Rare Rides: The 1989 Ford Tempo - Luxurious and All-wheel Drive

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides the 1989 ford tempo luxurious and all wheel drive

Today’s Rare Ride is an example of a vehicle that was fairly common in the early Nineties. However, the passage of time is never kind to low-value and oft-forgotten economy cars, so survivors like this little blue Tempo are quite a find.

The Ford Tempo and its vaguely differentiated brother, the Mercury Topaz, were all-new compact offerings for 1984. The front-drive two- and four-door sedans replaced the dated looking rear-drive Ford Fairmont and Mercury Zephyr twins. Though Tempo and Topaz rode on the Ford Escort’s platform, they occupied the next size class up; their wheelbase was 5.5 inches greater than Escort, and overall they were seven inches longer. Both cars challenged the other new American compact on the market, the Chevrolet Cavalier. Ford was a bit slow in its development, so GM had a two-year head start with its entry.

The first-generation Tempo offerings lasted three model years, replaced by a thoroughly updated second gen in 1988. For its final year, the first-generation Tempo/Topaz added an all-wheel drive trim. Available on both two- and four-door models, it was the only year all-wheel drive was available on the two-door. Ford favored its better selling four-door Tempo and Topaz, so they received a major overhaul while the two-doors soldiered on with a facelift. The Topaz received a more formal and upright roof than Tempo, and adopted other exterior styling to match the Sable.

All models saw revised engine and transmission offerings for the second generation, and in 1992 the 3.0-liter Vulcan V6 entered the lineup. The other engine used was Ford’s 2.3-liter I4 (no Mazda engine on the second gen), which was offered in two different versions depending on model year. Available transmissions were of three-speed auto or five-speed manual varieties. Those manual transmissions were Mazda-sourced.

Customers who sprung for the luxury Tempo LX or AWD received extra interior chrome and wood trim not found on other models. Sadly for Ford, the luxury appointments weren’t enough to make the Tempo AWD a big seller in the pre-Subaru and AWD crossover world. It lasted only through 1991, which was the final model year of the 1988 bodywork. Trim rework occurred for 1992 as all models swapped black trim for body colored, plus other small changes. Tempo and Topaz remained in production through 1994, as the One Ford plan saw them replaced by the Contour and Mystique.

A minor bone to pick with Ford’s marketing here: The all-wheel drive is not full-time, but rather selected via a switch on the overhead console. It should not be engaged on dry pavement either, which firmly places it in four-wheel drive nomenclature as far as I’m concerned. In any event, today’s Rare Ride is located in Montana and is very tidy (aside from some light hail damage). With an automatic transmission and seat belts, this Tempo asks $2,950.

[Images: seller]

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4 of 56 comments
  • David David on Apr 23, 2020

    No pic of the 4wd switch? That's the one thing that makes this car unique. Follow up pic please :D "The all-wheel drive is not full-time, but rather selected via a switch on the overhead console."

  • Pwrwrench Pwrwrench on Apr 24, 2020

    Did not know that Ford made a 4wd Tempo. Someone that worked at the same company as myself had a Tempo handed down from his parents. He was not mechanically inclined, but still tried to do repairs. Usually his father had to step in so he could drive to work. Eventually they were doing something to the electrical system that involved removing the battery. Apparently the battery did not get installed correctly as later there was a major short in the wiring which melted most of the harness. After some dithering the partly burnt Tempo was sold to a junk yard.

  • VoGhost So, it's a slow, expensive, cramped Plaid with less range?
  • Dukeisduke Why the hell doesn't Farley just resign? Why hasn't Bill Ford fired him? I lay all this at Farley's feet.
  • Dukeisduke I tried watching the livestream (I'm a MT+ subscriber), but after 15 minutes of jawing by the presenters, I got bored and turned it off. I may watch it this weekend, when I can fast forward through that stuff, to get to the reveal.
  • Dukeisduke Electric power steering, I assume. First-gen Chevy Cruzes can suffer from similar issues, usually traceable to a flaky battery negative cable, a $10 OEM part. Weird, huh?
  • Kwik_Shift Once 15 Minute Cities start to be rolled out, you won't be far enough away from home to worry about range anxiety.