Curbside Classic: 1988 Ford Tempo – Holiday Remembrances


Mr. Gump’s mother is credited with the assertion that life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get. With no disrespect to Mama Gump, I believe a better simile for the unexpected twists of life would be “Life is like a box of family photos”. I certainly didn’t expect to find my first Curbside Classic shot, taken way before I even knew what Curbside Classic was, just waiting for me to do a write-up on it four years later.

Here’s something that may just cause you to go “Well, gee, that’s sad.”: I’ve never once gone in a family holiday trip. Whether it was job obligations from my parents or lack of funds or (very often) taking care of the family matriarch, it was just something that didn’t happen. I didn’t feel angry or bitter about it, you really can’t miss the things you’ve never had, great-gran somehow lasted a century despite never drinking a glass of water that hadn’t been run through coffee beans first and smoking like a chimney for more than sixty of those years. Things like these made the concept of filling bags for a week and whizzing off to some random part of the world for rest and relaxation absolutely ludicrous in my mind. I was going to stay on good ‘ol Tegucigalpa until I could afford my own holiday trip.


Affordability is the one thing the Tempo was known for. Really, the best way to describe it in your author’s opinion is as Ford’s Cavalier–apropos, as that’s exactly what Ford was aiming at: cheap wheels without any sort of upmarket or sporty pretension. I’ve always said that the worst thing you can do when you’re in the goods business is to sell mediocre goods. Perhaps not a dealbreaker in, say, potatoes or washing machines, but when it comes to more marketable items such as cars there’s nothing worse than being one of the rest. However, I must be completely and utterly wrong because the Tempo was a complete success for Ford and people bought them as quickly as Ford could build them. Then why was it that the Cavalier crashed and burned? Oh, right. The Tempo wasn’t completely new engineering when it came out, as it was decided that instead of creating a whole new platform for it and its corporate cousin the Topaz, it would be considerably more cost-effective to stretch the existing CE14 platform that was the basis for the Escort and the droopy-eyed EXP. And then there was the styling…


If you trace the history of the Aero-Fords of the eighties and early nineties you’ll find their origins here, at the 1981 Ford Sierra. The car that brought Aero to the masses at the expense of a not-inconsiderate amount of fleet sales in Europe as conservative buyers fled away from the radical styling and moved to more conservative offerings from Vauxhall/Opel and Peugeot.


While not as good looking as the Sierra, the Tempo was equally revolutionary in its design. This is especially noticeable when you compare it against its predecessor, the Fairmont (CC Here). However the first-gen model’s design always struck me as a half-baked design test released to gauge the reception of the new corporate design language on a sedan. It just seems oddly proportioned to my eyes. The wheel wells seem to be too small for the rest of the body. The space between the side windows is lacking some black trim pieces so it makes the windows look smaller than they actually are, almost as if they took them from a smaller car and just plopped them there.


Things were not better in the Topaz, which ditched the rearmost window altogether, that one just looks incomplete. Apparently Mercury thinks that it looked upmarket and added C-Pillar badges to emphasize it.


I don’t get it, the coupes got it right on the first try.


Really the Taurus-ified second-generation car, like our headlining car, is a much more cohesive sedan design. The beta testing had worked and the American public quickly grew to love the Taurus, it certainly took less time than it took the Europeans to warm up to the Sierra. The writing was on the wall however. After a spike in sales on the year of its release the Tempo’s sales never really moved at the same rate that they did on its first-generation. And anyway Ford had decided that the best way to be competitive was to move upmarket. Which is how the Contour and the Mystique came to be. And this time it was the Europeans who adored it while the Americans complained about the high price and the low rear legroom. Perry Shoar told its tale here.


And the title of this piece? One day in January 2011 one of my University classes decided that actually having class would be extremely boring, so it was decided that the best way to learn about the course’s contents was to spend a weekend in the lovely port of Tela. I stumbled upon my first holiday by virtue of wanting to have a class to fill the gap between my 8 A.M and my 10 A.M. Highlights included magnificent sunsets, my first boat ride and my first weekend away from the family. The morning of the day we were supposed to go back home I woke up early and went to the balcony to savor the view for the last time, when I looked down I noticed an extremely clean Ford Tempo, instantly becoming aware that I hadn’t seen one in a very long time. So out came my phone-cam. It’s amazing to me that day is already four years ago. I should take another holiday sometime soon. Maybe I’ll find a pristine Aries or that danged 1.8 Cimarron. It’s as good an excuse as any to go down to the beach isn’t it?

Special thanks to kurtzos, nifty43, pv dave and Andrew T, without whom this article would look exceedingly boring.