Ford Tempo

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Ford Tempo
92-94 Ford Tempo.jpg
Also called
  • Ford Ghia
  • Ford Topaz
  • Mercury Topaz
Model years1984–1994
AssemblyUnited States: Claycomo, Missouri (Claycomo Assembly)
Canada: Oakville, Ontario (Oakville Assembly)
DesignerJack Telnack
Body and chassis
LayoutFF layout
AWD layout
PlatformFord Escort platform
PredecessorFord Fairmont / Mercury Zephyr
SuccessorFord Contour / Mercury Mystique

The Ford Tempo and its twin, the Mercury Topaz, are compact cars that were produced by the Ford Motor Company for model years 1984 to 1994. They were downsized successors to the boxy Ford Fairmont and Mercury Zephyr twins. The Tempo and Topaz were part of a rejuvenation plan by Ford to offer more environmentally friendly, fuel efficient, and more modern styled models to compete with the European and Japanese imports. While the car sold well, its innovation and aerodynamic design paved the way for the even more groundbreaking Ford Taurus.[2] The Tempo and Topaz were replaced for 1995 by the "world car" platform sold in North America as the Ford Contour and Mercury Mystique.

Although built on a different platform, the aerodynamic Ford Sierra was somewhat of a European counterpart to the Tempo. It replaced the boxy, rear-wheel-drive Ford Cortina while the Tempo did the same for the Fairmont in North America. The Sierra too was succeeded by Ford's world car platform in the form of the Ford Mondeo.


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 was due, in part, to the aging Ford Pinto and Ford Maverick, 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 laid the groundwork for three revolutionary vehicles: The 1983 Thunderbird (and its Mercury counterpart, the Cougar), the 1984 Tempo (and its Mercury counterpart, the Topaz), and, later, the Taurus (and its Mercury counterpart, the Sable). The Tempo and Topaz were based on a stretched version of the front-wheel-drive platform used on the Ford Escort, but with radical new bodies. Being based on the Escort meant the Tempo and Topaz, unlike their Fairmont and Zephyr predecessors, were front-wheel drive. By making them front-wheel drive, interior space was much larger than if they had been rear-wheel-drive. The transaxle designs also borrowed heavily from the Ford Escort. However, there were few common components due to the Tempo and Topaz's larger size.

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 Topaz both featured 60° windshields, matching those 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 which 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 (Cd) of 0.36 for the two-door car (0.37 for the four-door), which was equal to the Cd of the new "aero" Ford Thunderbird. Ford endeavored to make every trim level look attractive, not just the top-of-the-line versions as had been customary in Detroit.[citation needed] When the Tempo was released in 1983 as a 1984 model, it became an instant success, with more than 107,000 two-door models and more than 295,000 four-door models being sold in the first year. 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", called "EEC-IV", that was 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 (1984–1987)[edit]

First generation
1984-1985 Ford Tempo sedan -- 03-09-2011.jpg
Model years1984–1987
Body and chassis
Body style
Wheelbase99.9 in (2,537 mm)
Length176.7 in (4,488 mm)
Width68.3 in (1,735 mm)
Height52.7 in (1,339 mm)
Rear view of pre-facelift model

The first generation Tempo and Topaz were released on May 26, 1983[3][4] as 1984 models, and equaled the length of a Chevrolet Citation at the time, to which it was a response.[citation needed] The Ford Fairmont, which was last produced in 1983, was more directly replaced by the Ford LTD, which was introduced for the 1983 model year.

Despite the Fairmont (at 105.5-inch wheelbase and 193.8-inch length) being sized relatively larger than General Motors' front-wheel drive Chevrolet Celebrity mid-size car (at 104.8-inch wheelbase and 188.3-inch length) and having a similar length to the Fairmont's predecessor, the Maverick (at 109.9-inch wheelbase and 193.9-inch length), the Tempo had been intended as the sedan and coupe versions of the Ford Escort, and both vehicles were in similar classes, similar to how Volkswagen's sedan and coupe answer to the Golf hatchbacks was the Jetta.

1987 Mercury Topaz sedan

The Tempo was Ford's first compact car downsizing, just four years after GM downsized its compact cars in 1979 for the 1980 model years; two and a half years after Chrysler's compact K-cars were introduced. The front windshield and rear window were both 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. The four-door Tempo used rear quarter windows in the C-pillars while the four-door Topaz received a more formal C-pillar arrangement without rear quarter windows. 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 a year earlier.

The first generation Tempo came standard with 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 standard four-speed IB4 or optional five-speed MTX-III manual transmission (which was the standard, and only option for the diesel engine variant), or the optional three-speed FLC automatic with a floor-mounted shift lever. In late 1985, the five-speed manual became standard and the four-speed was discontinued. In addition, a slight modification was made to the five-speed transmission, moving the "reverse" position on the gear shift knob from right beside first gear to the opposite bottom corner. This was done to decrease the possibility of mistakenly shifting into reverse rather than first gear during takeoff. The instrument panel featured a new, easier to read gauge layout, with all switches and controls placed within easy reach of the driver. In early 1985,[5] the Tempo became the first production American automobile to feature a driver's side airbag as a supplemental restraint system.[6] In 1984, Ford entered a contract with the General Services Administration and the Department of Transportation to supply 5,000 airbag-equipped Tempos. Half also received a special windshield designed to minimize lacerations to passengers, and all were early recipients of the high-mounted brake lights that became required by law in 1986.[7]

1986–1987 Ford Tempo sedan

In October 1985,[8] the Tempo and the Topaz saw numerous moderate design changes for 1986 which coincided with the release of the then-new and revolutionary 1986 Taurus. While generally considered 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 new, plastic composite designs which only required replacing 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). In 1986, the Tempo surpassed the Hyundai Pony to become the best selling new car in Canada.[9] New was an optional "LX" luxury trim, replacing the GLX. Other changes and improvements included the addition of automatically retracting front seat belt shoulder straps, and the addition of a new all-wheel-drive model. The Tempo AWD included special badging, interior badges. Other available features included power lumbar support, four-way power driver's seat and a cassette player.

From 1985 to 1987, there was also the Sport GL, which included unique interior and exterior styling cues, an HSO (high specific output) version of the 2.3 L HSC engine (slightly more power), alloy wheels, tachometer, and a quicker gear ratio for the five-speed manual transaxle (3.73 final drive). It was badged simply as "GL", however the Sport GL was more easily recognizable because it lacked the GL's chrome front and rear bumpers. For 1987, the Topaz received a standard all-wheel drive system for the GS-AWD and LS-AWD trim levels. This all-wheel drive system (developed exclusively for the Tempo and Topaz) was available for model years 1987 to 1991.

Trim levels for the first generation Tempo are as follows:

  • L (entry level model)
  • GL (mid-level and by far the best-selling model[citation needed])
  • LX (introduced for 1986 as the luxury model, replacing the GLX)
  • GLX (1984 and 1985 model year only)
  • AWD (1987 model year only, the only MY all-wheel drive was available for the coupe)

Trim levels for the first generation Topaz are as follows:

  • L (stripped down base model available for the 1984 model year)
  • GS (Topaz equivalent of the Tempo GL, mid-range model)
  • GS-AWD (Topaz GS with all-wheel drive as standard, 1987 model year only)
  • LS (luxury/high end trim level)
  • LS-AWD (Topaz LS with all-wheel drive as standard, 1987 model year only)
  • XR5 (sport performance model available for 1987 model year only; all XR5s were coupes)

Second generation (1988–1994)[edit]

Second generation
Tempo, 10-3-07 (18).JPG
Model years1988–1994
Body and chassis
Body style
Wheelbase99.9 in (2,537 mm)
Length177.0 in (4,496 mm)
Width68.3 in (1,735 mm)
Height52.9 in (1,344 mm)
Curb weight2,723 lb (1,235 kg)

The Tempo and Topaz sedans received a major redesign for 1988, whereas the coupes were instead facelifted, all arriving in November 1987.[10][11] The changes gave the Tempo and Topaz an even more similar look to the Taurus and Sable, respectively. On the front end of the Tempo, a completely restyled grille featured three thin horizontal chrome bars with a Ford oval in the center, with two composite flush-mounted rectangular headlamps with restyled front turn signal housings on either side. On the Tempo GLS, this chrome grille was blacked out, and they received a blacked-out "D" pillar. For the rear, the taillights received a major rework 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 Topaz was differentiated from the Tempo by a more formal rear window, a waterfall grille, more upscale wheels, and solid red tail-lights.

1988–1991 Ford Tempo coupe

The interior of both the sedan and coupe models saw a brand new instrument panel design, with a central gauge cluster (now with a standard engine temp gauge), 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 HVAC controls received a new push-button control layout. Other changes included reworked interior door panels. A driver's side airbag continued as an option, a rarity then for an economy level car. On Tempo LX and AWD, the interior received chrome and wood trim on the dashboard and doors. Topaz models featured the tachometer-equipped gauge cluster and a front center armrest standard.

1992–1994 Mercury Topaz GS sedan

The 1991 model year (the last year of the 1988 restyled look) saw the discontinuation of the all-wheel drive Tempo and Topaz, as well as the now Canadian market exclusive entry-level Tempo L. For 1992, the Tempo and Topaz saw a minor restyle; the Tempo gained body-colored side trim (replacing the black and chrome trim) as well as full body-colored bumpers. The three bar chrome grille on the Tempo was also replaced with a new, body-colored monochromatic grille, while the Topaz's chrome grille was replaced with a new non-functional light-bar.

1992–1994 Ford Tempo coupe

Also for 1992, the 3.0 L Vulcan V6 engine, borrowed from the Taurus and Sable, was introduced as an option for the GL and LX models, and was the standard engine on the GLS. The 1992 model year would be the last year of the GLS, as it was discontinued (along with its Topaz counterpart) in 1993. This left the Tempo with only two trim level options, GL and LX. 1992 also brought about a slightly redesigned gauge cluster, with tachometers now reading up to 7,000 RPM instead of the previous 6,000 RPM. Also, a fuel door indicator was added to the fuel gauge (an arrow pointing to the side of the car where the fuel door was located). 1992 was the only year for American models to have an available 120 MPH speedometer (GLS, XR5 and LTS models only); all other model years read to 85 MPH. 1994 was the last model year for the Ford Tempo (and Mercury Topaz), with production halting in the first quarter of 1994.[citation needed]

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

  • L (entry level model, discontinued in 1991)
  • GL (mid-level model)
  • AWD (although advertised by Ford as a separate trim level, the AWD model was actually built on an LX body, as evidenced by the body code. Discontinued in 1991)
  • LX (luxury model, only available as a four-door sedan)
  • GLS (replaced Sport GL as the performance oriented model, discontinued in 1992)

Trim levels for the second generation Mercury Topaz are as follows:

  • GS (Topaz equivalent of the Tempo GL, mid-range model, available between November 1987 and 1994)
  • GS-AWD (Topaz GS with all-wheel Drive as standard, available between November 1987 and 1991)
  • LS (luxury/high end trim level, discontinued after 1992)
  • LS-AWD (Topaz LS with all-wheel drive as standard, available between November 1987 and 1991)
  • XR5 (sport performance model available from November 1987 to 1992, only available as a coupe; came with the 3.0 L V6 engine as standard for 1992)
  • LTS (four-door variation of the XR5, 'LTS' stood for Luxury Touring Sedan, available from November 1987 to 1992)

End of production[edit]

In 1994, Ford introduced the Ford Contour and Mercury Mystique as replacements for the Tempo and Topaz, sharing corporate resources of Ford of Europe. 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. They also lacked an automatic transmission with overdrive when compared to newer 4-speed automatics. It was also to be the last year for the 2.3 L HSC engine, which was built by Ford specifically for the Tempo and Topaz. Also, it was to be the last year for the 3-speed FLC automatic transmission; although it was slightly redesigned, given overdrive, and was used on the Ford Escort and Mercury Tracer. With all of these factors, Ford stopped production of the Tempo on March 25, 1994, when the last one rolled off the Claycomo, Missouri assembly line. It was succeeded by the Ford 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 ($20,784 in 2016 dollars), while a base model 1995 Contour (GL with four-cylinder engine and manual transmission) was $13,990 ($22,540 in 2016 dollars). The last Ford Tempo and Topaz rolled off the Oakville, Ontario, Canada assembly line on May 20, 1994.

The new-for-1995 Ford Windstar was then built at the Ontario plant that formerly built the Tempo and Topaz, while Kansas City turned over to Ford Contour/Mercury Mystique production (shared with a plant in Hermosillo, Mexico).

Production figures[edit]

The Ford Tempo was a massive sales success for Ford. It was one of the top ten best selling cars in the US, usually in the top five, during its entire production. Through 1984, Ford sold a total of 531,468 examples of the Tempo and Topaz,[12] nearly 100,000 more units than the best-selling Toyota Camry of the day. Below is a list of annual model year production figures for the Tempo.[13]

Model Year Units
1984 402,214
1985 339,087
1986 277,671
1987 282,632
1988 313,262
1989 240,904
1990 218,426
1991 185,845
1992 207,340
1993 154,762
1994 110,399
Total 2,732,542


  1. ^ "Facilities | Ford Motor Company Newsroom". Retrieved 2010-08-28.
  2. ^ the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide (2007-06-11). "Ford Tempo and Taurus". Retrieved 2010-12-03.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Dole, Charles (3 June 1983). "Ford goes on the offensive - with Tempo and Topaz". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
  5. ^ "Ford offering airbags to fleet buyers". UPI. Retrieved 10 June 2019.
  6. ^ "Today in Ford History: Jan. 7". 2007-01-07. Archived from the original on September 17, 2004. Retrieved 2007-03-03.
  7. ^ Wakefield, Ron (June 1984). "Fords get an air-bagging". Wheels. Sydney, Australia: Murray Publishers: 27.
  8. ^ "Detailed specs review of 1986 Ford Tempo LX 4-door 2.3L EFi offered since October 1985 for North America U.S." Retrieved 10 June 2019.
  9. ^ Stark, Harry A., ed. (1987). Ward's Automotive Yearbook 1987. 49. Detroit, MI: Ward's Communications, Inc. p. 156. ISBN 0910589007.CS1 maint: ignored ISBN errors (link)
  10. ^ "Cars for 1988". Ebony. Vol. XLIII no. 1. Johnson Publishing Company. 1 November 1987. p. 171 – via Google Books.
  11. ^ "Detailed specs review of 1988 Mercury Topaz LS Sport offered since November 1987 for North America U.S." Retrieved 10 June 2019.
  12. ^ "1984 – Tempo-Topaz Introduction". Tempo Topaz Car Club of North America. Retrieved 2009-10-16.
  13. ^ "Tempo-Topaz History: Year-by-Year". Tempo Topaz Car Club of North America. Retrieved 2009-10-16.