By on February 26, 2012

To gather the photographs for the Junkyard Find series, I do a lot of walking around self-service wrecking yards, and mostly I’m just tuning out the common cars as background noise. You know, the 15-to-20-year-old Detroit stuff that won’t have any collector value until almost all are gone (as happened with the Pinto and Vega). The chaff. Right now, the Taurus/Sable is king of the Ford sections of these yards (I counted 188 of them in a 300-car section in a California yard not long ago), but you also see large numbers of Tempos and Topazes. Once I decided to pay attention to the lowly Tempo, I was surprised by the number of not-particularly-trashed examples I found at my local yard. Today, and just today, let’s pay attention to one of the most common vehicles in American self-serve junkyards today: the Tempo.
Though I got some anguished comments from the Jalopnik reader “Ford_Tempo_Fanatic” when I demolished a free Tempo Judgemobile at a LeMons race, to most of us the Tempo remains invisible. They’re not terribly uncommon on the street, though the last few years have been rough on surviving Tempos.
The Tempo was built from the 1984 through 1994 model years, before being replaced by the Mondeo-based Contour. Yes, Contours are also common junkyard finds.
The era of screaming all-red car interiors seems to have peaked in the early 1990s. Detroit was a little late to the red interior party, but made up for the lateness with even redder reds than the Japanese used in the middle 1980s.
The Tempo got the job done and sold in large quantities, but was looking quite outdated by the time this one was built. Did it begin its career as a rental?

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84 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1992 Ford Tempo GL...”


  • avatar
    Lokki

    Having already long -since “gone Japanese” before I personally knew someone who bought one of these, I initially had a low opinion of them. Slab-sided styling you could stamp out in your garage, plastics from an easy-bake oven and and engine design older than your mama. The lady of my acquaintence who bought one was a single accountant in her 50′s and cared as much about cars as I did about knitting. She wisely (I thought) bought the extended warranty.

    However that car started every morning and just quietly soldiered on for the seven years I knew her, and was never any more headache than a sofa to own and operate. From the pinnacle of engineering that was my Acura Intergra I thought it beyond crude and boring, but she didn’t care one whit; it did everything she asked of it, albeit she didn’t ask much.

    • 0 avatar
      jeffzekas

      “Crude & boring” pretty much sums it up; with the proviso: it came with AWD- great here in snow country.

    • 0 avatar
      VanillaDude

      I was in the rental car business at this time and we got these vehicles by the lot throughout their model run.

      Whenever I wanted a brand new fresh Tempo/Topaz, I just grabbed the new keys and took it home.

      They were as dull as unflavored oatmeal. They did everything dull. I drove them all: V8, AWD, and lesser. They were all boring. The steering was rubbery, the interior was plastic, and the performance was dull, even with the biggest engine.

      They lasted forever and took a beating without a problem.

      If I had to choose between a 1960 Falcon or a 1990 Tempo – I would easily pick the Falcon because it was so much more interesting than the Tempo.

      Ford couldn’t produce another bad car, so with the Tempo they produced one of the world’s most boring.

      The Tempo was so very OK.

      • 0 avatar
        majo8

        I too was in the rental business at this time, and Tempo’s made up a good chunk of the fleet. Boring cars yes, but pretty reliable ( except that they ate wheel bearings at an alarming rate ).

        IIRC, the Tempo never came with a V8.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    TempoEnthusiast is going to get a woody over this. I’m willing to bet the number of comment hits this car gets will be half of the K car post. I guess I will say that this car continued the upswing of Ford’s assembly quality, though it was not a huge step forward. Those with the Vulcan had the ability to live long and prosper as that engine could be pulled out of most wrecks, cleaned, had new oil seals/gaskets installed and then live out a second life. Otherwise, I just don’t see much to love, with all due respect to TTE…

    MM: Please please try to get a speedo shot showing the mileage in all of your JYF series (which is rapidly becoming my fave). The condition of this car and its interior are really good….I can imagine that it would bring up quite a lively discussion on perceived vs actual quality if it had 190K, or 40K…

  • avatar
    GS650G

    I don’t think these cars were all that bad, certainly no worse than GM and Chryslers small/mid size car offerings. They were cheap to buy, cheap to own, cheap to drive.

  • avatar
    Spartan

    My aunt had a rats fur grey 1988 Ford Tempo and it never gave her any trouble. So much that she bought a Ford Contour after having the Tempo for 7 years, then she bought a Taurus after having the contour for 6 years. Never gave her any trouble.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Just like the Neon, no signs of an accident, interior seems to be pretty ok,so we must assume mechanical death once more, but like the Neon, you will read about they knew someone who had one of these for countless years with no problems, then as in the Taurus?Sable Why are there so many in the junkyards of America???

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      I was going to write a reply but then I realized I shouldn’t feed trolls.

      Hint – US cars had more market share than foreign twenty years ago.

      Hint number two – the car is TWENTY YEARS OLD. All it takes is one bad owner in those twenty years to push off an oil chan…oh never mind, just wasting my keystrokes.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Tranny issues probably, my mother had a Sable that was a decent car until 115xxx miles or something like that, then the tranny went out.

      They also just don’t hold up to the usual abuse that beaters have to deal with (lack of maintenance, aggressive driving).

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        Tranny issues were a definite possibility with these. If I remember correctly, the Tempo/Topaz came standard with a 3 spd automatic until its demise in ’94. I drove a rental in ’93 that drove me insane at 70 mph droning on at 4000 rpm.

    • 0 avatar
      Moparman426W

      That’s what cracked me up on the neon posted. First gen neons are now between 13& 17 years old, they sold by the millions. Most were driven and treated like the cheap cars that they are, so yeah, it’s time they start showing up in the boneyards. And you have these people saying stuff along the lines of “look at how many are in the junkyard.” Well duh. I know that they had a few issues, all of which I know well because my daughter has owned 2 of them, my son had one. So I’ve worked on them and also visited all of the forums. But the engines and drivelines are far from junk.
      Then we have this tempo, yes it’s in the boneyard, it’s 20 years old. Even tho we don’t know the mileage or what even happened to it 20 years is a long time for any car to be around before being junked.

  • avatar
    Trend-Shifter

    My mother had an 87 Tempo in Florida and she drove it to 42,000 miles without a single issue. Then unfortunately she could not safely drive it anymore.

    So I bought the Tempo for my daughter that was starting out on her own.
    My daughter drove it daily to work putting about 65 miles a day on it. That was on the rough & tumble salted Detroit freeway system.

    She drove it for several years and moved down south. The trusty Tempo followed. The only “out of the ordinary” repair was fixing the air conditioning leaks. (They all had leaking o-ring problems) Have to have air conditioning down south!

    Then one day the oil change shop installed the drain plug without a sealing washer. Over the next week or two the oil slowly leaked out. The motor ran low on oil, the engine started knocking, and the oil light came on. My daughter turned it off on the spot.

    The car was towed to the oil change shop. They re-changed the oil and said everything was fine. However, it was too run too long with little to no oil. The poor high mileage Tempo had a mild rod knock. The oil change shop would not take care of it claiming everything was fine. Due to the high miles and some rust it was not worth fixing. I told her to sell it with full disclosure and shop for another vehicle.

    So another Tempo success story.

  • avatar
    Chipper Carb

    Anyone remember the rims on these cars? They were squishy, always made me wonder why.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    Another really nice fin here MM. I agree, need to, whenever possible to get the odo readings, though Fords of this period did not get the 6th digit so hard to tell if the car had 99k, 199K or 299K, I know as I had the same year Ranger, though it had the Cologne 4.0L V6 in it.

    This one’s paint, like my truck would clean up nicely with a little claying, waxing, after giving it a good bath as the paint does NOT show much fading despite being bright red.

    If anything, this car has been well cared for much of its life and while the mechanicals may be on the crude side without any trace of refinement, they were long lasting and durable, the same can be said of the bodies and interiors.

    When I traded in my truck at 237K nearly a few weeks ago, the interior still looked really good. The carpeting had some minor staining, the driver’s seat was sloping badly towards the door and also towards the seat back from lots of butt time over the years and the seatback adjuster was stripped out, the headliner had some minor staining, probably due to a previous smoker at some point. Otherwise, no cracks, tears or ANYTHING else that I could see. I don’t know how the upholstery on the seats were since good friends whom I bought the truck from covered the seat with an aftermarket seat cover.

    The paint (including the matching canopy) still looked very good for a nearly 20 YO truck so it’s possible many Fords with decent maintenance and care all around will maintain their looks for years.

    That said, I wonder if the car got sold later in life to its last owner and they didn’t know enough to keep oil in it or something like that (and it may well have lots of miles on it too) before succumbing to old age/mechanical failure.

    As to the bordello red interior, my youngest sister (5 years older than me) and her husband bought a brand new ’86 Tempo (before the 1988 redesign of this car) had gotten it in white with the same red interior. I remember riding in it at least once after they moved back out here from NY and realized even then (1989 or so) that the car looked DATED already. Ford in the mid 80′s on this car anyway went with the wide door frames and smaller windows, which then gave the interior a closed in feeling. And that was just for starters, the seats, while cloth were hard and stiff feeling and there was NO ounce of refinement ANYWHERE inside as the whole interior felt cheap and dated for a car that was not all that old at the time.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Of the exterior trim, the items which aged the quickest, and probably should have been one of the items to age slowest, were the headlamps … the Lexan covers would (and this was not unique to the Tempo or to Ford) slowly fog and craze due to the sun… (at night, the beams are muted and no longer focussed.)

      • 0 avatar
        Jeff Semenak

        I replaced my covers after a crash (deer) and, they were significantly brighter. The 3.0 made it surprisingly quick (94LX). Auto trans. was 3-speed no overdrive. I drove it from Mich. to Phoenix in 2008 loaded down. Great dependable car. No one wanted to steal it either. lol

  • avatar
    Jimal

    The Tempo/Topaz, along with the Corsica/Beretta and the Spirit/Acclaim were in my eyes the Triumvirate of Wallflower cars. Inoffensive, they were everywhere but were utterly unforgettable.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Post of the week.

    • 0 avatar
      56BelAire

      “unforgettable”………..or forgettable?

      My daughter had a 90something Topaz while in college, I can’t remember what ever happened to that car. I think she may have traded it in when she bought her new 99 Mustang.

      • 0 avatar
        FordTempoEnthusiast

        Unforgettable. The finest car of the 1980s, and one of Ford’s greatest achievements. They just can’t be fully appreciated by shortsighted Americans. The same Americans who gave us George W. Bush (twice), the SUV, and the housing crisis.

        The Tempo, then, is a car only thoughtful people can appreciate.

      • 0 avatar
        Jimal

        “Forgettable” was what I was going for. I’m going to blame my iPad for that one only because it can’t rat me out I. Reply.

  • avatar
    SVT48

    I had one of these for my kids to drive all during high school. It survived until the automatic transmission died (wouldn’t shift out of first) and at a cost of $900-1200 for even a used one, it was more cost effective to replace with an Escort Sport 5-speed (mostly spoiler, trim & wheels) for $13k. That car soldered on for ten years with nothing but minor issues. The Escort was the true philosophical replacement as it was also anonymous (even is “sport” trim) and designed for people who thought of cars as appliances. The Contour was a much better and more involving car all the way around. The Contour SVT may have been one of the best American-made cars for the money ever. (Disclamer: I owned two)

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    I owned an ’87 Tempo GL Sport coupe. Yup, they had a “sport” version for a couple of years which was laughable. You got 2 more HP from changes to the exhaust. The exterior redesign was distinctly more Euro, free of the chrome bumpers of the 80′s and a bit of a look ahead to the future of cars (at that time). I even had the rear decklid luggage rack.

    Only had it 17 months – got rear ended so hard that the trunk was pushed to the backseat and I was sent flying forward a good 100 feet over a curb and into a phone pole. I walked away. That was an accomplishment in 1988. The car was dead.

    It was a mediocre bread and butter sedan but Ford sold a ton of them, and they were pretty reliable in the scheme of the big picture (certainly more reliable than equivalent GM or Chrysler iron of the time).

    The 1988 redesign was a serious flop in my opinion – way to conservative and became dated within just 12 to 18 months of release. I think by 1990 or 1991 Ford really didn’t give a crap about the Tempo anymore.

    • 0 avatar
      tonyola

      The early Tempo and Topaz could also be had with the Michelin TRX wheel/tire package. It turned the cars into decent handlers, but it also locked you into buying the pricey Michelin tires – no other tires would fit the alloy wheels.

    • 0 avatar
      moore101

      I also had a 87 2 door Tempo GL “sport” 5-speed. Great little car, it replaced an 86 Escort wagon that was a carb’d and vac line mess that never ran right.

      I bought the Tempo from a junkyard with a salvage title for $500 back in 1998, other than a leak in the trunk which I fixed it had no major issues and it looked good. Put 100k of trouble free miles for a total of 180k. It did have a strange vibration at 60-70 but that was a easy problem to solve, just go faster!

  • avatar
    chevysrock39

    This car strikes fear straight into my heart! I don’t think I have ever seen a slower accelerating vehicle in my life, 4 banger + 3 speed auto = ~19.5 second 1/4 mile times. A car exactly like this one has been terrorizing us up at the Infineon Raceway Bracket Drags for about 15 years now. Dang thing always runs bang on the number.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      How can slow acceleration possibly put fear in to your heart?

      The slow deceleration of the Tempo is what you really should be worried about. Mine just couldn’t brake as well as my dad’s Honda Accord. Compared to the Accord, my Tempo’s driving feel was remarkably similar to how it must feel to drive an armored car — but without the benefits of having armor. It just accelerated, steered, and braked like a heavy car, despite being relatively light.

      If you’re worried that the guy in the Tempo in front of you isn’t accelerating quickly enough, the solution is easy — remove your right foot from the accelerator and start your quest for enlightenment. It’s your fault if you rear-end something this way. The Tempo’s engine is more than adequate for keeping up with highway traffic — the driver does need to think and plan ahead a little bit, but people should be thinking ahead regardless of what they drive. Slamming on the gas and figuring out what you’re going to do when you run up on people’s bumpers and then trying to figure out what you’re going to do is a recipe for disaster, now matter how much power you have to pass them when you get there.

      • 0 avatar
        Jeff Semenak

        He was referring to bracket racing where, you post the number in seconds, you think your car will run in a 1/4 mile. If you are faster than your time, you (break out) and lose. Otherwise, the winner of the 2 cars racing, is the one closest to the time they post; NOT by who crosses finish line first. Consistency is key.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        Jeff nails it. And slower cars are much easier to get consistent runs out of then fast ones.

    • 0 avatar
      Diesel Fuel Only

      This was our Drivers’ Ed car in H.S. Gold with a beige interior, everything the same color of beige. EVERYTHING.

      Seats were rubbish and the thing couldn’t get out of its way if it tried. Forget about putting a passenger in it and going up a hill.

      A contemporary Golf would have had better interior room, better seats, better handling, more pep, better MPG, etc.

  • avatar
    CougarXR7

    I had this car’s cousin- an ’85 Mercury Topaz GS. It was a hand-me-down from my dad after the transmission died. I fixed the tranny ( thanks to a generous donation from my grandma ) and drove it for several years before the engine mysteriously spun a rod bearing.

    During my ownership I sportified it a bit by blacking out the aluminum window trim and installling 15″ alloy wheels from a junked Escort GT.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Compared to J-Cars or the horrid X-Body GM these were quite OK. I knew a few people who owned them. Old school OHV 2.3 with a timing chain was fairly reliable. The best of the Tempo/Topaz are the AWD version and the loaded version with the 3.0 duratec out of the Taurus. Earlier versions even offered the 2.0 Mazda diesel.

    As far as the bordello red interior goes. I have the same color in my T-Bird and it looks good against the black finish it is a quality cloth and has held up very well.

    • 0 avatar
      otaku

      I’m pretty sure the V-6 option was the 12-valve 140hp Vulcan motor from the original Taurus. I don’t think the 24-valve 200hp Duratec was available on the Taurus until around the mid-nineties.

      The bordello red interior on this thing reminds me a lot of my first car, a black 1986 Thunderbird Turbo Coupe with ridiculously comfortable red velour power seats and a three speed auto on the floor. With rear wheel drive, that thing could be quite a handfull during New England winters and you had to be devoutly religious when it came to oil changes, but I really miss it.

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        You are correct it was the 3.0 Vulcan from the original Taurus. 140 hp vs the HO 2.3 was a mear 100. A decent motor which did live long and prosper in the Taurus/Sable. Too bad the Tempo/Topaz only got it near the end of it’s model run.

        One thing about these the bodies seemed to hold up fairly well. It’s rare you see one with rot.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        The 3.0L Vulcan V6 found its way into the Ford Probe LX from 1990 to 1992.

  • avatar
    RJPSCA

    I had an 86 Tempo that I inherited from my mom. It was a base GL 2 door in the light gray color. The car was a 5 speed with no air. The car was thoroughly unenjoyable to drive, but dead reliable. I drove the car 71 miles a day to and from school/work. It never failed me. At 195000 miles, I gave it to my sister who put another 40k miles on it, sold it to a neighbor who drove it out to 275000. When the car was sold to the neighbor, it was still on its original clutch and other than O2 sensors being replaced yearly and normal maintenance, the car never let us down. On the other hand, it was the car we constantly wanted to get rid of but could never justify it as it ran well and got 37.5 mpg on the highway. If the seats were just a bit better would have enjoyed the car.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Fuel pump.. Civic, Corolla seller.

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    The ultimate “car as an appliance”. It certainly is styled with about as much flair as the typical washing machine, refrigerator, or microwave oven. Still it fills the need of a large number of people who don’t care much about car, simply needs one to get around.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Overlooked & superior choice from Ford of the day. The B platform Escort with Mazda motor and 4-sp auto.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I actually like the all red everywhere on this, Tempos weren’t all that bad as much as okay.

    As far as being appliance, well isn’t that what all cars are in the end?

  • avatar
    Luke42

    I owned a 1989 Ford Tempo during my college days.

    I’m really surprised to hear such positive comments. Mine was a piece of shit.

    I bought it in 1998 with 89600 miles on it, and it was hands-down the worst car I ever owned, and I’m still telling stories about it. I was very proud of the fact that I kept it running through sheer force of will and a rapidly-improving mechanical aptitude.

    After failures of brakes, the alternator, exhaust system leaks, and the A/C, I finally sold it when the following conditions were met:

    1. My female friends refused to ride in it. They generally cited the carbon monoxide detector that I had taped to the dashboard as “not reassuring”, and didn’t really appreciate my counter-argument that the fact it wasn’t going off was very reassuring.

    2. I had to call the fire department on it in the parking lot of a commercial airport. The rear rear brake shoe seized, which co-occurred with a seizure of the long-dead A/C compressor during the last few minutes of my trip to the airport — and both of these made a lot of smoke. It was 3 hours from my house. I drove around town with no alternator for a couple of hours waving my credit card around, obviously far from home, trying to get a mechanic to do something to it (at any price), and none of them would touch it — except for one Mexican dude who told me I could probably get it home on just the battery if I continued to be careful about the electrical loads. 3 hours later, he was proven right.

    3. Binding throttle cable. More stuck gas pedals in this one car than the entire Toyota lineup over the last 10 years.

    These three things happened in just a couple of months, which finally convinced me to buy something else. I ended up with a heavily-used Ranger, which had plenty of faulty operation — but was at the end of its rapid depreciation. (The Ranger’s low cost, repairability, and basically bulletproof engine, made it a great vehicle for me.)

    Oh, and you were supposed to use an engine hoist to change the serpentine belt. WTF!

    That was just the beginning of the Tempo stories. Busted fuel pump (had to be towed 100 miles to somewhere where I could work on it), brakes that were incorrectly replaced by a professional mechanic, broken A/C, busted intermittent windshield wipers, lousy suspension, crappy manual transmission, busted exhaust — it all happened.

    I owned the car for about 5 years and 60k miles.

    The car did have a few redeeming qualities, though. A guy I knew was t-boned by a tractor trailer in one on the Interstate (basically an Earnhardt pass by the truck) and rolled 7-8 times and walked away uninjured. Also, the engine block in mine did survive a lot of abuse. Turns out the water pump isn’t on the serpentine belt (it has its own dedicated belt), so it survived my beltless drive home. Also, it leaked out enough oil at one that the oil-light came on, and the engine ran like normal when I put more oil in it. I also did a lot of offroading in it (more than most SUVs experience in a lifetime), and the engine survived fording a stream where the water came over the front bumper and washed through the radiator, and the car didn’t seem the worse for the wear.

    Some parts of the car were “built Ford tough”, but it wasn’t enough to make it worth driving at the “high mileage” at a mere 150k miles. This was in an era where my dad’s 1991 Honda Accord ticked over 200k miles without cracking a sweat — and I had all of this trouble with half of the mileage.

    All in all, I’m glad I lived through the Tempo. It was a lousy car to own, a lousy car to drive, but it makes great stories now.

    P.S. I looked up the old Tempo Carfax, and it’s still registered. It’s covered around 10k miles in the 9 years since I owned it, but someone has bothered to keep paying the registration on it and has presumably had the courage required to drive it occasionally, which is something that I must admire.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @Luke42: I too, had a crappy one. I should explain, I come from a Ford loving family, owned lots of them and this one makes me think twice about owning any Ford ever again. I hate to dump on FordTempoEntusiast’s parade, but maybe mine was a “Monday” car so to speak. I’ve read numerous times about folks having very good experiences with this car. Mine was far from it.

      The 1990 Topaz (actually) was the last car my mother bought with my advice, and unfortunately for me, the car was nothing but trouble. For a 70 year old woman who drove less than 8,000 miles per year to have so much trouble with a car was incomprehensible. She replaced the brakes, tie rod ends, struts and tires repeatedly in the 6 years she owned it. When she got a new Honda in 1995, she offered the car to all of us “kids”. That all of my other siblings refused the car should have told me something. At the time, I was living four states away, so I wasn’t totally aware of the myriad problems she had with the car.

      I drove it back to Atlanta where we were living in 1995. I gave the car to my wife to drive as it had working A/C. Well, for about three more weeks after that. It was about then I got on the Fix Or Repair Daily treadmill; the list of things that went wrong with the car were too numerous to mention here.

      In 1998, we moved to Michigan, I drove the car up I-75 loaded with the possessions I would need to live until I found a new home. The car was a gutless wonder crawling up the Tennessee mountains, returning poor fuel mileage, too.

      Fast forward to 2001, I finally had enough of the constant repairs and unexpected failures of this car. I listed the car in the Penny Trader with all of it’s faults; and a price of $300. Three people stopped to look at it. Two of the three tried to talk me down to less than $300, finally, this Mexican guy bought the car for the asking price.

      He was as happy as a bug driving away in it. I’m not 100% sure he understood all that was wrong with the car. Of course, with him asking his 9 year-old daughter to translate, that probably didn’t help.

      I haven’t been so happy to see a car leave my driveway as I was with that one. 11 years later, the oil stain in the driveway left from that car is FINALLY fading away…

      • 0 avatar
        Moparman426W

        Dude, the mountains in Tennessee are rough, even a fairly powerful machine will labor somewhat going through them.

        • 0 avatar
          Luke42

          I learned to drive on the other side of the Appalachains. Same conditions.

          Driving cars like the Tempo taught me that thinking ahead and energy management is more important than power.

          Sometimes it seems like an entire generation of drivers has managed to avoid learning energy management by having reality powerful engines and great brakes in their cars….

          Figuring out how to teach my son the same mental model for driving that I use, without subjecting him to an unsafe under engineered car from the 80s is a puzzle that I need to figure out some time between now and when he gets his learner’s permit in 2025…. :-)

          • 0 avatar
            sean151

            The way I was taught was my dad, horrified and scared as my first car was an ’86 Celica (I was kind of an aggressive driver in my youth), declared that only simpletons needed to use their brakes during normal freeway driving. It was kind of fun the Yin & Yang of getting up to a good speed, while at the same time controlling decelleration with the engine was like a cool puzzle, but I didn’t put it into practice until I had to replace my brakes (and the clutch) the first time, thats when there was true value associated with conservation of energy….. I also seem to remember that the whole mass x velocity thing re-explained to me while I was driving helped with taking other drivers needs into account while driving.

  • avatar
    lilpoindexter

    I wrecked my 5.0 mustang in the snow when I moved to Michigan in 1997…so began the search for a decent winter beater.
    I found a $500 1987 Tempo GLS / 5 speed in the Detroit Free Press. It had a pretty sporty grey interior, with red piping, with some damn fine seats. I redid the brakes on mine with an ASE Master Mechanic friend, and I was pretty amazed at how well it stopped. The old school ohv 2.3 actually felt decent with the five speed and the two door architecture…As a goof I drove it to downtown detroit once, and left the doors unlocked…It didn’t get ripped off, nor did any of the crackheads even bother to rummage through the interior.
    I replaced the fuel pump once in the apartment parking lot in 36 F weather in a t-shirt…At some point the single fuel injector got goofy, and the car would be hard to start, and would bog at stop lights…so I sold it to the same ASE mechanic friend for $1
    Considering how cheap the car was, I think it was a great deal.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff Semenak

      I drove mine in rural Mid-Mich in winter with 4 snows on it. Handled darn well. My mechanic did the brakes and didn’t realize it was the 3.0. Said he was quite impressed with the acceleration.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      I owned one of those – back in 1987.

      Mine was dark blue and gray two-tone, with the gray interior. The seats in the GL Sport were upgraded from the GL and LX and were actually darn comfortable.

  • avatar
    jeffzekas

    The bought these as “bureaucrat cars” under the “lowest bidder” policy. Cheap, boring, good for 100K miles.

  • avatar
    geo

    The worst thing about the Tempo is that you could either get a lemon that was constantly in the shop, or a reliable, bulletproof machine.

    My father-in-law knows a couple that bought new matching Tempos, serviced both at the same place, had similar driving habits. One was crap, while the other was great.

    As I’ve mentioned here before, I know a number of people who managed over 350,000 kilometers (one well over 400,000) with no significant problems. Of course, others haven’t been so lucky. I remember my dad’s friend lamenting his 1985 Tempo purchase. Others complained about having to fix or replace almost all of their Tempo’s parts since they bought it. The Lemon-Aid car guide used to have a picture of a protester standing in front of a Ford dealership with a sign that said “I lost my job because I can’t get to work, because my new Ford Tempo is JUNK!”

    It would make sense to me that the design of the Tempo was just fine, but the build quality was wildly inconsistent.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    As usual, Car and Driver summed up the Tempo in the title of their review:

    “Automotive quiche for a bacon and eggs America”

    My dislike for the Tempo was pretty much the same reason as all Fords of the time: motorized mouse belts. Ford, alone, used those damn things as part of the ‘passive restraint’ edict. GM got around it by having the seatbelt mechanism in the door, ostensively designed for the driver to slide in behind the belt. Of course, no one did – they just unhooked the seatbelt like normal.

    I don’t remember how Chrysler addressed the problem.

    • 0 avatar
      hifi

      I believe that the Toyota Cressida started the motorized seatbelt nonsense. Honda and Nissan also offered it. Not just Ford and GM.

    • 0 avatar
      Rob Finfrock

      Chrysler jumped on the airbag bandwagon to get around the passive restraint requirements. By 1989, I think the only non-import Chrysler vehicles without a driver-side airbag were the trucks and minivans, which were still exempt at the time.

      To meet stricter U.S. requirements for 1994, the Spirit/Acclaim (and I think the Shadow/Sundance as well) came with a motorized front passenger shoulder belt to go with the driver airbag.

    • 0 avatar
      FromaBuick6

      People moaned about the motorized belts, but they at least accomplished the task they were intended for. The door-mounted GM belts did not and actually managed to be less safe than traditional three-point belts; the door frame is nowhere near as strong as the B-pillar and then there’s the risk of falling out the vehicle if the door pops open. Brilliant. Of course, Honda also briefly used the design on some two doors, too.

      Chrysler’s airbag push was vintage Iacocca. For ’89, all Chrysler passenger cars had a driver’s airbag as standard equipment, years before Honda, Toyota and most GM cars would offer one at all. Advertising played this up to great effect – Lido’s revenge for the failed Ford Lifeguard safety campaign from the mid-’50s.

      Oddly enough, the Ford Tempo was domestic sedan to offer an airbag (the ’70s GM experiments notwithstanding) in 1985. I don’t think it ever became standard equipment.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      My mom’s Plymouth Sundance had motorized belts, too. I can’t remember if it lose one the ones that had the motorized belt nfor the passenger, and an airbav for the driver, though. That was a common configuration at the time.

      My dad had a 1991 Honda Accord with automatic belts.

      The automatic seatbelt the result of improved safety regulations meeting those who were too cheap to put in a proper airbag.

      Modern cars have far better crash-engineering that these relics of the 1990s. It’s less visible and more substantial, though, in large part due to computer aided engineering and supercomputer simulations that let engineers make the sheet metal do exactly what it needs to do. Which seems like a win all around!

  • avatar
    hifi

    Sometime around 90 or 91 I had one of these for about three weeks while my jeep was being repaired after being rear ended. I actually really enjoyed it a lot. It was decent looking, comfortable and for it’s day, it wasn’t a bad car at all. I look back on it as being a good inexpensive car, much more comfortable and quiet than the Corolla or Sentra for about the same price. I totally understand why they sold so well.

  • avatar
    FordTempoEnthusiast

    First off, I would kill to have Tempo’s be common in junkyards where I have lived. In Alaska, there literally are no T/Ts in any junk yards, period. Not in the whole state. The largest yard in the state is in Anchorage, and they say they haven’t had one in in years.

    Here in Oregon, the most I’ve seen is five in one yard. I’ve been to every one within a 300 mile radius. Most just don’t have any, some just have 1-3 at any one time.

  • avatar
    Steve-O

    These cars were popular because of the great value they were. I seem to remember them being just a bit more espensive than an Escort at the time…

    In college (1990) I picked up an 80k mile 1984 Tempo with the ‘TRX Handling Package’, which came with some pretty cool looking EXP Turbo wheels. The thing actually handled pretty well! The HSC 2.0 was a dog, but at least it sipped gas (and had a “shift” light to remind you when to shift for better mpg). She was trouble free for the 3 years I had it, and when I graduated from school I sold it (at 120k miles) to a woman in my neighborhood. She drove it for another couple of years until the inevitable Upstate NY rust-belt cancer took hold. I have fond memories of that car simply because didnt cost me much up front, didnt fail me, and handled the winters like a champ. Not bad for a college car.

  • avatar
    Diesel Fuel Only

    I can’t believe that the speedo marks 80. Bit optimistic I’d say.

    • 0 avatar
      FordTempoEnthusiast

      I drove from Alaska to Oregon in my ’89 (equipped with the 100HP 2.3L HSO) and it did 80MPH without breaking a sweat. According to TomTom, it managed 90MPH too. Had that needle planted all the way to the bottom of the cluster. Four months later and its no worse off for the torment, and it still rocks I5 to Portland comfortably at 75-80.

  • avatar
    skor

    I bought a new 88 Tempo after I graduated college….the first new car I ever bought. I needed reliable transportation to get me to my first real job and I didn’t have a lot of money. It was a black two door stripper with no AC. It was the dealer’s “bait and switch”….they advertised this thing for a super low price and people would take one look at it and refuse because it was black and didn’t have AC…..everyone refused until I walked on the lot. I got out the door for $8,100.

    I drove it for 85K miles until I loaned it to my father who wrecked it. It was fairly reliable. In all the time I had it, it need an ignition module (replaced under warranty), a fuel pump and one of the axles needed to be replaced.

    The car didn’t do anything very well, but neither did it do anything very badly. It was the perfect rental car.

  • avatar
    PJ McCombs

    A buddy in high school drove one of these–a blue ’88 sedan, with the four-cylinder and 3AT. Compared to the ’84 Cavalier I drove at the time (both our parents’ previous-decade daily drivers), I remember the Tempo had nicer, firmer steering, a lurchier trans and surprisingly poor visibility for an ’80s car (high cowl, thick pillars). Both must have been built on a good day, because they were also dead reliable.

    • 0 avatar
      FordTempoEnthusiast

      On the subject of visibility, I think its interesting you bring it up. Compared to any new car on the market, I am sure the Tempo has better visibility. On the flipside I imagine it isn’t as easy to see out of as its contemporaries. On the same token, I think it has a more sophisticated and modern look because of it. The thicker pillars, higher beltline, and smaller greenhouse contribute to it. It gives it more presence than the dopey looking J-bodies and Malaise-styled K-cars.

      • 0 avatar
        sean151

        Hope this doesn’t bother you, but my ’92 Ford Tempo V6 with ~197,000 miles has started to have Transmission Problems, is this normal or do you know of any adjustments that can be made, the gas peddle feels funny as well, like it will not go down all the way…. It’s too late and cold to be working on it so I am researching it right now…. Let me know if you have any ideas you would be willing to share…

        • 0 avatar
          Luke42

          Your gas pedal sounds like my binding throttle cable.

          It was cheap to replace, and I waited far too long to get it replaced – due to a combination of of youthful poverty and youthful inexperience. If I had to do it over again, I’d replace the throttle cable at the first sign of trouble.

          As for the transmission, just removing the transmission from the car and opening it is most of the cost of a rebuild, so the me that would actually drive a Tempo would drive it until it left me stranded and then get it towed to a transmission shop for the rebuild. Fresh transmission fluid can fix a lot of problems with an automatic transmission, but I’ve heard that the process of changing it can sometimes turn hidden problems into visible problems. If it were me, I’d change the fluid regularly and let the chips fall where they may – but I don’t know how much a $1500 transmission rebuild would hurt in you’re situation.

          • 0 avatar
            sean151

            Thats what I am gonna try and I will let you know if it works (fingers crossed)…. Checking out the instructions and the pictures in the book right now….

          • 0 avatar
            Luke42

            If you’re DIYing, it might be worth cleaning the throttle body.

            In my case, the throttle cable started binding and then broke (and it felt the same way when it happened on a bike shifter), so it was clear that the problem was the cable. But, I’ve heard that a gummed up throttle body can cause the gas pedal to move “wrong” in some cases.

            My old Tempo actually did do what I bought it to do, which is saying something!

  • avatar
    406driver

    These were standard rental car fodder when I travelled around the US quite often in the late 80s. They did the job but I would have much preferred a Chevy Cavalier or Pontiac Grand Am with their tider road holding and tighter “feel”.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    An ’89 Tempo was my first car. All I remember of it was that it stalled at most every stop sign/light. To be fair, I can’t remember if that was always the case or only after I overheated it. Aside from that, I didn’t even remember what it looked like (inside or out) until I saw this post. The car was finally put out of its misery when what should have been a minor “fender bender” caved in the nose and radiator. Oh well. No one was injured and insurance paid more than I bought the car for.

  • avatar
    jellybean

    Yes, the mighty Tempo (and Topaz). I never had one, but I thought they were cute, in a sad kind of way. I rented one once (who hasn’t) and it was brand new, I was it’s first. It was powder blue, second gen. The dash switches felt soooo cheap. I always thought the 1st gen was ugly/goofy looking. The refresh of the 1st gen Topaz was cool/tacky, with a big swath of chromed plastic as a faux grill. The one good thing, it was available in a 2 door. The restyle was fine, it didn’t look as dorky. I remember a Steve Martin movie where the female lead character had rented one, she referred to it as “that beige thing”.

    • 0 avatar
      Moparman426W

      I agree, I think the 2nd gen looked alot better. I especially hated the looks of the 1st gen in white, nothing looked more like an upside down bathtub. They must have made some changes to the rear suspension on the 2nd gen, because the rear tires on those didn’t seem to kick out at the bottom like on the earlier models. Most of the earlier models looked like they were getting ready to squat & take a dump.

  • avatar
    acuraandy

    How come you always post Junkyard Find cars I have personal stories about? lol

    It was circa 2000, my friend had a Tempo exactly like this in Forest Lake, MN with an Interceptor-style brushguard, a 6ft CB whip on the trunk lid and what we called a ‘whoop-d-light’ amber teardrop revolving Beverly Hills Cop-style light above the drivers’ door on the roof.

    This particular Tempo (I think it was a 1992) also had a cracked windshield. We got pulled over when he decided to hit the whoop-d-light in the middle of town.

    The ‘Forest Lake’s finest’ that pulled us over said, since the amber ‘emergency’ light was technically legal, ‘Well, it seems the light on your roof drew my attention to your cracked-in-half windshield’.

    He let us go. To this day, I still laugh thinking about it…

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    Although this era Tempo is certainly ugly, IMO it was much better looking than the first generation mid-eighties model . My manager had one , I believe an ’85 Tempo sedan in the exact same red/red color scheme. He disliked it , bought it after his wife totalled their Accord after (according to him) she let the insurance on it lapse. Then with credit problems they had and the sky-high early Reagan era interest rates they couldn’t get financing so they leased the Tempo. I rode in it a few times, thought it had a really cut-rate looking interior . The first generation Tempos (Tempoes?) had ugly , bulbous and wide roof pillars . The six-window, pseudo-Taurus styling of the second- generation, uninspired though it was, improved the looks .

  • avatar

    The best thing about the Tempo is that the fuel injected HSC 4cyl motor had a throttle body unit that can be used to convert pretty much any small motor to EFI. The HSC was based on the old Falco/Mustang six with integral log manifold. The throttle body is a 1bbl unit that will bolt to just about any old 1bbl carb manifold. I think its a 1 3/4″ bore with about 2″ between the 2 mounting bolt holes. You are on your own as far as rigging up a computer to run it though.

  • avatar
    donutguy

    Bought one of these new in 88.

    Drove it trouble free for 12 years and pretty much hated every minute of it.

  • avatar
    MissMay

    My beige 1992 Ford Tempo GL has less than 75k miles on it. It runs great and the body is in excellent condition; the only things I have had trouble with are the seat belt motor on the driver’s side and both window motors on the passenger side. I replaced the front one but have let the back window remain shut. The seat belt release also does not work on either side, which can be a pain in the ass, but I deal with it. I have no idea what kind of work was done on the car before I became its owner. Yes, the car is boring, but I only need to get from A to B. I’ve been told these things are real p.o.s. so I’m trying to stay up to date on the car’s maintenance. Really, I just worry about the transmission. I noticed as soon as I got it that it shifts hard, especially for an automatic. Some people have said “Oh, it could just be a hard shifter!” I can deal with that, so long as the transmission isn’t stressed. Then, other people say I should have the “bands in my transmission tightened”? I honestly don’t know anything about transmissions with bands. I guess the best thing I can do is research


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