Here are some random facts, make of them what you will....
I have a friend who owns a 2016 Mustang Cobra Jet. To date, he's run the 1/4 in 8.55 @ 160mph. He also owns several other interesting cars, including a real a 440+6 Challenger.
Roughly 5-6 years ago he decided he needed to add a Tempo GLS to his collection and paid to ship one from a used car lot in Montana to Detroit, MI. I sent him a link to this article and he replied with:
"I am a visionary. I got in the Tempo game at the right time. Honestly, I really like and like driving that car."
Ahhh, yes. Passion. Hopefully, everyone has something they are passionate about- not sure what sort of life there is without it. The way to understand someone else’s seemingly illogical obsession is in the context of your own (perfectly logical) enthusiasm.
And by the way, anything with a manual transmission is just cool. Especially when found in an unexpected vehicle.
I had a 1988 GLS 5-speed, bought from the original owner whom I knew well, who got it as an engage-able commuter car for four real seasons. For that it served him well for 15 years & 189k miles, and when he needed something larger, I picked it up cheap. The engagement part comes from the manual transmission. He'd have never bought an autobox (he also had a BMW E-12 at the time). As a stick shift, it's still not a screaming meanie, but you are the one in control of the power band. It wasn't a "crapbox" like some who never had one bemoan; it was utterly reliable and the only thing that irked me was that front camber was fixed. As this one got rustier, said camber got more aggressive, so tires lasted about 10k miles max. I didn't need yet another car around at that time, and moved it out for cheap (shortly after it was scrapped), but that general vibe re-emerged when I ended up with my sister's 2004 Hyundai Elantra 5-speed when I did need a disposable commuter bomb a few years ago. I'd have junked it by now if it had an automatic; with the 5-speed, it stays around as the odd errand car. So, I "get" Jack's well authored piece. Besides, who are we (especially as owners of cars bought out of passion rather than utility) to ridicule anyone else's sense of automotive nostalgia - be it for Tempo's, Porsche's, or Honda's?
My problem wasn’t the camber. My problem was all those damn high rpm clutch dumps. And taking cloverleaf off ramps at excessive speed. And power sliding a car that probably should not have been doing said antics…
IN 1985 when I got married to my starter wife, I was a Japanese car guy driving a Nissan 200SX. My bride was from Dearborn and so insisted her first new car ever be a Ford. A black, aero Tempo with a 5 speed. I scoffed, but I wanted to please her so that's what we got. To my surprise, we used it more than my Nissan because it was completely reliable, fast enough, and comfortable for 4 -5 adults, while the Nissan's back seat was, well, 2 + 2. Sure the Nissan handled more crisply and was more responsive. But the Tempo was a much better car than its rep. She kept it for many years longer than she kept me.
Your article bears an uncanny resemblance to another one in the current issue of the New Yorker entitled "Can Rilke change your life?" by Kamran Javadizadeh (which I read about a half hour before reading yours). It centers around the book "Letters to a young Poet" written by the early 20th century poet Rainer Maria Rilke. The letters are in response to a young man in a military academy anguished by thoughts of his future and specifically about his ability to write. Their correspondence lasted from 1902 to 1908 and resulted in 10 letters from Rilke. I was astonished by it in my early 20's and am again now at 70. The pith in both articles is the ineffable quality and drive that compels someone to write. I enJOYed and was instructed by both. No need to compare. Thanks.
Restore and drive whatever you like. Whether it is a 70's econobox Japanese car, a mor-door American barge or a sports car with who know what crammed under the hood. I think most any TRUE car guy can respect the effort involved in making an orphan car shine. Who would have thought that the lowly Model T would have had the following it does?
It sounds like he did not have a flair wrench handy, and just stripped a brake line fitting and smashed his knuckles because he had a regular 3/8” wrench. Some folks thrive on the “film at 11, and I’ve pissed in your popcorn” outlook.
Baruth has his own take on things. I remember some early R&T articles being heavily seasoned and for many readers, his style is an acquired taste. Hagerty seems to offer plenty of choices for articles and I'm not sure any of them merits dropping the insurance on your classic car(s). As the column banner implies, there is avoidable contact. I think if you keep reading you will find more to like.
Great article. For the last several years I have leased a black on black Honda Accord, so I get the reliability factor. However, when that American muscle urge happens I start the ole Prix and get my fix!
I logged many miles in a late 80's Ford Tempo US Government Owned Vehicle (GOV). Unfortunately your article gave me a good dose of "Post-Traumatic Auto Syndrome" or PTAS! The Tempo was absolutely the worst automobile I've ever driven. I think Ford gathered all their lemons and Monday-morning final-assembly Tempos and dumped them on the US Government General Services Administration (GSA) who manages the Governments fleet of vehicles.
First of all, thank you for your service. Secondly, NO FREAKIN' WAY should you have PTS-anything. Let me tell you what that really looks like. Specialty steel mill (read: 2000 acres of smoke, gigantic buildings, gigantic ingots, and more gigantic transporters hauling them around). Cars that are not street legal because of a myriad of reasons, in which nerds and geeks leave their comfy surrounds and venture forth to perform Various Acts. Chevy. 1984. Cavalier. Wagon.
Ah, you had an automatic transmission. I can understand your feelings. After owning a manual transmission model, the 3 speed automatics did in fact cause a certain level of hellraiser Pandora’s box ptsd 😂
I have owned several 944s including two Turbos and an S2. I enjoyed all of them but I also had to endure the stigma that they were not "real Porsches". They were the only Porsches that I could afford. I solved the lack of power problem on my 1988 944 by tossing the four cylinder engine and installing an aluminum 5.3 LS V8 out of a Chevy Trail Blazer. The aluminum 5.3 weighs within 20 pounds of the four cylinder engine (isn't modern technology great?) so the weight balance is not affected. The car is a blast to drive and it creates conversation at the local PCA club events because they don't know if they should scoff at it or not.
My buddy in Pittsburgh had two super modified mustangs and then this Tempo. Every year, right around mid October, the mustangs would get put away for the winter and the tempo would come out. My buddy was a master mechanic for the biggest ford dealership in the area, and he had a few little mods to the tempo to help ease the transition, but the tempo was great in the snow and it was easier going to happy hour since everybody could fit in the tempo lol
I enjoyed an 89 Accord LXi 5-speed sedan for 365,000 miles until it was retired in favor of a 2004 Mazda 6. Incredible car. A nearby relative had a Tempo. Simply no contest by comparison. Comparison may be the thief of joy, but it certainly the friend of smart purchasing.
That's one weird perspective on the 968. Not many people have driven both the 924 and the 968. I have. This writer is talking out of his ass. The 924 had a droning truck engine and cheap interior befitting a 1970's VW / Audi project which Porsche took over. The 968 was diesel-like in it's giant 4, but that engine was light years ahead of the 924 and it had a really high quality interior. It's a very unique car with its own charms and, though I would never dream of trading my 89 Carrera 3.2 for one, I can see the appeal and why it's so valuable today. Small numbers playing a part, too.
It's also weird how the author keeps talking about one car "smoking" another? Where? In a drag race? In race on a road cone course? On a twisty mountain road? How often does that happen in real life? A sports car in the real world is all about enjoyment of the driver. The only person they are "smoking" is their old self as they get into driving and enjoying the car. And I bet that 968 would do quite well against its period competition in everything but a drag race.
Please, Hagerty, less of these silly opinion pieces meant to inflame, and more good work and insight from people like Sanjeev and some of the other good writers on here.
John Mayer’s guitar instructor, a wonderful man named Tomo Fujita, likes to tell his students that “Comparison is the thief of joy”, a quote originally attributed to Teddy Roosevelt. I wasn’t going to read this, because, who cares about a 92 Tempo. I did anyway, how entertaining and thoughtful can you get. The real prize was getting to that quote and it’s meaning to you. Thanks
I never thought I would look back with fond remembrance of cars from the '80s and '90s, yet here we are. Just for fun I want to find a 1990 Cougar XR-7 with a blown v-6 and 5 speed and flog the holy hell out of it! There, I said it, but oddly don't feel better about saying it.
I watched an interview at least 10 years ago and they were speaking with the curator of the Henry Ford museum (great place to go if you haven't been). Towards the end of the interview, they asked him what kinds of cars does the museum need. He joked that if he gets another call about Model T or Model A he'd scream but if anyone knew of a mint-condition Tempo, call him right away! He said that all the "disposable" cars of the '70's and '80's where nearly impossible to find in good shape. I say let people collect what they want to collect - whether it's Tempo's, Camry's or 911's. Who cares? Everyone can enjoy the hobby. And I sincerely hope Hagerty is willing insure these oddball collections too.
In the mid-80's I had a couple of company cars that were Ford Fairmonts (one was a Mercury Zephyr) . In keeping with company policy the company had ordered them with V-8s, not realizing that the 6 cylinder was plenty fast enough. Terrible workmanship, couldn't handle worth a darn, but in a straight line probably the fastest car I ever drove.
The police package Firemount (more on that in a moment) handed pretty well. Kinda tight on the inside for the donut guys but ok for the skinny young guns. Best of all they were quick-same 302 two-barrel as our LTD IIs but probably half a ton lighter. Fast enough to burn up the streets but also - burn up. The two we had (a test of smaller, cheaper cars) both ended their service at the receiving end of a fire hose. Now ask me about our two police package Dodge Aries...
My mom had a Tempo - it was baby blanket blue, and when you drove it and pushed on the accelerator, the only indication that anything was happening was a slow climb of the speedo needle that was detectable if you watched carefully. Not the GLS model you are referring to, but that impression will always be burned into my mind when I hear the word Tempo. The 968 on the other hand - I've never driven one, but I did have a NA 944 for awhile that was a little lacking in squirrels under the hood, but that car handled like it was on rails. I could nearly instantaneously whip the wheel 180° and navigate a right turn without slowing appreciably and not get one iota of wheel chirp. That car made up in handling what it lacked in horsepower I get restoring something unique 'just because'. I think the Tempo vs Porsche comparison might be a little off tho
How often do we read anything positive about a Ford from the late '80's or '90's? Thank you Jack. I've owned seven old Taurus/Sable cars and three Topaz/Tempos.
When we reflect on the most desirable cars of the 1980's thru the '90's what comes to mind? Ferrari 512, Mondail or Testarossa , E30 M3, Porsche 911, Buick Grand National perhaps? Almost everyone would vote these cars as far more desirable than the lowly Tempo or Taurus.
But in Upstate New York where I live, the Tempos and Tauruses were work horses that withstood the brutal environments to get us through rain, sleet and snow....did I mention the snow? And also the tons of road salt that gets dumped on the roads. Both of these cars were tough. Honda Accords of the '80s were great cars, but very rust prone. By '80's and '90's American car standards, the Fords were fairly rust resistant. The push rod four and 3.0 liter V6 were great engines.
If you were to use a Ferrari, a 911 or an M3 as your daily commuting car in Upstate NY, you might not have loved them so much. I doubt that they could have withstood the harsh environment as these Fords did.
I worked as a flat rate, front end, Mechanic while the Tempos and K Cars were current. And don't even think about accusing me of overselling or ripping anyone off, because that was something I never did. You didn't need to anyway, there was plenty of legitimate work to be made off these cars anyway. Tempos-Ball joints, inner and outer tie rod ends, CV axles, Rack and Pinions. Adding adjustment kits to the rear suspension that they didn't have from the factory, just to try and keep tires on them. 4 Wheel Alignments. I'm sure I could go on. The K Cars-Just about everything I listed for the Tempos- wheel bearings, strut tower bearings, struts, similar rear adjustment kits to get the rear alignment right. Those cars were only a few that come to mind. It was a great time to be a front end mechanic. And then those assholes had to fly planes into the twin towers. They killed countless innocent people and just about destroyed the economy of Canada and the US. Then all the work stopped.
Jack, you are a very gifted writer. Don't worry about the blonde. Or any blonde. You are absolutely right about cars within context. Certainly nobody knew, for example when he/she bought a small Thunderbird that the car would have such value now even though they rode like trucks and were cranky in cold weather. And there are other examples as well. When my Jaguar went down, my girl friend at the time had a Topaz with an automatic. She drove it all over the place, chauffered me everywhere when necessary and the car was no trouble. The car was hit by a drunk in Chicago when she, thank God, was at home. The Topaz was parked at the time. Thank you for this.
I worked as a mechanic at a Ford dealer from 93-2000. In all those years, I saw only 2 interesting Tempos: One was kind of mentioned in the article, the AWD model. I remember looking under the back of the car, and the rear diff was absolutely TINY, about the size of a bag of microwave popcorn! The other oddball Tempo did not have the decapitating motorized seat belts, but had a driver side airbag. (I don't remember if it had a passenger air bag- but it did not have the motorized belt for the passenger, either). Only Tempo I've ever seen with an airbag. The airbag itself looked like it was covered by hand with some vinyl, complete with a few wrinkles. If nothing else, this car would be super rare today.
It's possible the Tempo you saw that didn't have the motorized belts was (originally) a Canadian-spec car. Canada never had motorized belts on the Tempo (or almost any vehicle for that matter), just regular seatbelts. But the Tempo/Topaz had a driver's airbag from 1990 onwards.
I had a 1990 Tempo I drove for 304,000+ miles over 11 years. In that long history it never had the valve covers off. I had the oil changed faithfully and did the preventive maintenance, it never had a major breakdown. It was the best car I have ever owned. It wasn’t a five speed thoroughbred, just an incredibly reliable 6-cyl auto workhorse that beat down the road on a mature lady’s 50 mile round trip work commute 6 - 7 days a week. At the time the odometers only showed 5 digits plus the fractions so you couldn’t tell that it was on the 4th trip through the numbers. I sold the car with 304,000+ on the clock and saw it a year later at a local gas station, still doing it’s job. LOVED that car!
In a past life, late-1980's to circa 1994, I had a product planning job with one of the then "Big Three", we could sign out overnight borrowing of contemporary new cars. One night I drew a Tempo Sport 5-speed, albeit the 2.3L four cylinder. It was a lesson of how "happiness comes from low expectations". Regardless of how low the BHP number might be, it served as a point lesson that "torque is king", and the engine performance was more than adequate, with acceleration at all points of throttle travel. The 3.0L Vulcan was always a favorite of mine as a thrifty, and responsive old-school engine. I never did get a drive in manual Tempo with one, nor in the Mk1 Probe with that powertrain combo. But using the direct mechanical connection of a manual transmission completely blew away the "slush box" 3-speed automatic versions, no matter what engine was chosen.
My mother had a Topaz as a company car. At 6' at the age of 13, I could actually get into the passenger seat fairly easily. I had friend who had an early 90's accord, and I couldn't fit all that well in the front passenger seat at all. It got pretty crappy gas mileage for what it was, but she put 60K trouble free miles on it.