Ford Tempo

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Ford Tempo
1992-1994 Ford Tempo sedan
ManufacturerFord Motor Company
Also calledFord Topaz
AssemblyKansas City, Missouri, USA
Oakville, Ontario, Canada
PredecessorFord Fairmont
SuccessorFord Contour
LayoutFront engine, front-wheel drive / four-wheel drive
PlatformFord CE14 platform
DesignerJack Telnack
ManualsService Manual

The Ford Tempo is a two-door coupe and four-door sedan produced by the Ford Motor Company from 1984 to 1994. It was the successor to the Ford Fairmont, and was replaced in 1994 by the Ford Contour. The Tempo was part of a rejuvenation by Ford to offer more environmentally friendly, fuel efficient, and more modern styled models to compete with the imports, and its innovation and aerodynamic design later paved the way for the groundbreaking Ford Taurus.


The design and life of the Tempo began in the late 1970s as Ford was gearing to build towards a more ergonomic, more efficient, and more aerodynamic design philosophy. The new design philosophy rested in part due to aging vehicle platforms, and two oil embargoes which led to a rise in more fuel-efficient import vehicle sales. Taking note of this, Ford set out to revolutionize the automotive industry, and would later lay the groundwork for three revolutionary vehicles: The 1983 Thunderbird (and its counterpart the Mercury Cougar), the 1984 Tempo, and a car to be released in 1986, the Taurus. In December 1978, wind tunnel testing began on the Tempo, with more than 450 hours of testing resulting in more than 950 different design changes. As part of these changes, the Tempo and Mercury Topaz both featured a 60° windshield, matching that of the new Thunderbird and Cougar. Also new were the aircraft-inspired door frames, which originally appeared on the Thunderbird/Cougar. These door frames wrapped up over the edge of the roof, improved sealing, allowed for hidden drip rails, and cleaned up the A-pillar area of the car significantly. The rear track was also widened, creating more aerodynamic efficiency. The front grille was laid back more and the leading edge of the hood was tuned for aerodynamic cleanliness. Wheels were pushed out to the edges of the body, decreasing areas where air turbulence would be created. The rear of the cars were treated to just as many changes. The rear window was laid down at 60 degrees as well, and the trunk lid was raised higher than the side windows. This allowed the air to flow off the car more smoothly, and allowed for greater fuel efficiency. From the side view, this raised trunk created a wedge look to the car which was especially prominent on the two-door coupe versions. All of these changes created a Coefficient of drag of .36 for the 2-door car (.37 for the 4-door), which was equal to the Cd of the new "Aero" Ford Thunderbird. The final design of the cars was reached so that the car looked good on every trim level, not just the top-of-the-line as some of the competition had done. When the Tempo was released in 1983 as a 1984 model, it became an instant hit, with more than 107,000 two-door models and more than 295,000 four-door models being sold in the first year alone. Initial advertising featured a Tempo sedan performing a loop on a stunt track. The commercials touted the Tempo as being "America's all new aerodynamic sedan" and listed features such as "the world's most advanced automotive computer" that claimed to have the ability to monitor up to seven vital engine functions, and noted the interior to be roomier in the rear seat than a Mercedes-Benz 300D. Other ads featured the slogan "Pick up the Tempo of your life!"

First generation

First generation
1984-1985 Ford Tempo sedan
1984-1994 (Coupe)
Body style(s)2-door coupe
4-door sedan
Engine(s)2.0 L Mazda RF diesel I4
2.3 L HSC I4
2.3 L HSO I4
Transmission(s)4-speed IB4 manual
5-speed MTX-III manual
3-speed ATX/FLC automatic
Wheelbase99.9 in (2537 mm)
Length176.7 in (4488 mm)
Width68.3 in (1735 mm)
Height52.7 in (1339 mm)
RelatedFord Escort
Ford EXP
Mercury Lynx
Mercury Topaz
1986-1987 Ford Tempo sedan
1992-1994 Ford Tempo coupe

The first generation Tempo, released in 1983, was a stark contrast from the Fairmont that it replaced. Both the front windshield and rear window were set at 60° angles, with the trunk of the car being placed higher than the side windows to allow for greater fuel efficiency and air flow. On the Tempo, a rear quarter window was present while the Topaz received a more formal C-pillar arrangement minus the window. The front of the car featured a set of two sealed-beam halogen headlamps recessed in chrome "buckets" and the grille in between the headlights featured four horizontally thin rails each swept back to allow for greater air flow into the engine compartment and over the hood. The Tempo shared much of its design language with the European Ford Sierra, launched one year prior. Standard on the first generation Tempo was a new 2.3 L HSC inline four-cylinder gasoline engine with a one-barrel carburetor, with an optional Mazda-built four-cylinder diesel engine. Mated to either of these engines were the choice of a four-speed IB4 or five-speed MTX-III manual transmission (which was the standard, and only option for the diesel engine variant), or the standard 3-speed FLC automatic with a floor-mounted shift lever. The instrument panel featured a new, easier to read gauge layout, with all switches and controls placed within easy reach of the driver. In 1985, the Tempo became the first production sedan to feature a driver's side airbag.[1]

In 1986, the Tempo and the Topaz saw several moderate design changes which coincided with the release of the then-new and revolutionary 1986 Taurus. While generally the same car, the front and rear end styling was where the changes were most evident. The standard rectangular sealed-beam halogen headlamps were replaced with a new, plastic composite design which only required replacement of the bulb itself. These new headlights were flush-mounted to match the redesigned front corner lights and a freshly restyled grille, which also closely matched that of the Taurus (the Topaz received a pseudo-lightbar grille styled after the Sable). For the rear end, the trunk and taillights were slightly restyled, giving the car a sharper look. Replacing the carburetor on the 2.3 L four-cylinder engine was a new Central Fuel Injection (CFI) system (the carbureted version was still available in Canada until 1987). New was an optional "LX" luxury trim, and a sportier GLS, which was a performance-geared version featuring a performance-tuned HSO variant of the existing 2.3 L engine and a 5-speed MTX-III manual transmission. The GLS also featured a more defined ground effects package over the previous GLX offering. Other changes and improvements included the addition of automatically-retracting front seatbelt shoulder straps, and the addition of a new all-wheel drive model. The Tempo AWD included special badging, interior badges and (most notable) a three-inch-wide chrome strip running from front wheel to rear wheel, that read Tempo AWD (with 'All Wheel Drive' under the larger AWD writing).

Trim levels for the first generation Tempo are as follows:

  • L (entry level model)
  • GL (mid-level model)
  • LX (introduced in 1986 as the luxury model)
  • GLX (introduced in 1985 as the sport model)

From 1984 to 1985, there was also the Sport GL, which was more of a package for the GL then a separate trim level.

Second generation

Second generation
1989 Ford Tempo AWD
Body style(s)4-door sedan
Engine(s)2.3 L HSC I4
2.3 L HSO I4
3.0 L Vulcan V6
Transmission(s)5-speed MTX-III manual
5-speed MTX-IV manual
3-speed ATX/FLC automatic
Wheelbase99.9 in (2537 mm)
Length177.0 in (4496 mm)
Width68.3 in (1735 mm)
Height52.9 in (1344 mm)
Curb weight2723 lb (1235 kg)
RelatedFord Escort
Ford EXP
Mercury Topaz

The second generation Tempo, released in 1988, saw several major design changes which brought out an even more similar look to the Taurus (esp. the door handles - four door only). On the front end of the car, a completely restyled grille featured three thin horizontal chrome bands with a Ford oval in the center, with two stylish composite flush-mounted rectangular headlamps with restyled front turn signal housings on either side. On the Tempo GLS Sport (Sport came in late availability in 1989 as an option on the GLS), this chrome grill was replaced with a body color one available in white or black. For the rear, the taillights received a major rework on the four door model, and were now completely flush-mounted. A restyled rear quarter window was designed to match and blend evenly with the completely restyled rear door trim. The interior of both cars saw a brand new instrument panel design, with a central gauge cluster, and more ergonomic driver controls. Fan and windshield wiper controls were now mounted on rotary-style switches on either side of the instrument panel, and the heater controls received a new push-button control layout. Other changes included reworked interior door panels. On Tempo LX and AWD, the interior received chrome and wood trim on the dashboard and doors. In 1991 (the last year of the 1988 restyled look) saw the discontinuation of the all wheel drive model Tempo, as well as the now Canadian market exclusive entry level model Tempo L. 1992 saw a minor redesign. The Tempo lost all side chrome trim around the lower door panels and the windows, as well as the chrome trim on the front and rear bumpers. The three bar chrome grill was also replaced by a new, body colored monochromatic grill. In 1992 a new engine, a 3.0L V6, was introduced as optional on the GL and LX, and standard on the GLS 1992. 1992 would be the last year of the GLS, as it was discontinued (along with its Mercury Topaz counterparts) in 1993. This left Tempo with only two trim level options, GL and LX. In 1992 Ford tried to spice up the Tempo's model choices with the GL Premier Edition. The GL Premier Edition was only available in 1992, as it was phased out in 1993. 1994 was the last model year for the Ford Tempo (and Mercury Topaz). Production halted in the first quarter of 1994.

Trim levels for the second generation Ford Tempo are as follows:

  • L (entry level model, discontinued in 1991)
  • GL (mid-level model)
  • GL (premier edition 1992-1993 only)
  • AWD (advertised by Ford as a separate trim level, AWD was advertised as GL with LX options. Discontinued in 1991)
  • LX (luxury model, only available as a four door sedan)
  • GLS (replaced GLS as the performance oriented model, discontinued in 1992)

In 1992, Ford offered the Premier Edition GL Tempo. This model featured standard power door locks, windows, vinyl rear quarter roof, air conditioning, tilt steering wheel, Ford Premium Sound System, mud guards and trunk mounted luggage rack. It was priced above the base LX, making it the most luxurious Ford Tempo. Later, Ford would use the Premier Edition moniker on many Mercury division models as the high-end luxury trim levels.

End of production

In 1993, officials within Ford Motor Company began talking about killing off the Tempo. While highly innovative in its early years, and even though it was a strong seller for nearly its entire lifetime, by the early 1990s the Tempo and the Topaz were seen as an aging platform. It was also to be the last year for the 2.3 L HSC engine, which was built by Ford specifically for the Tempo (its replacement was the 2.0 L Zetec engine). Also, it was to be the last year for the FLC automatic transaxle, which had spent its entire production life with the Tempo and Topaz, and was then seen as being severely outdated as 5 speed automatic transmissions were being developed. With all of these factors, Ford pulled the plug on the Tempo, and in March 1994, the last one rolled off the assembly line. It was succeeded by the Contour, a derivative of the European Ford Mondeo. It came with a jump in price: the most expensive 1994 Tempo (a loaded LX sedan with a V6) was about US$12,900 ($16,500 in 2005 dollars), while an unoptioned base model 1995 Contour (GL with four-cylinder engine and manual transmission) was $13,990.


  • 2.0 L Mazda RF diesel I4, 52 hp (optional 1984-1986 GL)
  • 2.3 L HSC I4, 86 hp-98 hp (73 kW) and 125 ft·lbf (168 N·m) L/GL/LX
  • 2.3 L HSO I4, 100 hp (75 kW) and 135 ft·lbf (183 N·m) GLX/GLS/AWD (1985-91)
  • 3.0 L (2982 cc) Vulcan V6, 150 hp (97 kW) and 170 ft·lbf (203 N·m) (1992-1994 optional on GL and LX, standard on GLS, in 1994 was re-rated at 155 hp)

Sales numbers

The Ford Tempo was a massive sales success for Ford Motor Company, during the Tempo's entire production, it was in the top ten best selling cars, usually in the top five. In 1984, Ford sold a total of 531,468 Tempo and Topaz, nearly 100,000 more units then the best-selling Toyota Camry (2006) of today. Below is a list of total sales numbers of the Ford Tempo and Mercury Topaz sedan and coupe variations. Listings by year. Note: Production ended in the first quarter of 1994, and began in late 1983.

  • 1984: 531,468
  • 1985: 440,443
  • 1986: 356,068
  • 1987: 381,062
  • 1988: 425,148
  • 1989: 334,421
  • 1990: 311,943
  • 1991: 246,223
  • 1992: 284,038
  • 1993: 230,345
  • 1994: 160,797


External links