Junkyard Find: 1989 Ford Tempo All Wheel Drive

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1989 ford tempo all wheel drive

Ford Tempos (and their Mercury Topaz siblings) were sold in such vast numbers during their 1984-1994 run that I encounter plenty of examples during my junkyard explorations. Normally, I wouldn’t bother photographing a discarded Tempo/Topaz, for the same reason I won’t photograph a Chrysler Cirrus or Kia Sephia, but there are two exceptions to my No Tempos rule: the diesel-engined cars and the all-wheel-drive cars.

Here’s an extremely rare example of the latter type, spotted in a Denver area self-service yard last week.

I have yet to find a diesel Tempo/Topaz in a wrecking yard, but this is my second junkyard AWD Tempo, after this ’87 sedan I photographed a couple of years ago. Other than the Taurus MT-5, the Tempo AWD is my rarest of all 1980s Ford Junkyard Finds.

The all-wheel-drive system in these cars wasn’t a true AWD rig (as the term is used today by marketers and tedious terminology hair-splitters in online automotive debates), since there was no center differential. If you ran your Tempo or Topaz in all-wheel-drive mode for long distances on dry pavement, you’d wear out the tires at the very least and maybe break something expensive.

This one is in very nice condition. Is it possible that it has a mere 18,050 miles on the clock, or is it just a well-cared-for 118,050-mile car?

You couldn’t get the AWD Tempo with a manual transmission, but these cars did come with a higher-output version of the HSC four-cylinder engine, which was, essentially, two-thirds of a 200-cubic-inch straight-six. In 1989, the HSO version of this engine made 100 horsepower.

One thing about living in Denver is that I’m likely to find junkyard examples of most low-production-figure four-wheel-drive vehicles here, from the Camry All-Trac to the Stanza 4WD Wagon to today’s Tempo.

A more sophisticated way to express your driving ambition.

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  • AK2AR427 AK2AR427 on Nov 21, 2017

    I bought a mint condition sky blue 1990 Tempo in Anchorage for $500 about 10 years ago. Only flaw was seized up door locks so I kept valuables in the trunk. It was a comfortable car and unstoppable in the snow. The "HSO" 2.3 didn't make a lot of power and the 3-speed auto didn't help, but the gas mileage was excellent. It was fun to toss into an icy corner; use the handbrake to rotate the car and engage AWD mid-slide to power out. I miss the car and would pay twice as much to have it back.

  • Steve L Steve L on Jan 06, 2018

    I owned an '89 AWD Tempo for a couple of years. Overall, I liked the Topaz/Tempo cars and owned four of them. The All Wheel Drive car was the only one that I din't like. It was prone to wearing out the universal joints on the rear axles. That was the problem; universal joints instead of CV joints. I eventually removed the rear axles and ran it as a front wheel drive car. I didn't think that it ran in snow any better than the front wheel drive Tempos, either. All of my other Topaz/Tempos were good cars. The four cylinder engines were very reliable and they ran thru snow nicely. I traded my AWD Tempo for a plain jane '89 Taurus, which I loved.

  • Bobby D'Oppo Great sound and smooth power delivery in a heavier RWD or AWD vehicle is a nice blend, but current V8 pickup trucks deliver an unsophisticated driving experience. I think a modern full-size pickup could be very well suited to a manual transmission.In reality, old school, revvy atmo engines pair best with manual transmissions because it's so rewarding to keep them in the power band on a winding road. Modern turbo engines have flattened the torque curve and often make changing gears feel more like a chore.
  • Chuck Norton For those worried about a complex power train-What vehicle doesn't have one? I drive a twin turbo F-150 (3.5) Talk about complexity.. It seems reliability based on the number of F-150s sold is a non-issue. As with many other makes/models. I mean how many operations are handle by micro processors...in today's vehicles?
  • Ravenuer The Long Island Expressway.
  • Kwik_Shift A nice stretch of fairly remote road that would be great for test driving a car's potential, rally style, is Flinton Road off of Highway 41 in Ontario. Twists/turns/dips/rises. Just hope a deer doesn't jump out at you. Also Highway 60 through Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario. Great scenery with lots of hills.
  • Saeed Hello, I need a series of other accessories from Lincoln. Do you have front window, front and rear lights, etc. from the 1972 and 1976 models