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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Avoidable Contact #106: What this Tempo can teach us about the Porsche 968 | Hagerty Media

What is joy? Would you believe that it is this: Two weeks ago, on the leafy and uncluttered streets of a fascinating Houston neighborhood dotted with mid-century homes, I had the chance to drive an outstanding in-progress restoration of a truly rare sporting automobile. No, I'm not talking about those garden-variety supercars or Sixties muscle cars.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/opinion/avoidable-contact/avoidable-contact-106-tempo-porsche-968/
115 REPLIES 115
mechimike
Pit Crew

A great used car salesman isn't one who can move Honda CRVs or Toyota RAV4's. You show me a guy who can get a price on a Lincoln Versailles, or a Starlet, or some piece of **bleep**e Chevette...._that's_ a car salesman. Likewise, a great automotive writer isn't someone who can pen a decent piece about a car meant to inspire longing and desire; to the contrary, any author who can make me care about a 1992 Tempo..._that's_ a car writer.

A woman I knew in college, after driving her V6 Celebrity wagon to the junkyard, went out and dropped adult money on a baby blue 4 door Tempo with 40,000 miles. As far as I can recall, the Tempo gave her zero trouble right up to the point when she graduated and started making adult money, at which point the Tempo possibly became an embarrassment. I still recall an email sent to me almost 20 years ago..."What do you think about Jeep Grand Cherokees?"
Jack_Hagerty
Moderator

This is a woman who was in touch with the zeitgeist!
BWeston
Pit Crew

In 1985, I was employed as a Media Group Supervisor at Young & Rubicam - Detroit...Lincoln-Mercury's advertising agency. We entered two cars in Brock Yate's 1985 One Lap of America - a new Merkur XR4ti and a FWD 1984 Mercury Topaz 5 speed manual, 4 cylinder coupe (which was Y&R's mailroom car, hastily equipped with rally equipment by Gene Henderson - well-known POR rally driver). I was one of the three driver team in the Topaz - we drove 8,800 miles in 8 days, mostly at 80 mph whenever possible, through snow & ice across the northern U.S., rain coming down through WA and OR, desert heat in NV and more heat across the southern part of the U.S. Going up the east coast and back toward a Detroit RenCen finish line, we encountered fog, then more ice & snow. That was one tough little car - never put a foot wrong and no problems - we finished in 4th place, behind two Audi 5000 Quattros (overall winner driven by John Buffum & Walter Boyce), and an AWD Blazer - our Topaz was the highest ranked two wheel drive finisher. That Topaz might not have been flashy, and was somewhat underpowered, but it sure did the work in an impressive and unassuming way - tough & solid car!!
Jack_Hagerty
Moderator

Outstanding story -- I'm better off for having read it. Thank you. And as a "lap dog" of Brock's later efforts, I sympathize!
dreamingeagle
Detailer

pick between a flowerpot Ford and a faux (Volkswagen) Porsche;

could i borrow an Abrahms for just a minute?

should only take one run forward and back;
Gary_Bechtold
Instructor

A Manual can make a Tempo a bit more fun to drive, but the bar is pretty low for fun at that point. I remember the tempo/topaz and not fondly. The Contour SE though which came after was a great car. 968 has the horrible problem of being a big 4 cylinder 944 that looked like a sort of 928 but not as good looking. The turbo 944 was more fun to me and had some more mod potential.
Jack_Hagerty
Moderator

The Contour was great, the SE doubly so, but we couldn't sell them. Not enough room in the back seat.
CJinSD
Advanced Driver

My friend and I test drove a 5-speed Contour and a 5-speed Neon after we hit a tree while flying through the air in his Integra a few days before he was scheduled to move to Atlanta to start graduate school at Georgia Tech in 1995. Both were positively floppy compared to the Acura and my Dinan/TMS-Bilstein-fortified '88 BMW. I was considerably more impressed by a Contour or Mystique I rented in 1999 while I was living in Manhattan. The Zetec-R engine was the high-point of Detroit four-cylinders, as far as I'm concerned. The chassis wasn't quite Plymouth Breeze caliber, but the engine and transmission were better.
SnuffySmith
New Driver

I bought one of these when my daughter was bornin 1998, nice car with 54k miles for $1500. I drove the wheels of it and had no clue how rare it was.
MustangJim
Detailer

I never owned a Tempo but always liked them. At the time they we're new or newish I was driving station wagons only...I think that people loose site of the fact that these are the cars that people drove! and drove and drove , putting 100's of thousands of miles on them. Of course there we're issue and all cars had issues. I don't want to hear that Honda was void of issues. My father in law had an 84 Acord that never ran right as the dealership could not figure out that the carb. was not right. Of course he would not let me fiddle with it, because what did I know about "foreign cars". At this time, if I am at a cars and coffee event, or whatever, and there is a Tempo V6 5 speed there, I am talking to the owner and smiling from ear to ear, I don't look at Ferraris anymore ( I do, but its not the same). I'm all in on the Tempo. On a tangent, I recently got rid of my 1984 Plymouth Reliant K because I had no more room and not enough time to make some needed repairs. But that car got more attention then my Mustang GT and it was definitely fun to drive. And I am a Ford guy ( duh, look at my name)
Eliteman76
Pit Crew

As a long time Ford Family, I took the good with the bad.
My first car was my parents 1976 Ford Elite (hence my handle) that had seen my mother, my brothers then myself 340,000 miles of daily driver abuse and took an elcamino to the passenger side quarter panel at 45 mph, and was rebuilt by my dad.
Now, carry forward 30+ years and all those miles on the clock.
Transmission was going (3rd C6 I believe. Something about many many higher rpm neutral drops…innocent whistling ensues*) and Dad found a salvage rebuilder and I wound up with a 1988 Ford Tempo GLS 5 speed.
I soon found out that the 2.3 HSC 4 popper could have the parking brake pulled in the center console, and I could do clutch dumps and roast the roast tires at 5,000 rpm for considerable lengths of time.
I learned these cars would handle J brake, diehard style u turns at 45-50 mph with glee.
Drive one direction at speed, put clutch in, pull parking brake handle and crank the wheel hard, sliding across a 5 lane street and just hammer the gas and dump the clutch at 4500 rpm. That tank of a car would take the abuse. It would just light up the tires and away I went.

The 5 speed was dare I say fun.
My ‘88 gls was no where near like mom Mother’s 1987 Mustang GT 5.0 5 speed, but the abuse that car endured.
As a young teenage male, it had gotten jumped. It had gotten wrecked multiple times. The frame shop I took the car to was amazed how hard I had wrecked the car, and the unibody was still square.
One morning I was out at a highway intersection and a new 1996 Ford Probe GT was ripping down the highway, lights off at dawn. Purple/blue color. I missed it some how and went to go.
The front of my tempo was lifted up the nose of the probe, breaking the probe’s front and rear suspension. Wiping out the entire passenger side of a car that just came from a dealer auction.
Two weeks later I had a new radiator support, and a used front clip on that car.
It didn’t even barely tweak the front frame rails. Again, these things were tanks.

Issues that come to mind:
The cooling fan relay module in the dash were problematic.
The automatic seatbelt sliders were the most annoying feature on the planet and eventually they failed and I just unhooked the motors to lock the belt in the normal position.
And of my own doing…having a stereo system with 14 speakers, 4 amps and 1200 feet of wiring…there was one summer I had an Advanced Auto Parts Alternator warrantied 5 times for (again, innocent whistling) mysterious failures…that were chalked to dubious remanufactured alternators…
Also…I distinctly recall with no ABS, and the 5 speed…more than a few oh sh*t moments and power sliding a car that did see more sideways action than a Vegas pickpocket.
Fun times.
With that said…I always wanted to find another AWD coupe, do an Eshlinger 2.3 midget full ball bearing racing engine, tremec tko5 speed, and rework the AWD so I could have an unsuspecting street cruiser to have fun with.
JRJones
Intermediate Driver

I am not an automotive journalist but we may share professional comradery in one sense, we have driven, as a requirement, and maybe exorcised our anxt on the lesser liked victims.
Assigned to Dealer Support from Development of OEM vehicles I traveled Nationally three week/mo. Lots of cheap (expense reported) rental cars. Two weeks in TX and NM followed by a week's vacation in CO. I disliked the Topaz prior to, and after the two weeks leading to "the incident". If you have not done vehicle development, or road raced, you likey don't recognize the modus operandi. Commodity rental cars provide sadistic amusement one would not entertain at home. Indeed in the aforementioned groups the abuse is a competition itself. Think about that the next time you are at the rental counter.
I consummated this Mercury Topaz rental from Telluride to Ouray CO via jeep trail. My wife panicked as we encountered an approaching Jeep Cherokee on the narrow trail. Actually I was overtaking him. As I closed the gap I saw the "license applied for" plate on back. At the summit the Topaz O-heat lamp came on, I stopped to inspect. The black-wet crankshaft was exposed. We pushed-off to coast down the eastern slope. After a mile I had to install the space saver spare. Eventually we coasted to the hwy 550 embankment where I used the eviscerated engine to climb to the pavement. We coasted 18 miles to Silverton and rented a Jeep. The Topaz was towed to a Farmington NM dealership. The rent car company was not amused and neither was my insurance company. The Topaz took up permanent residence in a desert salvage yard.. I never really cared for the Tempo or Topaz.

JRJones
Intermediate Driver

I am not an automotive journalist but we may share professional comradery in one sense, we have driven, as a requirement, and maybe exorcised our anxt on the lesser liked victims.
Assigned to Dealer Support from Development of OEM vehicles I traveled Nationally three weeks/mo. Lots of cheap (expense reported) rental cars. Two weeks in TX and NM followed by a week's vacation in CO. I disliked the Topaz prior to "the incident". If you have not done vehicle development, or road raced, you likey don't recognize the modus operandi. Commodity rental cars provide sadistic amusement one would not entertain at home. Indeed in the aforementioned groups the abuse is a competition itself. Think about that the next time you are at the rental counter.
I consummated this Mercury Topaz rental from Telluride to Ouray CO via jeep trail. My wife panicked as we encountered an approaching Jeep Cherokee on the narrow trail. Actually I was overtaking him. As I closed the gap I saw the "license applied for" plate on back. At the summit the Topaz O-heat lamp came on, I stopped to inspect. The black-wet crankshaft was exposed. We pushed-off to coast down the eastern slope. After a mile I had to install the space saver spare. Eventually we coasted to the hwy 550 embankment where I used the eviscerated engine to climb to the pavement. We coasted 18 miles to Silverton and rented a Jeep. The Topaz was towed to a Farmington NM dealership. The rent car company was not amused and neither was my insurance company. The Topaz took up permanent residence in a desert salvage yard. I never really cared for the Tempo or Topaz.

Jack_Hagerty
Moderator

Ah, but in a Jeep this is no story at all, while in a Topaz it's a fantastic one!
TeeeeJayyyy
New Driver

My first new car was a Gray Metallic 1988 Tempo Coupe with the standard 2.3L and an Automatic. I was able to tow a two place snowmobile trailer fine and the Premium Sound system to this day was likely the best I've ever had. (I've had many OEM and expensive after market sound systems over the years.) People could never believe how good that sound system was! A friend of mine had an 18 foot boat with a 150HP Evinrude which loaded with equipment was about 3 thousand pounds or more! The day of a fishing trip 250 miles north my friends Suburban would not start. It turned out later to be a timing chain. It was either stay home or use the Tempo (1500 max tow rating) to tow it, we decided to go for it was still under warranty. The long upward grades we would smell what seemed like molasses but we made there and back no problem. I had the car about another 50k and never had any problems before I traded it in on a 96 Ford Ranger. I don't care what anyone else says but I loved that car. I wish I could have afforded to just store it away rather than trade it in. The only thing that was weird to me was that the tail lights were much different on the coupe and sedan.
P.S. Including that Tempo, I am likely one of the rare people who can say I have always purchased an American nameplate vehicle (Ford,Mercury) that was also assembled here in the USA. People call me too old school but don't care, I am proud of it!!
GlidingPast
Pit Crew

As an owner of a 1988 Pontiac LeMans, I can relate to the confusion that people express when they see people like us care for these forgotten vehicular appliances.
1) 70 hp
2) GM product, Korean mfr, and Opel design
3) 300,000+ miles
4) It eats plastic window cranks like people go through shoes
5) Hagerty lists the highest sale price as $173,893, but I'd let mine go for half that 😉
6) Serious contender for worst follow-up to a classic name
7) Body is bolt compatible with SAAB 900