Look out GT-R drivers - this guy is coming for you
Look out GT-R drivers – this guy is coming for you. Click image to enlarge

Originally published on April 20, 2012

Review and photos by Michael Schlee

Other Final Drives:
1980 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible
2003 Volkswagen Jetta 1.8T Wagon
1997 Subaru SVX
1990 Mazda MX-5 Miata

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 88 mph (which is a good thing, because the car I got wasn’t up to the task). All I needed was a 1994 Ford Tempo. My car is in the shop and potentially worthy of its own Final Test Drive sometime in the future.

While my car was in the shop, I needed to get into work. I am one of those people who lives nowhere near their place of work. There are 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, obviously. 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 the GTA 50 km during rush hour? So what if it is 18 years old and was never driven more than 2 km at a time in the past 10 years? The important thing was, I had wheels.

1994 Ford Tempo GL
1994 Ford Tempo GL. Click image to enlarge

The car in question is a 1994 Ford Tempo GL Sedan. It features a three-speed automatic hooked up to a 2.3 L inline-4 cylinder developing a monstrous 96 hp. The colour of the car is hard to describe; I am not sure if 18 years of relentless sun has faded the paint, or if it was always a pale bluish colour. Either way, the sparkle is long gone and resembles a trendy matte finish now.

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 80,000 km. That works out to 4,444 km a year, on average. I do that sometimes in a month. This Tempo is just a baby.

1994 Ford Tempo GL
1994 Ford Tempo GL
1994 Ford Tempo GL
1994 Ford Tempo GL. Click image to enlarge

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 Always a strong seller, by 1994 it had become obvious the car was out of date and out of style.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 three Tempos for sale in Canada, all with double or triple the mileage. I also found out that you can discover a lot about a vehicle in just one day and 100 km. Read on to discover my adventures with the Tempo, and, perhaps the reason it was discontinued all those years ago.

KM 1: I 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 driver’s seat partially into the rear passenger area so I could 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 stopping at Tim Horton’s to grab a coffee but can’t find a place to put it. I finally do find the one, and only, cupholder. It is sensibly placed way down on the floor beside my feet, ahead of the gear shifter. I figure putting a coffee there is a recipe for disaster.

KM 4: I’m 4 km into my trip and I am getting used to the car. Maybe this 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 an “Ontario Drive Clean” sticker there that has now fused itself into the windshield.

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

1994 Ford Tempo GL
1994 Ford Tempo GL. Click image to enlarge

KM 10: I hit my first patch of morning rush-hour traffic on Highway 403, and brake moderately. 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: Six stop-and-go sequences later and I am beginning to master the art of “countersteer-braking”. Every time I go to brake, I steer a little to the right and the car stays straight. Sure, the back end dances around more than a kid at a rave, but it isn’t too bad once you get accustomed to it.

KM 25: Having finally cleared the worst of the morning traffic, I enter an open part of highway 403. Feeling more comfortable in the Tempo, I push it up to 112 km/h, or about as fast as she’ll go. Having only a three-speed automatic, the engine is turning roughly 3,700 rpm at this speed (no pun intended). The car is shaking, vibrating, and wheezing down the road. Suffering from sensory overload (or a panic attack), I get the car back down to 100 km/h. I pick this as my top speed for the rest of the trip.

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 100 total hp… and tires larger than its stock 185/75R14s.

1994 Ford Tempo GL
1994 Ford Tempo GL. Click image to enlarge

KM 51: It is time to drive back across the city to pick up my car. I head out and am amazed at 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. Unfortunate side effect — engine power feels like it has dropped to 71 hp.

KM 63: I am clicking along the 403 at a constant 100 km/h without issue. The vague and light steering isn’t really affecting the car’s ability to stay in its lane.

KM 90: I exit the highway onto a right-hand off ramp. Daydreaming, I momentarily forget I am driving the Tempo and not an Evo (http://www.autos.ca/car-test-drives/test-drive-2012-mitsubishi-lancer-evolution-mr). 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 on a sunny summer day.

KM 100: I drop the car off, and offer some advice to the owner: “Maybe it is time for a new car.”

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