby tree after it was thrown off the car. It was a very Stand By Me moment, though finding a partially charred mirror is a lot less traumatic than coming a across a dead body.
A friend of my older sister’s had one also, and it wasn’t until 2004 that the last acquaintance who I knew who owned one got rid of hers. Now that almost ten more years have passed, it’s finally safe to say that I’m out of the woods and will never have to ride in one again, but for the longest time, it truly seemed I couldn’t escape these cars. They were transportation’s equivalent to The Fog.
You have to hand it to Ford engineers for creating such a mediocre car. There was every reason to expect great things from the Tempo, with an up-to-date chassis and fashionable bodywork. But the sogginess that characterized the Escort, which shared most of its fundamentals, also defined its bigger counterpart. Despite a new rear suspension (a preview the Taurus’s design), it was very similar to a lot of other small American cars of the day, devoted to a full-time impersonation of a much larger sedan.
I have a hard time figuring out just what exactly Dearborn did; they didn’t really design the chassis, because most of that was done by Ford of Europe, nor did they agonize over styling, since they could rip off the Probe III concept car (famously used, as we know, for the Sierra). It seems they spent their time and money compromising two perfectly good major ingredients of their new car while phoning in the third, its engines.
Yes, the most lasting memories of these cars for me are of their powertrains. For one thing, it seemed like their cooling fans was always, always running in every example I encountered. To add to that, noisy power steering pumps were the rule, rather than the exception, and with such low power peaks, all I really remember hearing from these cars was a dull, flatulent drone, or during frantic moments, a muted, gritty throb. Everything about the cars seemed to say slow down. If the Tempo were a cartoon, it would have been The Simpsons’ Principal Skinner. Speaking of which, my elementary school principal, Mr. Dugan, also drove one.
It’s said that the 2.3 HSC engine (High Swirl Combustion) was developed using techniques learned from Ford’s Programmed Combustion (PROCO) research project. From what I can gather, this principle was originally supposed to be used for their large V8s, but wound up only in the Tempo. Considering that no other car was so gifted, it wasn’t the most effective approach. Of course, the engine’s origins were of no help either, being that it was simply a straight-six with two cylinders lopped off. High output varieties with sequential fuel injection and less valve shrouding were developed which produced all of 100 horses out of their ample displacement.
To be fair to the Tempo, a lot of Ford’s powertrains of the era were lackluster, and it wasn’t only in the US that this was the case. The most charitable conclusion I can come to is that finances were really screwed by the late ’70s, because it wasn’t until the mid ’90s that even the European Escort was given something decent under the hood. The HSC also served as the base engine in the no-holds-barred Taurus, whose three liter Vulcan was designed with very old technology for the time. But while acceptable for a medium displacement six, iron heads and pushrods had no place in a large displacement four cylinder. Even when Ford began to make more money from the Taurus, along with the Tempo, its trucks and the Mustang–all of which were huge sellers–they still saddled it, and Continental, with the 3.8 Essex V6. Engines were clearly at the bottom of Ford’s list of engineering priorities, and even the Escort sedan ended its life without a competitive, indigenous powerplant, so perhaps Dearborn was being stingy.
None of this mattered to the equally stingy people who bought the Tempo, but cultivating an allegiance to Ford’s most mediocre product in this segment meant no one was interested in the suave (though unreliable) Contour which replaced it. It’d be interesting to see how an earlier Tempo replacement conceived in good faith could have impacted the 1996 Taurus. Just as the ’84 Tempo set the stage for an up-to-date, fashionable sedan from Ford, both products’ overstayed existence likely created an audience who expected conservative, cheap designs from the company. Only now does Ford seem to have properly addressed the issue with the new Fusion, giving us a competitive midsize sedan for the first time in nearly thirty years, rather than simply restyling a platform from poor, exploited Mazda or decontenting a car from Cologne and Dagenham.
All of which goes to show why in those days, I might have preferred to get my front-drive American sedan fix from GM. For one thing, other than the four-cylinders, they offered some decent powertrains and for another, they were designed with a whiff of Brougham and packed with gimmicks like Kenmore-blue digital displays. If not a Grand Am or Skylark, I would have probably chosen a Shadow or Sundance over the Tempo and Topaz, since they answered the Japanese question a bit more resolutely.
Still, I can’t necessarily blame the people who bought a Tempo. As one of Ford’ first “aero” cars, it was thoroughly contemporary in appearance; progressive, even. It was a decent value and there were less reliable options out there, all of which made the Tempo a car which helped save Ford during some of its darkest days, or so the story goes. Still, it was never especially competitive, and as much as we like to savage GM for its cynical misdeeds, when looking at the Tempo, I can see why someone may have chosen an N-body or a J-body (or a better engineered K-car). Paul might even agree, having almost named the Tempo a Deadly Sin.
I will confess that I always liked the look of the original Tempo. It may have been the most true to the jellybean concept of anything they did back then. I never liked the revised version nearly as well, that one lost all of the cute charm that the original had. My problem with these was my inability to stomach that miserable 2.3L four.
My stepmom had one for a couple of years, maybe an 87 or so. It replaced an early 80s Cutlass Ciera and was replaced by an Acura Integra after only a year or two. All I can really recall about it was that I liked its old-school bright red interior (with its white paint) but that was it. She must not have really liked the car, it is one of the shortest tenures of any car she ever owned.
Ah, memories of dating my bride. She was driving a maroon 4dr Tempo when we started dating. You know how some couples have a special place or a special song to remind them of their early days? My bride associates the sound of my 2-ton floor jack rolling over concrete with our courtship. Lord I spent a lot of time under that car.
What did they make the water pumps out of? I replaced it so many times – I’d say if we saw a Tempo/Topaz at the side of the road it was because of a bad water pump, if we saw one moving under its own power I’d say they were on the way top the auto parts store to get a water pump. I finally gave up and spent the bucks on e NEW pump from the Ford dealer, that one finally lasted long enough to get rid of the car (as a wedding present to myself.)
Electric motors – anything with an electric motor I replaced on that thing as well along with power lock solenoids.
It *was* decent basic transportation for the itinerant musician she was back then…I didn’t have to get the car that often, usually it limped back home…with its noisy. leaking water pump. Sure made my Chevette look like a paragon of reliability.
At least she had gotten rid of the death-trap “Grenada” (as she called it) she drove through college before we started dating.
I agree with you about the electric motors. My mom had an ’86 with power windows. All four motors quit working in the summer. Thankfully, the AC still worked. She did not own the car long, it was totaled in an accident before the end of the summer.
That’s a nice story, marrying an itinerant musician and fixing her car for her. Very sweet.
Once a roadie, always a roadie. “Everything works if you let it.” – Travis W. Redfish
They were in the Hertz rental fleet back in the day. Gutless awful turdbox.
Count me a Tempo lover, but you have to get the 5-speed manual. Totally transforms the car.
Auto Tempos are horrible to drive.
I had an ’84 Topaz in the mid-90s with a 4 speed manual. It wasn’t bad to drive but it had those horrible negative-lumbar-support Ford seats that forced you to slouch whether you wanted to or not and the chrome moldings around the windows would glare in your face. And one time I blew the brakes holding the car on a hill…
Yup – the 5spd is a must. I find the second generation cars better looking especially in the interior.
How DARE you to put a Tempo/Topaz on here! I figuratively threw up on seeing the photo!
These bring back – with TWO exceptions – every single business trip to Grand Rapids, MI back in the early to mid-1990s! With apologies to our esteemed commenter Geozinger, GR is a wonderful little city, but I was stuck with a rental Tempo/Topaz. Absolutely a miserable experience.
The two exceptions? Once, a Lincoln Continental – Sweet! The other? A Plymouth Acclaim. Since we owned an Acclaim at the time, it was great.
ALL Tempo/Topaz must be crushed and burned with fire, stomped, killed, murdered, knifed, tortured… you get the idea, but the memories of these awful things have not dimmed in almost 20 years! Easily the most hated car of my life.
Hmm. Tempos must be crushed or die in a fire. And the Acclaims?
Hahah… this is the same reaction I have when I read comments like this. There’s one down below that says “I rented a Tempo once. It was OK, but BOY WAS I GLAD TO GET BACK TO MY ’84 CAVALIER!” Huh?! Very few degrees of shittiness separate those two. The difference may not even be quantifiable.
An Acclaim is no doubt at least a little better, but if I thought that was a really good car, I don’t think I’d have any problem with a Tempo.
See my comment above about pre-Focus Ford seats. Negative lumbar support. GM and Mopar seats were a lot better.
Oh, wait, I *do* have one fond memory of the Tempo. My bride’s car was not rusting. Never figured out how she was that lucky with it. Many, many winter miles on Ohio’s salted winter roads as well as West Virginia and Pennsylvania for good measure. not washed in the winter all that often. Maybe no garage helped? Anyway it always cleaned-up well and the body was holding-up – not at all what I expected from that car.
Captbob: Where are you from? It sounds very much like my stomping grounds growing up… Youngstown, Cleveland, Akron, Canton, Pittsburgh, Wheeling, Erie…
Its that auto-blog-anathema: A car for people who don’t care about cars. Which means it’ll always outsell the interesting stuff, and be more important in the general scheme of things than any DOHC, 6-speed, rear drive sportwagon made.
You mean any Diesel, 3-rotor Wankel, 6MT, 5-Valve DOHC, RWD/AWD, Sportwagon, right?
Surely, there are ways to make a car for people who don’t care about cars without giving them claustrophobic interiors, droning engines or even soggy manners.
Today people whose advice I would not take on the subject of cars characterize the Camry as being a car for people that don’t care about cars. If it is true that the demographic that once bought GM and Ford sedans is now buying Toyotas, it is heart warming to think how much better their lives have gotten!
That still doesn’t mean that “they don’t care about cars”. Why do folks buy Camrys? Because they want a car to do its job competently, reliably and economically. Thank outfits like CR for the reason why Toyota is so successful, as well as word of mouth.
Folks do “care about cars”, just not necessarily about the same qualities as some other buyers.
Truth is, I’d say that Camry buyers are probably more engaged in their choice of cars than the folks who blindly buy crappy cars. Did the buyer of things like Dodge Nitros “care about their cars” or were they just suckered by the flashy tv ads?
There are many ways to “care about cars”.
I heartily agree. People who “care about cars” appreciate all aspects of the car, esp. the engineering. Camry, Accord are very well-engineered cars, delivering reliable, low-cost operation for years, at very competitive prices. That’s the essence of engineering excellence.
People who really “care about cars” buy the car that best serve their needs, without worrying about what the neighbors might think, or whether the car is a “chick” car, or “mom-mobile” or any of the stupid terms coined by superficial, shallow types.
Dodge Nitro… *shudder*
A few Nitro buyers were probably Jeep Liberty buyers who couldn’t pass up giant incentives on the same car.
The rest probably bought ex-rentals from Enterprise Used Car Sales.
I would say that if your main criteria for a car is that it offers an absence of glaring negatives, then you don’t in fact car about cars. The only ‘appeal’…if it can be called that…of a camry (and every other midsize sedan) is that when you put the key in it, it moves you from point a to point b as you expected. The style is typical white bread sedan, what passes for performance is total white bread sedan and so is everything about the ownership. The decision to buy one is like buying a microwave. Its a box with buttons that do stuff. The only time you give it a thought is when it DOESNT do stuff, then you kick it to the curb and buy a new one.
To an enthusiast, a 4 wheeled transportation device is THE definition of a crappy car. But then, enthusiasts prioritize things a bit differently. My idea of a ‘good car’ would be something interesting that offers a style that I love, performance, handling and an overall demeanor that speaks to me. If it offers that, Ill chase an electrical gremlin or replace a part here an there because I love the car. If my microwave even whimpers when I toss in leftover chili then Ill toss it out for the garbage truck and replace it in a hot second. I expect that a Jeep that Ive flown over a few obstacles, carried way more than it was designed for, hammered speed bumps, sank to the frame in mud and generally abused might spit a part or two at me from time to time. Likewise a sporty car that Ive flung around 30 mph turns doing over 100. Any habitual VW owner can tell you that love for a cranky car is borderline insane. Same for owners of the typical American muscle type cars. But like that Dodge ad says: No kid ever grew up with a picture of a Passat on his wall. If you don’t immediately ‘get’ that sentiment, then you MAY not be a true enthusiast.
Oh and I happen to really like the Dodge Nitro!
You forgot “brown”.
“A car for people who don’t care about cars”. Well, that may have worked pretty well for Detroit, up until the 70s or 80s. And next thing you know, the Accord was the best selling car in the land. “Gee, how did that happen?”
Your predictable “bloggers” stereotype comments are worn out Syke, and at least as tedious as the worst type of bloggers. Who exactly are you referring to? It’s a cheap shot, to keep using that term. How about some real names and examples, so that they might defend themselves?
What would you have us do? Sing the praises of the great cars that Detroit foisted on Americans, until they woke up to the racket and got smart? Let me clue you in about something: Americans actually do care about cars. The growth of outfits like CR, which has had a huge influence on the market, shows that. Folks long ago got tired of throwing money away on junk.
I was just reading yesterday that 80% of Americans research car buying decisions on-line. The car industry has gotten increasingly competitive. And cars have become increasingly better, in terms of the qualities buyers really value. And auto journalism has played a very big role in that too, even your hated bloggers.
So where exactly are those folks “who don’t care about cars?”
They’re the people you and I, as enthusiasts, don’t see, who won’t ever be on an auto blog because to them a car is an appliance. What is there to write about? Make it go, stop, get them where they want to go, get them back home. When I say they “don’t care about cars” its in terms of styling, performance – all the stuff that turns us on here, and on other blogs.
They’ll never be here to defend themselves, because in their eyes there’s nothing to defend. They want value for money, reliability, and couldn’t care less about anything that we’d see wonderful about a car.
You want a parallel? What’s the odds of you writing to a blog about a toaster? Or a refrigerator? Or a washer/dryer combination? That’s exactly how the majority of customers for this kind of car feel about it. I’ve known these people – lived with one (my first wife, Sally) for eleven years. She hated having to own a car while acknowledging its necessity, disliked driving (any time we traveled together, I did ALL the driving), and her total interest in a car was the price, how comfortable was the driver’s seat, and a mild interest in the fuel mileage and operating costs. She’s currently driving a Honda Insight (to speak of a car that usually gets slagged in the enthusiast press) and likes it because it’s comfortable, reliable, gives over 40mpg, and has enough room in the back for her costuming projects. And she had a Civic previous, so without me to assist in car buying like I used to, she’ll probably go back to the Honda dealer automatically for the rest of her life. Oh yeah, she got the Civic because the previous car was more troublesome than she liked, and her best friend had had success with a series of Civics.
There’s your stereotype. It’s not a put down. Those people are a larger market than the enthusiasts, and they’re probably an easier sell because they’re not going to be cross-shopping between five different makes, three different models, and god knows how many option packages. They’re going to bring their old car in, find a new model they like, make a deal they’re happy with, and close. Bang. Done. Happy salesman. Happy customer. Yeah, Sally’s computer literate enough to look up the auto site stuff, although she probably doesn’t bother because she’s happy with Hondas.
I can remember back to 1991 when we divorced. As a last favor before we went our separate ways (legally that is, we always stayed on good terms, and I still visit every time I go back into Johnstown, and we’d still go out together if I was single at the time), I worked her up a deal on a Dodge (Mitsubishi) Colt to replace what she had been driving previously, since I wasn’t sure at that point just how much I’d be around. Used all the skills I had, got her a nice deal on a (if I remember correctly) red one.
Unfortunately, Sally is a graphics artist and a costumer. And in between setting up the deal and taking delivery, Sally decided she liked the Colt’s blue a lot better. Of course, without me around, the dealer had to trade with another dealer to get a blue one and in the process he got most of what I had negotiated back for a blue car with a lower level of equipment.
Which Sally was happy with. It drove, it had an automatic, and it looked good to her. Given our situation, I figured it wasn’t worth starting one more fight by explaining to her how she’d been taken to the cleaners.
Yeah, we’re not supposed to stereotype. But stereotypes exist because there’s a kernel of truth to the stereotype, and, if you’re selling, its an effective way to size up the customer when you have a lack of hard information. If you’re smart, its never a hard and fast appraisal and you change your perception along with new information.
And the bottom line is that there’s a lot of drivers out there driving cars that are best classified by the wondrous old British term “grey porridge” because something more exciting is lost on them.
They’re the people you and I, as enthusiasts, don’t see, who won’t ever be on an auto blog because to them a car is an appliance.
I guess you missed the part about the study that shows that 80% of new car buyers do research on-line. Google a car’s name, and what comes up? reviews, by bloggers and such.
Do you know that reviews at places like TTAC get google searches for years on end, and accumulate hundreds of thousands of views? The daily core readership of a blog like TTAC is actually just a small percentage of their overall reach. If Sally was looking for a new car today, and did a search, she’d likely be reading your damn bloggers too.
Unfortunately TTAC seems more interested in flying vaginas, flame wars and tin foil hat conspiracy theories than actually reviewing cars. That being said I haven’t been back since they got rid of Herr Bertel. Maybe it has gotten better.
Don, I have never been a regular reader of TTAC, but I’ve bumped into it frequently enough to know that they also have legitimate reviews there. I come across Alex Dykes’ videos on YouTube all the time and they’re excellent. Those seem geared much more towards mainstream sensibilities than enthusiast.
I was using them as an example to make a point. FWIW, I think Alex Dykes does quite a decent job with new car reviews there. It’s the only thing that ever takes me back there, since we don’t do them here. Yet. 🙂
I understand your point, but you see, this IS a car blog, so we don’t really need to take the feelings of people who don’t care about cars into consideration when disparaging a certain car.
Also, there may be some stereotypes about car blogs, but one thing we’re proud of at CC–and the reason I suspect you keep coming here–is that we usually don’t fulfill them. As much as I like brown diesel wagons, you’ll never see me cloyingly discuss how cool they are. We have very diverse tastes here, and we rarely trash cars which don’t fit the mold of what’s cool.
That I wrote abut how terrible the Tempo is says something about how thoroughly lacking in virtue they were rather than how uncool they were.
I never worry about these enthusiast vs. pragmatist battles. My tastes fit into a third category: reactionary.
I read regularly buy comment rarely. I have to comment today. I’m a car enthusiast. I spend a lot of time reading about them, looking at them, and imagining them in my garage. I’m also an Accord owner. Why? First of all, I actually like it. Furthermore, I’ll admit to wanting something to get me from point a to point b reliably and comfortably. I also have a demanding job, 2 kids, and civic duties, there’s little time to wrench on an “enthusiast’s” car. So I look at this debate as more one of life’s priorities. In a different stage of life I may very well have something different in the garage, but, in all honesty, I’d probably have an Accord too. With its modern 4 cylinder and aerodynamics, it can go 0-60 quicker than many of the classics featured here while sucking less gas and holding together a lot better a lot longer. So I drive something that I both like and feel makes sense for me and I read about the rest.
Having owned the cousin to the car in question, I will agree that it’s a car for people who view cars as appliances. Very much in the same vein as any other appliance.
One thing I want to note, that as I age and remain an enthusiast, my choices in daily drivers *has* changed. There was a time when my car had to be the whatever-est car around. Now I find myself perfectly happy with the Pontiac equivalent of the Honda Accord.
I find if the damned thing starts up in the morning and the heater (or A/C, depending upon time of year) works, I’m happy. In addition, I find that the 4 cylinder/6 speed autobox is an excellent solution for the vast majority of my everyday driving.
Not that I don’t keep my eye on some Curbside Classic that I would lovingly enshrine in my single car garage given the right circumstances (mid-90’s Firebird Formula), but the reality is, my tastes have changed. At least for the daily drive…
Oh, the Tempo memories are now rushing back in a topaz hued tempo. Or something like that.
My father purchased an ’88 Tempo GLS two-door in early 1989. A left-over ’88, it had the most sporty pretensions of any Tempo built, with its two doors and five speeds. And the mighty 100 horsepower. I had an ’89 Mustang with a 2.3 and automatic. The OHC vs OHV comparison was interesting; the OHV was torquier but bitched if pushed beyond 3000 rpm whereas my OHC griped much less but without the torque.
He put 160,000 miles on that car with only a coolant fan death and some gremlin in the dash not allowing air to blow out the dash vents. Other than that, it got a steady 30+ mpg.
My sister had a ’92 Tempo as her first car. A maroon sedan with an automatic, she rolled it over a couple years later. I got to follow the rollback with the Tempo on it, and it showered me with antifreeze for 20 miles. The automatic killed the drivability of this car and anything beyond 60 mph was unpleasant.
There was a 3.0 Vulcan V6 version. Anybody ever drive one?
Not only did I drive a 3.0L Tempo once, but it was a 5 speed too. Torquesteer, thy name is 3.0 Tempo.
My wife and I owned one from 2000-2008. With the 3-speed Automatic. O/D wouldn’t fit under the car. Reliable, replaced the Battery, belts, brakes and a rear wheel bearing. I ended up driving it from Michigan to Phoenix when I moved here in 2008. It was packed to the gills and got 25 mpg all the way. After the brakes were replaced, the mechanic took it for a test-drive and was shocked by the acceleration. Vulcan V-6 was reliable as an anvil.
When I went to buy my first car in 1989 I went in wanting a Tempo coupe. I think it is the best looking small coupe of the 80s, bar none, period. Just a great design.
Then I drove it. Rubbery steering. Uncertain handling. Tepid acceleration. And the major deal breaker: the flat floor left me no place to rest my accelerator foot. Even on the 20-minute test drive, I found that terribly annoying.
So I went over to Plymouth and drove a Sundance. It was a remarkably more composed automobile. And then I went over to Chevy and drove a Cavalier and a Beretta. The Cav was crude and way too low slung but still marginally more likeable than the Tempo. But I drove home in the Beretta. I never regretted the choice.
I always liked the ’88-’94 Topaz sedan with its mini-Continental look. It was a big improvement over the original Topaz sedan, which, without the window in the pillar, always looked really awkward to me. Fun fact–the ’84 Topaz was the first Mercury with the (eventually final) Mercury logo.
As to the failure of the Contour (a Ford of that era I liked quite a bit, and was reasonably happy with my ownership of one): The big killer was the sticker shock when the Contour came out. You’re suddenly talking five-figure window stickers where the Tempo was still comfortably in the four-figure arena. And Tempo customers were buying by the dollar-per-pound, not driving dynamics. Which is a pity, as the bare bones, 2.0 Zetec, 5-speed version (stickered at $12k) I bought from my sister in law was a lot more fun than I would have expected a cheap midsizer to be.
The Contour was a better driver’s car than other Ford sedans, but it wasn’t much good at the things that motivated people to buy midsized sedans, like carrying passengers. I like the Zetec engine too, but the overall quality was Ford. What is up with the mouse fur upholstery and slippery vinyl surfaces of the interiors of Fords? I wrote is instead of was because the last new Econoline I drove was exactly the same.
Lynn Strait of Snot was killed in a Tempo,the only thing I knew about them til now
This CC taught me three things: a Ford Tempo was a car and Lynn Strait was the lead singer of a rock band called Snot. My first thought was actually that “Strait of Snot” was a very weird last name.
For sure not one of FOMOCO’s better ideas. Wife has some cousins who shared a powder blue one thru high school. They called it, fittingly, “Tempo of Doom.”
Had both a Tempo and a Topaz back in the day, both purchased as beaters. Paid all of $80 for an ’85 Temp 4 door that was a rolling drivability problem. Got that little turd running pretty decently and put around 80k or so on it before selling it for $375. That’s a Win in my book. Later on bought an ’89 Topaz with 164k on the clock for $600 and drove the snot out of it, never once let me down. Trusted it so much that when my mom needed a car I didn’t hesitate to give it to her, and it didn’t let her down either. That little turd went to its final reward with well over 250k. If you didn’t expect much from them they would never let you down.
Haha, Perry I’m gathering we have pretty similar tastes. When I was a kid I thought these were the worst. THE. WORST. As an adult, there’s stuff about them that I actually appreciate and they probably weren’t such bad cars, but my hatred is still deeply ingrained, much as I may try to keep an open mind.
Part of that is probably due to me and the Tempo/Topaz being born around the same time, so when I first became aware of them the styling was already unremarkable in the wake of the Taurus, Audi 5000, etc. It seemed like a half-assed take on that aesthetic. I didn’t know it as a harbinger of things to come until much later. What really still puts me off of them, though, is that (and I’m sorry but there’s just no nice way to say this) the HSC engine was an utter pile of shit. No life to it whatsoever and few engines sound as rough and broken in perfect running order. Kind of reliable? Maybe. The only time I ever drove one, it spun a bearing – and to be fair, I was driving it 100MPH at the time, but I know for a fact that the almost equally as crappy Iron Duke is capable of sustained operation like that without incident. Considering that it was a fairly modern chassis with independent suspension at all four corners, handling and ride quality were remarkably unimpressive. I remember them being OK on smooth surfaces, but they still skipped and crashed over pavement deformities more like a RWD car with a live axle.
I do think the 4WD version is pretty cool, although it would’ve been even cooler if they had made it available with a manual transmission. The 3-speed auto doesn’t do the HSC any favors, and I’m sure it’s even less fun with all the added weight of the 4WD hardware. I also like the Vulcan-powered models that came around right at the end. They had an upgraded suspension as well, if I’m remembering correctly, and although I’ve never driven one I’m assuming they’re night and day compared with the four cylinder models.
Huffing glue might be the only way to make a Tempo enjoyable……
So THAT was the appeal!
I remember a big name new car dealer having a big, big promotion in 1992 or 93 with TV, radio and newspaper ads flogging used Tempos for $2999. They must have bought some rental company’s entire stock. Most were about 3 years old with 40-50,000 miles. My ex and I went to look. A sad sight, It was like a third-tier shade-tree used car lot with the little plastic triangle flag ropes and tiny office (*cough metal shack cough*) had been magically transported to a new car lot, but with over 100 Tempos instead of the usual mix. We walked amongst them and decided to keep my 150,000 mile ’83 Subaru wagon and her ’74 forest service green A/C less Hornet. IN Arkansas in the summer. At least my A/C worked well, that was our trip car.
One of our friends did pick one after several test drives of overpriced beater applicants with bad brakes, water leaks and other assorted maladies, the car she finally bought was in decent shape but was missing the back seat. The salesshark walked over to the worst car and pulled that one’s out and put it in – but with a different color. I think it served her pretty well for about three or four years before I lost contact.
That is my only memory of these things. Sad for something so ubiquitous at the time. And I learned to never, ever buy a used rental car.
I always found the original Tempo attractive. More attractive than its contemporary Escort or Taurus. But I wasn’t a Ford guy at the time: being from a life-long GM family, I found everything about Fords wierd: the radios, the tiny-long, thin ignition keys that looked like they were forged in the Iron age, everything about a Ford was strange.
I rode in one twice. Both rentals. They seemed prefectly adequate. The engine seemed a little rough… I was used to riding in V6’s and V8 GM cars. But for the time period, there really wasn’t much really great out there unless you had a lot of $$ or were strange, like the parent’s of my brother’s friend who had TWO Peugeot diesel sedans.
Has anyone else noticed that very little from that era from any manufacturer has survived?
“a dark blue early production GL coupe which shared a garage with their ’84 Cavalier wagon (which I vastly preferred)”
My mother’s last car was a loaded 84 Tempo. Her previous two vehicles were F-150’s so, perhaps it was her comfort with the dealer that led her to the Ford store. She was dying of ALS at the time so she actually never drove the thing. She simply felt that she had to own a vehicle to be taken places when necessary. When she died a year or so later, my younger brother inherited it. He gave it the only kind of send off fitting for this car. He drove it into the ground.
These were ubiquitous until about 10 years ago…then they all just seemed to disappear. It’s the kind of car one can easily forget…nothing special at all.
I’ve never been close enough to these to develop any strong emotions, so I couldn’t say I hate the Tempo; I just plain don’t like it. My dad had some rental car experience with these though and said they were awfully slow, and just awful in general; that may have formed my opinion of these. That and the fact that I never liked the styling. Aero, yes, but with a decidedly conservative bend; the Dodge Spirit looked much fresher.
I once saw one of these in downtown Detroit. It had just managed to knock over a traffic light. It was a bit surreal, the street had been blocked off at either end by a police car, and the scene was otherwise empty but for the offending Tempo. Sure felt sorry for the poor person driving it, but not for that miserable Tempo.
“Only now does Ford seem to have properly addressed the issue with the new Fusion, giving us a competitive midsize sedan for the first time in nearly thirty years, rather than simply restyling a platform from poor, exploited Mazda or decontenting a car from Cologne and Dagenham.”
I’m going to have to disagree with you here. Yes, this is the first midsize sedan Ford has put out in a long time not based on a Mazda, or an Americanization of a European Ford, but the first Fusion and its MCE were plenty competitive. Were they as good as the European Mondeo? Perhaps not, but the MCE especially proved a solid alternative to Camry/Accord and won MT COTY. They had pleasant interiors and handled well thanks to their Mazda bones; the only major problem with the Fusion was the 3.0 V6 was down on power against rivals.
What I meant was it was the first car THEY designed in a long time that was competitive. I don’t consider the last Fusion to be very Ford; it inherited most good traits from Mazda.
Actually feeling rather nostalgic for the little hippo. I bought Mercury Topaz 2 door five-speed and drove it as a commuter car for a couple of years. Actually quite liked it, it was certainly better in the performance department than the 1973 Chevelle that preceded it. Ultimately my college age daughter hit a patch of ice with it and straddled a left-turn island. That cracked the sump where the filter screwed on, and did it in. Haven’t seen one in years, though.
I hated these when they came out, based mostly on their looks, and my views on them haven’t softened a bit. The Tempo/Topaz and later the Taurus/Sable previewed the look of new cars for the next decade and beyond: amorphous blobs.
I good friend’s GF (they are now married) had a Tempo as her first car. It was originally silver, but she repainted it with spray cans of red and black paint. You could still see the silver in places. I said it looked like a fishing lure, and she should hang some giant treble hooks off the back to try to catch a real car. 🙂
The bug deflector is just the icing 🙂
Which raises a question: can you even buy those anymore?
I’ve always wondered, how could that thing not increase fuel consumption by at least fifty percent? And if they’re so good deflecting bugs, why doesn’t all cars have a freaking barn door in front? It’s so utterly perplexing. Ford spent a fortune making the most slippery cars of its time, then some idiot puts an aftermarket bug deflector in front of it. 12 mpg, but oh yeah, got that bug problem fixed once and for all…
Huge +1 – those things are completely ridiculous. As are the blacked out headlight/taillight covers. I seriously doubt most of the bug deflectors worked at all. Amazing that such a thing would exist in a world where windshield washers have been standard on most cars for, oh about 40 years now.
LOL — never thought of that! 🙂
My mother had an ’88 Tempo 2 door that she bought new; it has the distinction of being the longest owned car in my family….she had it until 2009 when she let it go as part of the state (not national) cash for clunkers (It didn’t get bad enough fuel mileage to qualify for the national program). I grew to like the car, it was also my “loaner” car when I was working on my own car repairs that took some time (so I could get parts, etc).
Back around 2004 I spent some time getting some of the electrical nuisances sorted out..it had power locks where one of the relays went bad and the switch would only work on one side, plus the gas door release button in the glove box went, so we had to use the “backup” cable pull inside the trunk to open the gas door when filling up..got it in good shape but my sister started driving it and didn’t do anything to keep it up, and it went ignored in its last years in terms of service. I also remember having lots of alternator issues, they would test OK on bench but not keep the battery charged up.
The car didn’t like to drive at higher speeds, even 55 seemed pushing it, but it was OK for trips around town. The thing that really did it in was when the AC compressor finally went…I used to keep the R12 charged up in its younger days, but living in the South, in a crowded city, AC is very important, and we couldn’t justify spending money for the compressor, maybe other components to go to R134a, system seemed to leak (despite new orings which were supposed to fix problem with originals that Ford knew about)…so it ended up getting sacrificed when our state offered a deal to take older cars off road (supposedly for emissions, but the Tempo never had problems, despite being tested at the tailpipe several times) and my Mother went with a Focus this time, so still a Ford.
Funny thing about the size classification…after this they had the Contour which was about the size of the Tempo, but then there were several years after the Countour was withdrawn when Ford didn’t offer this size (guess the Focus was considered large enough to replace it for a bit) until 2006 or so when the Fusion came out….but the Focus was still being made too…it is like Ford didn’t think it needed a car that was this size for a few years, but then went ahead and came out with one, this time 4 door only, no coupe, wagon, nor hatchback (even Focus lost anything but 4 door for a few years).
They’re not that common, but there was a 2nd gen (US) Focus 2-door.
Wow, never knew about the 2 door 2nd gen Focus..guess they didn’t sell many…Thanks. They’re probably about as rare as the 2nd Generation VWJetta (A2) which also had a 2 door sedan, but it is pretty rare, and after that I think you only see 4 doors, at least in the US.
I never considered this before now, but in a lot of ways the 2nd gen Focus really channeled the first-gen Tempo. The 2-door in particular looks quite similar.
I’ve had two ’85 Tempos-and I hated them both. Between the funky carb and clutch on the first (blue) one, to the constantly dropping exhaust, snapping alt belt and cloth-front-but-vinyl-rear seat on the second (red) one.
My ’87 Shadow, you could just not kill the damn thing, believe me, I tried. Considering that not a body panel on it was un-bent, when it came to merging into traffic, I would always win, while Mercedes and BMW drivers would give me a wide berth. I was sad to see that one go.
And in regards to the Contour, my mom had a champagne ’97 GL and I loved that damn go cart. I still remember taking my little sister and her bf somewhere out a country road, while they were playing kissy-face. Well, there’s really no way to canoodle when you’re sliding around the back seat like the “where’s the beef” lady’s compatriots, as I was going an average of 75 mph out twisty back roads. And that car was dead reliable, never gave a word of complaint until the timing belt went. Mom never grasped the concept of “preventative maintenance”. Regardless, new belt and she was back to the grind. No car, and I mean NO car has ever endured her sadistic nature quite so well, not to mention my incessant inability to stay off the throttle on back roads.
For some reason this car reminds me of that SNL skit with Jane Curtin as Mrs. Loopner and her daughter and boyfriend Todd and Lisa (Bill Murray and Gilda Radner). They were a pretty nerdy bunch as you may remember. What made the skit funny was how they were so totally oblivious to their nerdiness and eager to share it. Like when Mrs. L would offer the kids “a delicious egg salad sandwich” right before a date.
If she could make cars I could see her whipping one up for Todd and telling him “I started with one of those wonderful new Escorts and made it bigger for you Tauuuud. Then I made a brand new 4-cylinder engine for it. I wanted it to be good so I started with the engine in the Falcon.
About old SNL skits, one word comes to mind: Toonces. Never could figure out what kind of car it was that the cat was driving, nor the one that you saw going over the cliff!
Nevertheless, Wifey and I always laughed.
I’m sure someone here can ID it:
I think they car they used for the blue screen shots was a Granada/Monarch type car. The one that goes over the cliff is a Jag from what I recall, its a scene from some old movie that would use over and over again.
Those wipers look 60s Ford Fairlane-ish but the low mount rear view mirror I dunno. Maybe the mirror is not stock for easier filming? The cat was like Mr. Bill, always the same thing would happen but it was funny and welcome.
My favorite SNL car quip was the one by Will Ferrell in the dysfunctional family where he blurts out “I drive a Dodge Stratus” in an exchange with his rebellious daughter.
Two things I remember about these cars:
1) The groaning sound the engine made
2) The way they (and contemporary Escorts) would lift their front ends and go to severe positive camber on acceleration.
I spent several days with a Tempo sedan in ’86 (plus or minus a year) as an Auto Driveaway car, 900 miles or so. It practically radiated mediocrity. What a lump.
A co-worker back in the day drove a brown two door Tempo w/ 5 speed and diesel. He really seemed to like it and took very good care of it.
Somebody had to build something for people coming out of ’75 – ’78 Furys and Monacos. And Ford obliged.
Car and Driver seemed to sum it up succinctly in the caption of a Tempo review: “Automotive quiche for a bacon-and-eggs America”. Despite its outrageous mediocrity, the Tempo sold well.
I disagree with the assessment that it was not one of Ford’s best ideas. From a sales stand point it was a runaway success. In the 10 years the tempo was made, Ford sold about 2.7 million of them.
Production figures for Tempo cribbed from the interwebz
I also disagree with the notion that Ford was stingy with the Tempo. From 87-91 they offered a AWD version. Other then Subaru, Eagle, Toyota and Audi and Pontiac nobody else was offering a AWD/4WD vehicle at the time the Tempo was offered with it as an option and nobody was offering it that cheaply(after Ford discounts)
As for comparisons with the GM N-body and the Sundance, well you got me there with the N-body. The first generation N body was a nice car and I admit if I could find a good condition 84-91 Pontiac Grand Am in coupe or sedan, I would buy it in a heartbeat as I always liked it’s looks. The sundance?? Well that was not a Tempo competitor at all. The Sundance competed with the local bus line(and the bus line won as more folks would rather be standing out in the cold waiting for the bus then own a Sundance ) Heck that Sundance/Shadow was such a shitbox that its replacement (Neon) looked like somebody has brought a car back 30 years in the future, thats how crude that car was.
But as I once mentioned, those folks buying domestic small cars(tempo/topaz was considered compact by Ford and classified as such by the US Government) such as Tempo/Topaz, Escort, Cavalier, Sunbird/Sunfire, Sundance/Shadow, Neon, Aries/Reliant were those folks that ether were total misers/cheapskates, folks looking for a spare car for the kids or those whos income was not enough to get something more substantial but who did not want to play the used car game. Nobody bought those cars simply because they wanted a small car to save gas with.(those folks bought Corolla or Civics) the buyer for Tempo and the other small domestic cars were folks that had two choices ether buy this car or buy used.
To be truthful, I like the Tempo/Topaz the one I drove never left me stranded and parts were cheap. I asked it to drive me from point A to Point B and not break down and it did what i asked it to. )Hell it was more reliable that that damn Scion XB I happily got rid of last year.)
The Tempo/Topaz was an honest car with no pretensions or delusions of greatness. It was not a gussied up Cavalier disguising itself as a Cadillac.
Sales numbers and decent vehicle dynamics didn’t always go hand in hand, especially back then. The Tempo was a missed opportunity: if it had been a better driving car and with better quality, Ford might have staved off some of the massive inroads the Japanese made in the eighties and nineties.
So what went wrong with your xB?
Personally, I thought the Sundance/Shadow were considerably better cars. The Chrysler 2.2 engines weren’t paragons of smoothness either, but they were much more refined than the HSC unit – much livelier to drive as well, more responsive and willing to rev. I also liked their styling better, although the 2-door looks a little awkward from some angles. The fakeout notchback design was a clever implementation and very practical for a car this small. The one aspect where the Tempaz outshone the Dodge/Plymouth twins was in ride quality, but it came at the cost of a completely lethargic suspension that wasn’t all that comfortable either. Every Sundance or Shadow I’ve ever been in was pretty harsh, but those cars did handle relatively well. Their suspension came out of the Daytona, after all, and the performance versions with the Turbo or V6 (as well as the Shelby CSX) were well regarded in their day. They were also some of the cheapest cars available with an airbag for most of their run.
What exactly didn’t you like about them?
A minor footnote to Leon’s chart: I believe that the 1984 Tempo arrived early, before the start of the 1984 model year, so this figure represents a period longer than the normal 1984MY. But there’s no denying that the Tempo was a pretty good seller in its early years.
It was also one of the first cars with an available airbag. One of my coworkers had a red ’85 that had one. He drove it well into the early 2000’s – it sounded like a lawnmower but ran.
I worked on one that had both air bags & automatic seat belts, it was a late 80s/early 90s model. It had Canadian plates on it.
I’ll just leave this here….
fortunately, I just retrieved my new car from the dealer today, after the bodyside mouldings were installed.
Saw a catfight on the street in the 90s that didn’t quite get that far out of hand, but last I saw, the two cars were stationary in the road with the women inside screaming at each other.
My carpool driver had a Tempo, handed down as most of her cars were from one parent or another. It was pretty clear that Ford’s Tempo was Andante. It actually had fewer problems than most of her handed-down cars, and it had the most spectacular end of any of them, catching fire and burning in a neighbor’s driveway while she was visiting.
A fitting end for an infernal car.
I hated these as well. I remember I would hit my head on that damn automatic seat belt thing. Most people would disconnect the shoulder belt leaving a projectile latch that I would invariably gash my forehead on.
The best solution I found was on my ’91 Escort. I just unplugged the power cable for the motorized mechanism and used it in the same way as those seatbelts you were supposed to leave plugged in all the time from GM, a la my ’92 Grand Prix.
In other words, just unfasten it when needed.
I don’t think you can unlatch to ones in the Tempo; at least I could never figure out how.
Holy crap! Did anyone else notice the wheel size contrast between the Lexus and the white Tempo in the 4th photo??
I know wheels have grown slowly in past two decades, but I think the brake discs on the GS are larger than the Tempo’s rims! What are those, 13 inches?
I didn’t until you pointed it out, then I laughed…….holy crap, they look like “Donk” wheels next to the Tempo’s.
TireRack lists both 13″ and 14″ for the 1985 Tempo, the smaller one being 175/80-13. By today’s standards, that’s indeed small.
Yep, wheels and watches.
It just goes to show, no matter how horrible a car is, there is a market for it. I agree it’s a car for people that don’t care about cars. Obviously if they knew anything about cars they could see it’s a turd on wheels and would move on to something with more appeal.
What I find difficult to believe is that some Ford flunky designed this thing and went off to his boss and said: Look at this, boss, I done good ain’t I? Boss agrees and pays the flunky and they make it. Same goes for lots of cars in the past, and some for the present.
I find Camrys, (all Toyotas in fact), Mazdas, Kias etc to be bland a to b cars for people who really don’t care. Flame on.
It’s hard to make that claim against most Mazdas or all Toyotas, for instance, when they’re generally regarded to have excellent dynamics.
What do you say to ppl who think later Saabs were good when the magazines didn’t necessarily agree (although I always liked the later Saabs, let me play devil’s advocate)? That they were for rich people who didnt know about cars and wanted to look “educated?”
The Topaz and Escort were featured prominently in the 1984 film “Runaway” (with Tom Sellek). These cars perfectly fit the futuristic setting of this film (it’s a sci-fi story set in the near future). These cars are old beaters now, but remember how novel and modern they looked when they were first released?
I, too, had a high school classmate with a Tempo with singing power steering. This is the late 90s and very early 00s. I was driving an ’87 Crown Victoria at the time and we made up a small platoon of Fords in the lot. Hers was white with navy interior. Lasted her all through high school.
I also remember this car from about a decade before. At that time, it was a popular new car for fathers to give their children. I remember Ione Skye gets one, a red coupe, in “Say Anything” from her dad. John Cusack then teaches her how to drive it.
My YMCA summer camp counselor, a high schooler just about the age of the Skye character, had one. I remember one day we YMCA campers had to take a beach trip (she drove, something helicopter parents today would never allow, I don’t even think permission slips were signed then). We were going to take the Tempo but she thought better of it, and called her father, who came over and swapped it out for his Country Squire. We put up the rear seats and piled in to the woody. I remember insisting on shotgun and asking her all kinds of questions about the bigger car, which, even then I preferred. Of course, she liked her Tempo better, the Squire was a fatally uncool dad car to a 16-17 year old girl in 1988, plus it didn’t have a tape deck.
Honestly, do you think ford made a bigger tempo & called it a Taurus? I’ve worked on both and they seem very close in design.
It wouldn’t be surprising if many principles were shared. The rear suspension was the same, and other than the Escort/Tempo, Dearborn had no other FWD platforms at the time. And, dare I say it, I feel like the Taurus may have been overrated.
Back in the early ’90s when the ink was drying on my HS diploma, I worked in auto detail at the local Ford dealership. When I wasn’t shining cars up, Id take them for gas, bring one to a customers house, etc…
We had a whole row of Tempos on the program lot. These were absolute bottom feeder cars: all 4-doors (coupe may have been gone by then) with the 2.3 and slush box. A geriatric in an electric wheelchair would smoke one in a drag race and they had about the flabbiest handling Ive ever experienced. The interior seemed well finished enough but these were NOT designed for my broad/stout 6’1 frame. That said, they seem to be reliable if utterly brain dead motion appliances. The people we sold them to be the exact type that buy the sedans of today, and could care less about any of the things that makes a car guy’s pulse race. Which is all well and good, BUT….
When I see the two door model, I do see what SHOULD have been. The 4 doors found plenty of takers just as they were, so from where I sit, the formula worked. However, the 2-door was sorely underdeveloped. The bodystyle on these isn’t bad looking and makes a fairly practical daily driver. The parts bin was full of items that could’ve been transplanted right in: SVO Mustang’s engine was the same basic thing so why didn’t the 2 door push a turbo 2.3 engine and whip that soggy suspension into shape with some euro bits? The right color palette with blacked out trim and the Mustang’s turbine style wheels would have made for a sharp looking and competent little barnstormer. With a more liveable 2 door coupe bodystyle than the Probe or Mustang of the time, it could have been something of a cult hit and Ford could have reeled in some of the demographic that typically buys imports.
“SVO Mustang’s engine was the same basic thing so why didn’t the 2 door push a turbo 2.3 engine”
I don’t know how easy it would or wouldn’t have been to put an SVO motor in a Tempo, but the 2.3-liter four in the Mustang and the 2.3-liter four in the Tempo weren’t the same engine. The Mustang 2.3 was an OHC engine that also powered a variety of other Fox-platform cars as well as the earlier Pinto and Mustang II. The Tempo 2.3 was an OHV engine closely related to the 200 CID straight six. I don’t think it was ever used in anything other than the Tempo and Topaz.
They ARENT the same engine? I thought all of those 2.3L fours were the same… Guess I learned something today.
Not that I wouldn’t have loved a car fitting that description, especially if they could have incorporated the 4WD hardware, but lets be serious – no one would have bought that. The later V6 GLS/XR5 coupes are not far off from what you’re describing and they found very few buyers. If something like that had come out earlier in the Tempo/Topaz model run, it surely would have added some much needed cachet… but as long as that agricultural four was still infecting most of them, people were always gonna remember them as a bummer of a car.
If Ford could have found a way to fit the Lima four, even the regular EFI version from the Fox Mustang, that would have been a significant upgrade in terms of refinement – and it wasn’t the world’s silkiest engine either. Like MCT said, they were completely different engines and I believe the reason Ford didn’t go that route is because it wouldn’t have fit horizontally. It would’ve been the logical choice, because normally turning an engine sideways is much easier than lopping two cylinders off an antique six. That OHC four never had any FWD applications.
MCT – The only other car that got an HSC engine was the 1st gen Taurus – a 2.5l version that was pretty rare.
The Ford Tempo was an American Front Wheel Drive version of the German Ford Sierra which was a Rear Wheel Drive. As shown on this photo, the Ford Tempo had design similarities with both the Ford Sierra and the Mazda 626 based and like the Ford Tempo also Front Wheel Drive Ford Telstar. All 3 Cars were identical in size as well but since the Sierra was a RWD, its about 200 pounds heavier than the Tempo.
Here is the two door models of the Ford Tempo and Ford Sierra (a variation of our short lived Merkur XR4ti).
The Ford Tempo was an American Front Wheel Drive version of the German Ford Sierra Pedro; the ONLY thing the Tempo and Sierra had in common was a similar design language, which was of course the current one being practiced at Ford at the time. In every other respect, they were completely different, and had different origins. The Tempo was built on a slightly enlarged Escort platform; the Sierra’s was totally different.
the new Fusion, giving us a competitive midsize sedan for the first time in nearly thirty years, rather than simply restyling a platform from poor, exploited Mazda or decontenting a car from Cologne and Dagenham.
iirc, the Gen 1 Fusion is largely based on the Mazda 6, built in Mexico and only containing about 30% North American parts.
The 05-09 Ford 500/Taurus and Freestyle/Taurus X are reputedly built on a platform pinched from Volvo.
The Blue on Blue Tempo reminds me of a tractor with its simple looks and utilitarian nature. The hood deflector, no frills tires, and surrounding just add to the car and the photo. I wonder if someone lives in that Econoline in the background?
I rode in my cousin’s clapped-out 88 Tempo (next generation) after her HS graduation in 1995. I insisted on sitting in the back seat (no motorized belts back there; they didn’t work up front, anyway). No interior lights (not even dashboard) and the left back door didn’t activate the dome light when opened (apparently it had been wrecked before my cousin bought it).
That car truely was a piece of shit.
My cousin didn’t realize it at the time, but her little brother did her a huge favor a year later when he took the Tempo for an illegal joyride (he was 13 then) and rolled the car.
These cars defined the term “lump”. A high school buddy bought a red coupe shortly after graduation, I could never figure out why.
I’ve driven a few Tempos, and I had one as a loaner back in 1989 when my ’84 Cavalier was in the shop after an accident. Not bad, but I was glad to have the Chevy back. A friend of my sister had a late ’80’s Tempo, and she had a lot of trouble with it. She actually took it back to the dealer and complained about it, and then traded it for a Cavalier that gave her much better service. I haven’t seen one up here in Canuckistan in quite a few years.
The only tempo I ever cared about:
I’ve never seen one in the flesh, but they came out about the time I became interested in American cars.
My thought then, looking at the pics in car magazines, was ” I hope it looks nice when they take off the camouflage, and show the production model”.
I still feel the same looking at that white 2 door.
My 1988 Mercury Topaz just simply, absolutely, completely failed to start in temperatures below -12 to – 15 C unless I had the block heater plugged in. The problem from what I recall was Ford’s new for 1988 fuel injection system that would trickle, rather than spray, the fuel into the cylinder when cranking the engine in cold weather, causing engine to flood. Apparently, something was changed in ’89 and problem was mostly corrected. Don’t know if it’s true, I just remember a Ford tech explaining this to me…In any case, it was by far my Worst. Car. Ever.
I got talked with a car mechanic lad who spent some time in the U.S. He joined to an organized tourist group for a kind of sightseeing tour. Their schedule contained a brief visit at one of Ford’s assembling plants. Later when he came home he recognized that some of the operations were far from accuracy. As a former owner of a used Tracer (assembled in Hermosillo México), I can tell: that car was the far more reliable vehicle that I’ve ever owned. The plush upholstery has never ripped out, the dash and the plastics never broke. Everything worked fine and stood in good condition. Only the necessary services had been done on it. It’s been used as a daily commuter for familiar purposes and occassionally for longer biz trips throughout Central- and Western-Europe…
It could always be worse. Back in ’96 my buddy had a ’91 Hyundai Scoupe, his fiancé had a ‘ 92 Tempo 2-door. I much preferred the Tempo on our semi monthly one hour trips to the casino when it was his turn to drive. However I would have much rather used my ’91 Spirit everytime and have them pay for gas.
I had the Mercury cousin to this car, the Topaz. I’ve mentioned it before on this blog, but I was a true blue Ford fan back in the day. This car was one of the reasons why I gave up on Ford products. I’ve also outlined my continued disappointment with Ford product planning here and this car was a prime example of how Ford cheaped out.
If ever there was a deadly sin, this car should have been one. It’s been interesting to read other people’s experiences with these cars. Many of them mirror my own experiences and very few were good. This car’s reputation only speaks to the “phoned-in” nature of the Tempaz.
Granted, in the late 70’s, early 80’s when this car was being developed, Ford was in serious trouble. I can understand a strained development budget. But with compelling alternatives available within the same corporation, the decision to soldier on with the same old same old is as cynical as anything from Ford’s crosstown rivals.
Perry, “progressive” isn’t a word that comes immediately to mind when I think of the Tempo, but I have to admit it is fairly accurate. The Tempo seemed to signal a new direction, in some ways at least, for American cars. But it was backward and dull and dopey at the same time. When it came out, I remember feeling along the lines of, “If this is where the world is headed, the future isn’t a very enlightened place.”
CC Effect, I suppose. I encountered a second generation Tempo on my drive home from work. And then a bit later a second generation Topaz while out running errands. Both were in pretty decent shape. Didn’t have my phone handy to snap any pictures though…
The Ford Sierra (Merkur Sierra) and the Mondeo (Contour/Mystique) had been very popular all over the european continent and British Isles. On the other hand the Tempo/Topaz duo had been a popular North-American private import especially in Central- and South-Eastern Europe.
I was actually envious of the new(at the time) Tempo.
I was thirteen, and my parents had recently purchased
Motor Trend’s Car of the Year – Renault Alliance 4dr. I was
impressed by all the literature and publicity at the time
regarding Tempo’s “aerodynamics”. And with the launch of
GM’s latest F-bodies a year prior, what’s a salivating car-
worshipping teen to do? LOL
Renault had published the drag coefficient of its Alliance
in its print brochures, which I was in the hobby of collecting
as a teen. “.39” as I recall. Imagine: I’m probably the ONLY
13-yr old who actually knew what “aerodynamics” or “drag
coefficient” even meant! I later read, in magazines and
other brochures, of cars with drag coefficients lower than
Alliance’s. The ’82 Camaro: .29. The Tempo: .36. Even
the squarish K-cars, .37.
Suddenly, that Alliance seemed like the boxiest thing on
four wheels! I felt awful, even embarrassed that I was
riding around in, albeit a decently appointed, BRICK
on wheels. So now you understand why I worshipped the
Tempo – aerodynamic queen of the highways.
I always thought the pre-facelift Tempos looked like a turtle. They probably weren’t much faster, either…although I do remember later when the came with an optional V6 they were not quite as bad, and the facelift (around 89-90?) did freshen them up a bit.
“My parents’ good friends also had a dark blue early production GL coupe which shared a garage with their ’84 Cavalier wagon (which I vastly preferred) and another brief acquaintance of theirs had a silver Topaz”
Wow, were they really so bad the Cavalier was a better option? I just assumed the Tempo was a better call all-around than the Cavalier but having never lived with either I wouldn’t know.
They also wasted an opportunity, IMO, with the ’89 GLS, the second-gen Tempo, and the Escort on which it was based, weighed a little over a ton at the curb, had they adapted the turbo 2.3 OHC powerplant from the SVO and Turbocoupe to FWD, and paired it with a quick-shifting manual gearbox, Ford could’ve easily made a rocket out of an econobox, and given Mopar a run for their money in the sport compact segment at the time, which would’ve also turned the GLS into a true little brother to the SHO at the time. Actually, a turbo 2.3 OHC-powered GLS could’ve even had the potential to dust the bigger SHO keeping the low curb weight of the second-gen Tempo and its Escort stablemate in mind, there being a 562-lb difference in curb weight between the second-gen Tempo and first-gen Taurus.
Low curb weight, paired with a high-powered turbo OHC 4-banger, you get the picture, I take it, pretty much, Mopar saw something in their econoboxes that Ford never did, until decades later on.
I am surprised most of you put GL model down.
I got a V6-3L with 483K in it and since 1992 I only changed alternator 3x + gas tank and fuel pump + 1x water pump…..
It still runs like your new Toyota,,,
Is it a ’92? I’d expect a late V6 to be the best of the bunch, all the bugs worked out and an understressed engine.
I have driven more than 1,200 cars since getting my learner’s permit 49 years ago. I have never hated driving any car as much as the Tempo. Not the Pinto, not the K-Car, none of ’em.
It probably had less to do with the car itself than what an example it was of how far Ford, which 20 years before (1964) had managed to put Galaxie 500XLs, Thunderbirds, Mustangs and even Falcon Sprints into showrooms, had fallen.
Hell, it was a drop from ten years before (1974) and the LTD, T-Bird, Mustang II and Pinto.
These were the epitome of “drabmobiles.” They had flaccid and no fun factor to drive. They were big on the rental car circuit. Especially the insurance rental car markets. They did sit low and unless you had external back support pillows/pads they weren’t the most comfortable on a drive lasting over an hour. I remember the Contour. They looked snazzier and drove much better. More of a European feel. I didn’t realize they had poor reliability issues. At least with the Taurus if you ponied up for the SHO and other sporty editions you could get a fun to drive handling car. The base Taurus/Sables also had that dreck boring feel as the Tempo. But wait! There’s more! I’ll always associate the Tempo with the family show Life Goes On. The episode where Corky takes drivers Ed with less than stellar results. Corky, the star/hero had Downs Syndrome. After he crashed the Driver Ed Tempo later in the episode, Corky passes another Tempo Driver Ed car with the keys in the ignition and windows open. What is Corky to do? Take her for a test drive, final destination the high school dumpster. Poor Corky he got no respect. Corky’s mom played by Broadway actress Patty LuPone showed motherly love hugging Corky and singing The Wind Beneath My Wings (You Are My Hero)
Ford seems to get a lot of guff around here and other places for building VERY mediocre cars (Falcon, Escort, Tempo) that they sell the snot out of. Usually more than the competition. What conclusions can we take from this? That they know the car buying public, who are not very smart car buyers? That they are better than average at building what they know will sell? That they were more reliable than their domestic competition? You tell me.
Actually, I think the idea from the PROCO project regarding the head design DID make it into a V8… for one year. The 1986 MFI 5.0L has a high-swirl combustion head has a very similar combustion chamber design to the HSC. It was gone by 1987 when Ford switched to the E7TE heads.
These always looked filthy to me even if they were washed.
People who bought these would have bought the ’60 Falcon 4 door with the 95 hp (gross rating?) 144 Six and the 2 speed Fordomatic. Ford knew it’s customer base, that’s for sure.
As I mentioned. These were big with rental car companies and other fleet sales. Ford always did well with fleet sales. Though I’m a car enthusiast, I forgot, was their even a sportier package available for the Tempo/Topaz like on the Taurus?
Oh man, every time I see one of these, I think of the burgundy ’90-’91 Mercury Topaz I saw outside the back door of a theater in Fullerton, Calif., almost certainly a rental.
In 1991, Daryl Hall and John Oates had just finished a concert in the round, and I was a young go-getter and decided to try to interview them for my college paper. Sometimes the simple approach is best – wait by the back door, wait for the initial wave of lovesick girls to wash over Daryl (he was about 42-ish and beyond handsome at the time – and treated those girls very kindly, like a gentleman) – and them call out, “Mr Hall – CaliCajun from the University Press, may I ask you a few questions about the show?”
Next thing you know, Daryl snaps into interview mode and gives me a minute. When I published the article, everyone thought I was making up the quotes, and that there’s no way I actually interviewed Hall & Oates, until I played my cassette tape for them 🙂
And I say “Oates,” because I also caught a couple comments from John. He was terse and kind of cranky – not nearly as media-friendly – but likely tired from the show and wanted to get his job over – and at the time I remember thinking that THIS was why he was cranky:
While Daryl was busy taking care of the fans, John Oates, ’80s hero, was busy cramming a whole bunch of his and Daryl’s stuff into the trunk of a burgundy Topaz, and the trunk was too damn small and John kept having to move it all around to fit…. and finally Daryl climbs in the passenger seat and John takes off and I had this little tire-screeching moment in my head about how they were playing Live Aid in front of the world only 6 years before – how their last 2 albums had not caught on – and how Oates was now stuck with this POS, too-small, shrunken-excuse-for-a-Sable-TOPAZ … and yes, by then, we always knew what a depressing hunk that car was – at least statuswise.
Well, to this day it remains one of life’s clear mental photos you keep along the way … Hall and Oates cramming into a ghetto car and putt-putting away ……. 🙂
‘Engines were clearly at the bottom of Ford’s list of engineering priorities,’ and not just in the late-80s/early-90s……
-points to the 5.4l 3-valve Modular’s penchant for cam phaser malfunction if you were neglectful with oil, or for sparkplugs breaking in two inside the heads, and that engine came out in 2004-