The slippery lines and modern front-wheel-drive chassis of the original Ford Taurus changed the American car industry when that car first hit public roads in late 1985. We tend to forget, 35 years later, how the similarly futuristic Tempo compact paved the way for the Taurus, starting in 1983 for the 1984 model year. Replacing the rear-wheel-drive Fairmont, the Tempo boasted good fuel economy and plenty of interior space for its small footprint and sold very well (despite the crash of fuel prices during the middle 1980s). Like nearly all bread-and-butter compact cars of that era, most examples of the first-generation 1984-1987 Tempo (and its Mercury-badged sibling, the Topaz) got crushed before the dawn of our current century, but I spotted this sun-faded-but-solid ’85 in a Denver self-service yard— quite close to its hantavirus-drenched Escort stablemate— last month.
The owners of this car (and perhaps there was just one during its life) took good care of its interior, as you can see from the well-preserved condition of the cloth-and-vinyl Medium Regatta Blue upholstery.
The GL was the second-from-the-lowest trim level for the ’85 Tempo, but this car has a bunch of luxurious (for a mid-80s compact) options. Air conditioning, automatic transmission (the base transmission was a 4-speed manual, which few buyers took), AM/FM stereo radio, not quite the works but close to it.
It’s strange to think that power windows were considered an utterly frivolous waste of money, 35 years ago, when now even the most penny-pinching compacts have them. This car got the manual crank windows (if I ever see an early Tempo with the optional power windows, I’ll make a Junkyard Gem out of it for sure), but the original buyer sprang for an extra $109 to get this radio (that’s about $265 in 2020 bucks). Just the thing for your favorite Tears For Fears hits (I was listening to The Residents on a crappy cassette deck mounted in the glovebox of my 1968 Ford product that year).
The HSC engine in the first-gen Tempo didn’t quite measure up in the futuristic-technology department, at least when contrasted to the car’s Audi-ish aerodynamic body lines. Essentially two-thirds of the old mid-1960s-vintage “Thriftmaster” straight-six engine, the 2.3-liter HSC made 86 horsepower in base form and 100 horses with the high-output version. This car appears to have the 86 hp engine.
Damage like this decklid dent often happens after a car gets to a place like this, but it could have been the final act of depreciation that led to this car’s demise. The faded, peeling paint on horizontal surfaces is the hallmark of a Colorado car of this era.
Pick up the Tempo!