Biodiesel Equipped! 1984 Ford Tempo Survivor


Believe it or not, there’s a community of car enthusiasts who enjoy seeing unusual survivor-grade examples that were historically unloved still being used as reliable dailies. It’s almost like a four-wheeled salute of the middle-fingered variety to pundits and editors who disparaged cars like this 1984 Ford Tempo diesel here on eBay when they were new and desperate for sales. 


I definitely fall into that camp of enthusiasts. This is not to say I am blind to the fact that the Tempo wasn’t exactly a world-beater (especially in diesel form!) but it does show that when maintained, even some of the most poorly-received cars can still provide reliable transportation. And what about that color! Brown needs to make a comeback, in my opinion.


The seller claims the diesel mill returned 44 MPG’s while cruising at 75 m.p.h. on a recent 1,000 mile journey. It still never ceases to amaze me how the millennial set (and their parents) are shocked to see a Prius return 40+ MPG’s when the Big 3 were actually making this a reality in the 1980s. They, and the original Civics and Corollas. Why doesn’t anybody remember these high MPG pioneers?


Inside, this Tempo remains in fine condition. The presence of a manual transmission is a welcome sight as well. The brown-on-tan combo isn’t for everyone, but if you have a weird affinity for cars from this era, it likely works just fine for you. Bidders seem to agree, as it’s currently over $1,000 with five days left in the auction. Does anybody remember driving a diesel Tempo when new?


  1. grant

    Hey, it’s a Tempo?

  2. Jeffro

    I don’t remember anyone admitting that they drove a Ford Tempo!

    • Birdman

      I drive a Topaz….well….drove one until it died last week…lol..does that count?

      • Jeffro

        Heck yeah. I’d even let it count if you were pushing it. Oh wait…you probably were at that point.

  3. geomechs geomechs Member

    Tuned lots of diesel Tempos up. Fuel injection system is quite reliable although the governor thrust washer tends to wear fast (always subbed that one out for a Bosch part) causing the motor to take its time on deceleration. Aluminum head tends to crack but usually can be stitched. Water pump runs off the timing belt and the motor is NOT a free runner, so a broken timing belt equals a motor job. All that aside, I’ve seen lots of these cross the 200K mile mark and still have lots left to give. I’m sure the motor will outlast the car….

  4. Bill

    A Tempo holds my personal record for the worst car I ever tried. I sat in one… probably a 1989 or ’90 model, and just got out without turning the key. the ill fitting plastic fantastic interior was more than I could handle. However, with a diesel? yeah, I’d roll in that baby.

  5. Mykster

    My parents had one. It couldn’t get out of it’s own way. My Dad enjoyed the occasional burnout when Mom wasn’t looking, but not with this car.

    Like 1
  6. 68 custom

    My grandma was looking for a reliable car to use in the late nineties and I found her a clean Tempo four door. It was the perfect car for someone who doesn’t care about cars and she drove it till she passed. ultra rare but not ultra valuable. me I would take a diesel Chevette over this one. but it is still a cool find.

  7. daniel wright

    My sister and brother and law both had early 1990’s tempos…both were already roached out when they got them. Both cars survived unimaginable abuse during their ownership. My b.i.l had a habit of shifting without using the clutch.

  8. brakeservo

    Well, who made that engine? Was it a European Ford or something else?? Overall, I’d say the color is, um, – appropriate!

  9. Fred W.

    I married into a nearly new gas powered Tempo in 1990. I didn’t trust the car to last and we sold it within a year or two. Since then I’ve had Toyotas and such for daily drivers and usually Fords when I buy a classic (because they were fairly reliable prior to the 70’s).

  10. Chebby

    Well it’s a brown diesel stick-shift….there is a contingent that likes that.

    Not me though, I thought these were horrible when they were new.

  11. brakeservo

    Chebby – just remove the first “f” in your sentence above and I think you’ll have nailed it! Haha Haha!

  12. cyclemikey

    Oh lord, a Tempo. I’m usually the first to defend unloved models, but there is a limit. I had a customer who drove one of these things, brown like this one, for a number of years. Finally he traded it in – for a Contour.

    He dressed funny, too.

  13. David Miraglia

    I owned a Ford Tempo, inferior to my old Fairmont Futura. It was like driving in a bathtub. I didn’t want the car, but I wanted a Chevy Impala. The car was under powered. It was the worst Ford I ever owned. Replaced it with a Chevy Celebrity.

  14. Jason

    My first car was an 84 tempo. It was a gasoline automatic. Engine failed at 83k. Rebuilt it. Transmission always slipped between gears. Paint was coming off everywhere. Otherwise it was a great car! Btw, this was in 1992.

  15. Loco Mikado

    My ’90 Ford Tempo is my wife’s daily driver. Still has less than 100,000 miles on it. Bought it 8 years ago and has been a good car. Although I can’t imagine what the acceleration of the diesel is as the gas 4 cyl is no barn burner.

  16. BIG FISH

    I was working late one Saturday night in the early 90s and stopped at the local Chevy dealer to see if they took any trades in that night. The used car manger said to me its your lucky night and that he traded in a 88 escort with low miles and had a bad motor. I said how much and he said 2 bucks, car slang for 200. through me the keys and i went to the back lot and started it and sure enough it rattled bad but when popped the hood I found that it was diesel. Never seen one before. Went back and said I’ll give you a buck , he said sold. I did feel I little bad well just a little lol. I took a couple black eyes from him before so that’s why I didn’t feel too bad about his mistake. This thing got 50mpg and had a Volvo engine in it. Wasn’t fast but ran like a champ. Had a lot of tempos but never seen a diesel and they weren’t as bad as some of you guys make them out to be lol.

  17. Brad

    In the mid 90’s, I was working as a recruiter’s aid in the National Guard, and these were the GSA fleet vehicles, and I put thousands of miles these. They would do what the speedometer registered, 100 mph. However, I had a back ache after about 50 miles.
    There was a guy in my Unit that had the weirdest Tempo ever: diesel and AWD !

    • z1rider


      Are you sure about that? The AWD Tempos had automatics and the Diesels were all sticks. I’ve never heard of that combination before. If true I bet it was great in snow.

  18. larry b

    I had a Mercury topaz xr5 the sister car it was extremely reliable had the 2.3h.o 5 speed that ran good it never gave me any problems I miss that car…. I’d drive this to me it’s about economy not speed I’ve got other toy’s to go fast.

  19. Rob S

    This is a cool find! I made pretty good money working these at the dealer when they were new/almost new. These were decent econo boxes in the 80’s and they sold well. The tan/brown and white ones actually sold better than the red/blue or black ones. This brings back alot of memories!

  20. countryroads

    If I’m not mistaken, Ford used Mazda diesel engines, not Volvo engines . . . didn’t Volvo use a 2.4-liter VW 6-cyl. diesel engine?

    Like 1
  21. BIG FISH

    Thanks countryroads I stand corrected. You are right it was 1985–1989 2.0 L RF diesel I4, 52 hp that was used. Hay what can I say it was 25 years ago, the memory is not what it used to be lol.

  22. countryroads

    No need to thank me . . . I think I’m getting OldsTimers myself . . . I cant remember . . .

  23. Larry K

    Had a topaz field car. Did time trials and had er in the air.

  24. Bob C.

    They were lackluster people movers. Can’t remember the last time I saw one on the road.

  25. Tempo

    Wow, my car’s famous! lol I am the seller and it’s cool to see this article. Hopefully it goes to a good home. I don’t have a place to keep it for the winter and it’s really too nice to leave sit out. It’s a fun car to drive, and much faster than you’d think for 53 HP.

    Like 3
  26. Luke

    Hey everyone! I’m actually a friend of the seller of this car. I got the privilege of driving it too!!! It’s a great car. I wish I could buy it. I certainly got alot of attention on the road and in parking lots with this cool little car. Runs like new and ice cold ac

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