Looooong Term Road Test


Road Testing a Ford Tempo, 16 Years Later

Michael Schlee


This past week I had the opportunity to travel back in time. I did not need a Delorean, a flux capacitor, or a vehicle capable of 88MPH (which is a good thing because the car I got wasn’t up to the task). All I needed was a 1994 Ford Tempo. So how did this come to be? Well, this week I took my car in for much needed maintenance. I am prepping it for an appearance at the Bullrun event in New York City in two weeks time. More on that event in future blogs.

1994 Ford Tempo

1994 Ford Tempo

While my car was in the shop, I needed to get into work. I am one of those people who lives no where near their place of work.  There is no viable public transportation options to get there either. I had no car, but absolutely needed to get into the office. So what was I to do? Borrow a 1994 Ford Tempo!  I made a call and found out it wasn’t being used that day. Success! What better suited vehicle could there be to travel clear across Toronto 50KM during rush hour? So what if it is 16 years old and has never driven more then 2KM at a time in the past 10 years? I had wheels.


The car in question is a 1994 Ford Tempo GL Sedan. It features a 3 speed automatic hooked up to a 2.3L Inline-4 cylinder developing a monstrous 96HP. Watch out GT-R drivers, this guy is looking for you. The colour of the car is hard to describe, I am not sure if 16 years of relentless sun has faded the paint, or it was always a pale bluish colour. Either way, the sparkle is long gone. 


One interesting detail about this car though is its mileage. As can be expected for a car rarely driven, the odometer is a just a tick past 80 000KM. That works out to 5 000KM a year on average. I do that sometimes in a month. This Tempo is just a baby.


The Tempo had been a hit for Ford over its 11 year life span. Always a strong seller, by 1994 it had become obvious the car was out of date and out of style.   Today, the Tempo is a relatively rare car.  There are not that many left on the road.  In fact, I did a quick search of Autotrader.ca and found that at the time of this writing there were no Tempos or Topazs for sale.  I also found out that you can discover a lot about a vehicle in just one day and 100KM. Read on to discover my adventures with the Tempo, and, perhaps the reason it was discontinued all those years ago.






1994 Ford Tempo

1994 Ford Tempo





KM 1: You sit inside the car and realize how small the interior really is. I am only 6’1” but I found myself having to recline the drivers seat partially into the rear passenger area so I can see out of the windshield. A nice touch is that the power mirrors still work.  Adjusting the microscopic side mirrors into place was a snap.


KM 2: I debate about stopping at Timmies to grab a coffee but can’t find a cup holder. I finally do find the one and only cup holder. It is sensibly placed way down on the floor beside my feet behind the gear shifter. I figure putting a coffee there is a recipe for disaster.


KM 4: I’m 4KM into my trip and I am getting use to the car. Maybe this car isn’t so bad.


KM 5: While getting onto the highway, I notice the lower left portion of the windshield appears to be melting. There is a “Ontario Drive Clean” sticker there that has now fused itself into the windshield.


KM 6: I finally get onto the highway. As I approach 80KM/H the car begins to develop a serious case of ‘the shakes’. Being bold (stupid?) I push it to 100KM/H. The shakes actually let up and the car isn’t too bad to drive on the highway.


KM 10: I hit my first patch of morning rush hour traffic on Highway 401 and moderately hit the brakes. The rear-end of the car immediately pulls hard to the left attempting to change lanes on its own. Who needs state of the art technology? I am already in the self driving car.


KM 15: 6 stop and go sequences later and I am beginning to master the art of ‘counter-steer’ braking. Every time I go to brake, I steer a little to the right and the car stays straight. Sure, the backend dances around more then a kid at a rave, but it isn’t too bad once you get accustom to it.


KM 25: Having finally cleared the worst of the morning traffic, I enter an open part of highway 401. Feeling more comfortable in the Tempo, I push it up to 112KM/H. Having only a 3-speed automatic, the car is turning 3700RPM at this speed roughly (no pun intended). The car is shaking, vibrating, and wheezing down the road. Suffering from sensory overload (or fear), I get the car back down to 100KM/H. I pick this as my top speed for the rest of the trip.






1994 Ford Tempo

1994 Ford Tempo




KM 50: I make it into work and park the baby blue beast. Really, it isn’t that bad to drive. I conclude it just needs an alignment (and maybe 100HP and larger then stock 185/75R14 tires).


KM 51: It is time to drive back across the city to pick up my car. I head out and am amazed and how easily the Tempo fires up even after sitting in 28 degree weather all morning.


KM 52: It is hot out and I think ‘What the Hell, let’s try the A/C.’. To my amazement it works and blows out nice cold air. Power feels like it has dropped to 13HP.


KM 63: I am clicking along the 401 at a constant 100KM/H without issue. The vague and light steering isn’t really affecting the cars ability to stay in its lane.


KM 90: I exit the highway onto a right handed off ramp. Daydreaming, I momentarily forget I am driving the Tempo and not my RX-8. I attempt moderate braking while moderately steering to the right. The rear-end of the Tempo tries its hardest to pass the front of the car. All feelings of confidence and manliness evaporate. I almost spun out a Ford Tempo.


KM 100: I drop the car back off with the advice to the owner,  ‘Maybe it is time for a new car’.



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13 Responses to Looooong Term Road Test

  1. Dennis Epp says:

    hey this looks not to bad by way of the pics, this is not a major restoration project, buy it for a couple three hundred, put it on blocks under wraps for another 20 years or so, and you will have a head turner!

  2. Cory Egan says:

    I owned a 93 Mercury Topaz (Tempo Twin)for 10 years. When new it was a great car. Compare it to todays technology and you could wipe the floor with a SMART car!!!!!!
    However over 10 years it was the most reliable car I have ever owned!!!

    Great article-very humourous. Nice walk down memory lane.

  3. Lisa Boomhour says:

    My mother inlaw still drives her 1992 Ford Tempo, your article describes her car right to the T. She won’t give that car up, even though her paint on the car is a dull chalky white, but it’s still running and that’s all that matters to her.

  4. john hardy says:

    ive got a 91 ford tempo L ive been restoring.who has ever turned a tempo into a drifting performance car.i am and i love it.and if thats not all it has a fair back seat for the ladys .

  5. terry says:

    My wife has a 94′ Ford Taurus GL. We keep driving it to remind us why Ford, GM and Chrysler are bankrupt and Toyota Honda #1!

  6. JD says:

    This is great.
    I had 87 and 88 Tempo GLs (and an 89 TBird). As far as I know, they are all long dead (although the Bird made it to a 2nd engine).
    When I was looking for a replacement for my beloved 88 Toyota Celica GT, I became annoyed at all the SHINY Tempo/Topazes around this town (which has a Ford plant)…I actually considered looking for one. If I could find a shiny one for less than a thousand bucks…almost wish I had stuck to that notion – the much newer (big 3) 4-dr 4-cylinder I did buy (for much more than $1000) is already on it’s next drive belt, with less than 70K, and fuel economy is certainly no better than the Fords I owned two decades ago!!! Argh!

  7. Mike "Torque Me" Blass says:

    Sounds like this car needed an alignment or maybe some front end parts!

    I’ve owned four various Tempos and Topaz’s over a 15 year period. A couple in better shape than the others. Mostly used as winter vehicles and grocery-getters, I’ve had nothing but appreciation for these compact budget cars!

    The car’s interior is fairly comfortable and once you get used to it, the “lack of space” doesn’t become a real issue. Yes, the 2.3 litre (however bulletproff) is severly underpowered with a 3 speed auto, but the 5 speed manual (which I did own) gives the car a little more pep (not to mention incredible fuel mileage). Unfortunately the body and floor couldn’t outlive the motor, so the car has become a haven for foilage in it’s resting spot up at my cottage.

    My current winter-beater and grocery go-getter is a 1993 Mercury Topaz 2 door with a 3.0 litre V6 and a 5 speed which I’ve owned for 4 years now. A much smoother ride with good acceleration, and better top speed than the 4 cylinder yet only uses a fraction more in fuel.

    Yes, my ride is not pretty to look at. The paint is faded and so is the interior. But it’s been a reliable friend in the coldest of winter days and the hottest of summer months!

    Thumbs up to the Slowpaz!!

  8. hudson duster says:

    These things were so popular, I actually developed a bit of a compulsion; trying to see if i would arrive at an intersection and see one at all four points. Never made it – did get up to three once.

  9. Mark says:

    1994 is not that long ago. I used to drive a 1984 K-car. Had several of them. Now that is a car that autotrader needs to take down memory lane.

  10. Phil says:

    I owned a 1994 Murcury topaz, 5 speed, it had 485’000KMS on it and still ran like a top, and to boot it off it still had the original clutch, the struts were shot out of the back suspension, behind the drivers and passengers seat there were holes under the carpet. the best thing about the car was i bought it for 300 dollars for my first car. the worst thing is i payed 3200 $ a year for insurance for my first car when i was 16. ANNDDD to top it off i had a stereo system that was worth 1500 in the car, it was 1200 dollars more that my car but i loves it.! to this day it is my feild car and still runs, i want to get some new parts for it and put it back on the road and relive the BEAST!

  11. Hey Mark,

    Do you have one I can Test Drive?

  12. Mike Lehman says:

    I have a 93 ford tempo red 4-door gl , We’ve had this great car 7-years, v-6 automatic on floor. We paided 950.00 for it . We only put about 2000.00 in it . He has 170,000 miles on him . His name is (Little Mike) He has minimal rust on front quarter panel and around wheel wells.He’s a solid little car.He has great heat no air , power everything..

  13. sbullet89 says:

    Well, yeah, I bet an alignment and brake job would solve a lot. I had a 1992 in this same strange color. But apart from that, it was an exceedingly reliable car. Took it to 170,000 MILES (274,000 km) and then sold it to someone else who may still be driving it. At the time of sale all major parts were original, it did not burn or leak any oil, and had never broken down in the 13 years I had it. It was pleasant to drive, but obviously not exciting. It was comfortable, quiet enough, powerful enough even with AC, and got decent fuel mileage. I had an earlier model, a 1984 (its first year) which was less than reliable. But this 1992 more than made up for it. I was honestly sad to say goodbye to the car when I sold it, because I was impressed by how faithfully it had served me and I was also proud of how good it looked, even at 170,000 miles and 13 years old — no rust, still a shine, and the interior looked as good as new. Yes, I am meticulous with routine maintenance and cleanliness. Honestly I think most cars hold up quite well if they’re treated properly. I then bought a Ford Focus ZX3 which was indeed a fun, rather quiet and refined, and much faster car and with 5 speed (much more exciting). Very satisfied indeed.

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