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.

  • Aidian Holder I'm not interested in buying anything from a company that deliberately targets all their production in crappy union-busting states. Ford decided to build their EV manufaturing in Tennessee. The company built it there because of an anti-union legal environment. I won't buy another Ford because of that. I've owned four Fords to date -- three of them pickups. I'm shopping for a new one. It won't be a Ford Lightning. If you care about your fellow workers, you won't buy one either.
  • Denis Jeep have other cars?!?
  • Darren Mertz In 2000, after reading the glowing reviews from c/d in 1998, I decided that was the car for me (yep, it took me 2 years to make up my mind). I found a 1999 with 24k on the clock at a local Volvo dealership. I think the salesman was more impressed with it than I was. It was everything I had hoped for. Comfortable, stylish, roomy, refined, efficient, flexible, ... I can't think of more superlatives right now but there are likely more. I had that car until just last year at this time. A red light runner t-boned me and my partner who was in the passenger seat. The cops estimate the other driver hit us at about 50 mph - on a city street. My partner wasn't visibly injured (when the seat air bag went off it shoved him out of the way of the intruding car) but his hip was rather tweaked. My car, though, was gone. I cried like a baby when they towed it away. I ruminated for months trying to decide how to replace it. Luckily, we had my 1998 SAAB 9000 as a spare car to use. I decided early on that there would be no new car considered. I loathe touch screens. I'm also not a fan of climate control. Months went by. I decided to keep looking for another B5 Passat. As the author wrote, the B5.5 just looked 'over done'. October this past year I found my Cinderella slipper - an early 2001. Same silver color. Same black leather interior. Same 1.8T engine. Same 5 speed manual transmission. I was happier than a pig in sh!t. But a little sad also. I had replaced my baby. But life goes on. I drive it every day to work which takes me over some rather twisty freeway ramps. I love the light snarel as I charge up some steep hills on my way home. So, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Passat guy.
  • Paul Mezhir As awful as the styling was on these cars, they were beautifully assembled and extremely well finished for the day. The doors closed solidly, the ride was extremely quiet and the absence of squeaks and rattles was commendable. As for styling? Everything's beautiful in it's own way.....except for the VI coupe....it's proportions were just odd: the passenger compartment and wheelbase seemed to be way too short, especially compared to the VI sedan. Even the short-lived Town Coupe had much better proportions. None of the fox-body Lincolns could compare to the beautiful proportions of the Mark V.....it was the epitome of long, low, sleek and elegant. The proportions were just about perfect from every angle.
  • ToolGuy Silhouetting yourself on a ridge like that is an excellent way to get yourself shot ( Skylining)."Don't you know there's a special military operation on?"