Home » This Pristine Diesel Ford Tempo Has Less Speed And Style Than Anything Else You Can Buy

This Pristine Diesel Ford Tempo Has Less Speed And Style Than Anything Else You Can Buy

Tempo Diesel Ts
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The Ford Tempo was never a glamorous car. It was slow, small, and almost entirely style-free. But at the same time, the Tempo’s sheer mundanity came in shades. If you really wanted to unimpress, you had to go for broke by buying the incredibly obscure and short-lived diesel version.

Joy of joys, you can do exactly that today! A seller in Cleveland, Ohio has listed a 1985 Ford Tempo in gleaming condition, and…it’s got the diesel donk! It’s about as mid as you can get without hitting rock bottom, and it could be yours.

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Yes, Ford’s entry into the world of front-wheel-drive compacts was unexceptional and forgettable. The Tempo name died forever just 11 years after it entered production. It was neither interesting nor bad enough to make a serious impression on anybody, but we’re not anybody. We’re The Autopian, so we’re gonna remember the diesel Tempo and pore over this finely preserved example.

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The seller’s photos are not glamorous, but this is a fine and proud automobile.

From 1984 to 1986, Ford offered the Tempo with Mazda’s RF diesel engine under the hood. The four-cylinder engine offered just 53 horsepower, which is even funnier when you realize that’s just 39 kW. That is what the kids call a low number. Torque wasn’t great either, with just 82 pound-feet on tap—about enough to twist apart an Oreo. The diesel models were only available with a five-speed manual. This was a sage decision on Ford’s part, because they’d be even slower if they lost more power through a torque-converter automatic.

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The diesel came with one main benefit, though—fuel economy. Where the 2.3-liter gas engine was achieving 23 mpg combined, the diesel would trounce that with a figure of 34 mpg combined. If you only had one gallon of diesel, you could go a whole 11 miles further than your friend with one gallon of gas! If you were both racing to dig up treasure 30 miles away, you’d have the edge by far. Still, your friend would have far less trouble merging onto the highway, with the 2.3-liter HSC gas engine having a much healthier 90 horsepower on tap.

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One wonders if the Tempo brochure was taking a dig at Chevy’s disastrous diesel V8.

The owner of this fine 1985 Ford Tempo GLX claims even better economy than that. The ad reports achieving up to 43 to 51 miles per gallon. That’s within the believable range, assuming some careful hypermiling techniques were applied. The Tempo was light by modern standards, at 2,606 pounds, which didn’t hurt either.

It’s in amazing condition for a 39-year-old vehicle. The Tempo is resplendent in Regatta Blue, and it wears its badges with pride. The owner notes it’s sat for 6-8 months, but it has near new tires. “Needs to be driven!” reads the ad, and that’s true. It does. Honestly, the car looks like it rolled out of the dealership last week, ready to go. Even the underbody is clean.

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There are seldom few cars of this age with paint in such condition. We’ve no idea if it’s original, but it very much looks the part. And those lenses – pristine!

What about mileage? Well, it’s got 72,000 miles on the clock. That works out to less than 2,000 miles a year.

This Tempo was delivered fully-loaded, to boot. The owner has plenty of documents on the car, including a “Deluxe Marti report” that outlines the car’s options from the factory. This one came new with power steering, the sports instrument cluster, air conditioning, and power windows. It even scored power locks, a sunroof, and “Speed Control,” which is what Ford called cruise control in the 1980s. Hilariously, the document also notes that the car was built ten days behind schedule. The diesel was apparently so slow, it even dawdled through the production line.

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The interior looks as if it has never seen sun.

It’s not hard to buy a desirable classic car if you’ve got lots of money. There are plenty of old Jaguars, Ferraris, and Porsches in fine shape, which are maintained to that degree because of the glory they inspire. It’s much rarer to happen across a regular car that has been kept to this standard. And that’s what makes this Tempo so special.

As an aside, I’ll tell you a deep secret. It’s this writer’s dream to build a Tempo track car one day. I have a yearning to drive the car that was so middle-of-the-road, it was forgotten as soon as someone stopped looking at it. A diesel Tempo would be all the better, though I couldn’t possibly desecrate a pristine living example like this one.

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The exhaust shows some age, but hardly anything else does.

If you bought this car for $5,500, you’d probably be driving one of only a handful of Tempos still remaining. The fact that it’s of the diesel, manual variety only makes it rarer. If you treat Cars and Coffee like a competitive blood sport, buy this Ford Tempo, and cherish it like the gem that it never was. Precious few remain, and they ought to be cherished.

Image credits: Facebook Marketplace, Ford

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BigThingsComin
BigThingsComin
5 days ago

Had a friend with a Diesel Tempo. Said it was the best car he ever had, before or since.

Theotherotter
Theotherotter
11 days ago

Can we talk about that sweet Delta 88 next to it??

Cam.man67
Cam.man67
11 days ago

I have to say, I’m kind of a sucker for the first gen Tempo, though my choice would be the AWD one. That said, Mazda offered a turbo (and I think a supercharger too) on the RF in other non-US models, so I wonder how this Tempo would fare with forced induction?

Tom Herman
Tom Herman
12 days ago

I had a gas version as a company car. I have never driven a car so uninterested in the task. Also, it came from the factory with a misaligned rear end and blew through the tires in less than 10000 miles. After being “fixed” by the dealer, it used another set in 2000 miles. Different dealer got it right.

Cam.man67
Cam.man67
11 days ago
Reply to  Tom Herman

EV tire life before EV tire life was a thing.

WM
WM
12 days ago

I love this website. Nowhere else would you get an article talking about how incredibly unexceptional something is, love it.

CrystalEyes
CrystalEyes
12 days ago

Weren’t these briefly available with 4WD?

EricTheViking
EricTheViking
12 days ago

“Active Seat Belts” Hmm, I thought Ford was calling those irritating motorised shoulder belt, but I looked at the photos and noticed the normal seat belts.

Anyone knows what that means?

Peter F Coit III
Peter F Coit III
12 days ago

Please, please, please, stop saying donk.

Dan Neufeld
Dan Neufeld
12 days ago

My parents bought an 87 Topaz (Mercury version) new, and I eventually inherited it. From what I remember, that car was fairly reliable, and it took us all over creation without much fuss. My dad even upgraded the rear suspension so it would tow our pop-up camper better. The only real problem I remember was one alternator, and my dad changed that in the driveway. Winter wasn’t too much of an issue with it since it started at -30 with no issues.

Sometimes I miss that car.

Smoke&Mears
Smoke&Mears
12 days ago

My dad had an Escort with one of those steering wheels. He bent it like a taco when he missed a turn in rural Pennsylvania and hit a stump. Still has a chin scar from that.

Regorlas
Regorlas
12 days ago

Couple of “life choices” comments here and I have a counterpoint: sometimes a Temple is exactly the car you need at that point in your life.

Going to college in the mid 90s, a classmate was several years older than the rest of us kids that started immediately after high school. She shared wisdom that I didn’t really appreciate until later. She got to and from class in a white Temple that had lived its first life as a rental car.

It may not have been a great car, but it was sufficient while she got a Computer Science degree leading to a job at Microsoft. (Checking price history of MSFT since 1996…) I’m sure she’s since upgraded to something nicer.

I have no desire to own a Temple, but I respect them for providing affordable basic transportation to so many.

Jonathan Green
Jonathan Green
11 days ago
Reply to  Regorlas

There is a difference between “Cheap and Cheerful” and the Tempo/Topaz. In all seriousness, there is no shame in driving an old car, a cheap car, or an “uncool” car. Particularly when you are faced with hard times, and are working your way up and out.

There’s a line from a Stevie Wonder song, “Living for the City”, where he sings “His Clothes are old, but never are they dirty.” Pride and dignity.

But Damn, the Tempo/Topaz does not help.

Some cars are aspirational and serve as an inspiration; other cars just serve as a warning…

JDE
JDE
12 days ago

Seems Like a good candidate for Robot Cantina. they would likely convert it to Fry Grease and install a Temu Brand turbo for a Kei Car.

Turbo Quattro CS
Turbo Quattro CS
12 days ago

My mother in law had two of these and they were the worst cars I’ve ever driven.

No More Crossovers
No More Crossovers
12 days ago

I like that one wasn’t bad enough to change her mind

Nick Fortes
Nick Fortes
12 days ago

I can’t believe I’m even seeing a Tempo in this condition.

MrLM002
MrLM002
12 days ago

Some Hypermiler is going to love this rig.

Uninformed Fucknugget
Uninformed Fucknugget
12 days ago

16yr old me figured out quickly that an 86 tempo with the 2.3 and 5 speed could in fact do burnouts if you side step the clutch at redline.
Dad if you are reading this, I still have no idea why the front tires are bald.

Dan Neufeld
Dan Neufeld
12 days ago

My family had an 87 Topaz, and it could do 100mph. Took forever to get there, of course.

Jeff Hager
Jeff Hager
12 days ago

16 year old me learned how to rotate the tires to the back of my Mom’s Tempo GLS with that 2.3 and a 5 speed. At the same time my Dad had an 83 Mazda 2300 pickup with the diesel and a 5 speed. I’m assuming it was this engine. Calling it slow was giving it some credit.

VogonFord
VogonFord
12 days ago

I don’t know that there has ever been quite the incongruence in the English language as there is between “Diesel Ford Tempo” and “sports instrument cluster”

Brandon Forbes
Brandon Forbes
12 days ago

With that many miles, and the fact that thing thing will lose races to sleeping snails, I have to wonder if it has been driven basically non stop for the last 37 years or however old it is. I know the miles are low, but so is the acceleration!

ColoradoFX4
ColoradoFX4
12 days ago

To quote Kramer, this Tempo is “scratching me right where I itch.” I love well-maintained workaday cars. Seeing that someone took the time to preserve something most everyone else considered a throwaway appliance is more interesting to me than classic muscle cars or high-end European sports cars (not that those aren’t cool too). And these feelings are even stronger when the car in question is a rare version of a truly forgettable car. This is very likely the only 2-door ’85 Tempo GLS diesel left, and the fact that this is a virtual rolling museum to the car’s mediocrity makes me smile. Wish it was mine.

Tim Epp
Tim Epp
12 days ago

I had a 1985 Escort with the diesel – one of the best cars I have ever owned. Loved that thing. Only problem was gas attendants (all gas stations were mandated to be full-serve in my city) kept filling it up with gas because they thought I was mistaken when I would ask for diesel.

Jason Roth
Jason Roth
12 days ago

I would like to know more about that gold Olds beside it.

M0L0TOV
M0L0TOV
12 days ago

Paging Tempo Fan, paging Tempo Fan, your holy grail has been found!

TriangleRAD
TriangleRAD
12 days ago

 almost entirely style-free.

I agree with most of the article, but not this. As a car-obsessed kid in 1984, I distinctly remember the first time a new Tempo showed up in our Norther Virginia neighborhood. The exterior styling was like nothing we’d ever seen. It was like a spaceship compared to its boxy contemporaries. Remember, the Tempo debuted a full two model years before the Taurus and served as a sort of preview to the curvy design language that would begin to take over in the coming years.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
12 days ago

The Tempo/Topaz, in theory, were a nice improvement over the Fox-platform Fairmont/Zephyr.

In reality, they were unreliable heaps of shit that fell apart way faster than the Fairmont/Zephyr they replaced.

Jimal
Jimal
12 days ago

This car is giving me flashbacks to when I worked as a technician at a Ford dealership around 1990, before a combination of more than half of the year sucking to work on cars in an open shop and being fired for not being very good at my job made me realize that, despite my always wanting to be a mechanic and going to school for it, that auto mechanics as a vocation was not for me.

Anyway, being the noob I spent a lot of time doing oil changes, recalls, and other jobs on Tauruses, Escorts, and Tempos, including the occasional Diesel version of the later two. For some reason I find early Tempos interesting. Not enough to buy a blue Diesel, but interesting.

Kind of like I can listen to the occasional Hootie and the Blowfish song today when I couldn’t stand them back in the day; nostalgia has overtaken taste.

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