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Diesel 5-Speed: 1984 Ford Tempo Survivor

There’s obscure, and then there’s obscure. Much like the other domestic manufacturers in the 1980s, Ford experimented with diesel power in an effort to combat poor fuel economy and chase the success companies like Mercedes were enjoying. They even dropped a diesel mill in the lowly Tempo and gave it a manual transmission, of which there can be next to none left – except for this survivor here on craigslist that’s listed for $4,500.

That’s strong money, but find me another one in this kind of condition. The body appears to be mint, and the early Tempo body is rare to see in any form. The diesel variants were actually powered by a Mazda-sourced 2.0L motor, in this example paired to a MTXIII 5-speed manual. Thank God it has the stick as it would be appallingly slow otherwise. I’ve seen reports from owners ranging from a reliable 40 to even 50 MPGs with this engine in their Tempo.

Inside is nothing short of amazing. These were not exactly built with high-grade materials, so rapid deterioration was not uncommon. The presence of a dash mat and very clean cloth seats indicates this Tempo was cherished, or simply owned by an elderly person who kept it to in-town drives. However, those drives were not kept to a minimum as this Tempo has a healthy 300K miles showing on the odometer – which makes the cosmetic condition even more impressive.

I can’t remember the last time I saw a maintained Tempo on craigslist, but this is the seller who defies all others: new front ball joints, tires, a fresh alignment. Doors that close tightly and a diesel engine that “…does not smoke and starts like a gas motor, instantly.” The seller’s words, not mine – but with a Tempo as clean as this, who are we to doubt those claims? $4,500 may be tough to find, but if it runs as well as the seller says, it would appear to be worth it.


  1. Fred w.

    Probably the highest mileage ever attained with a Tempo.

    • phil weimer

      I had an’84 2 door Tempo Diesel stick in college. Almost slower than walking but I regularly got 54 mpg. It was hilarious driving up next to semis getting fuel!

  2. Michael

    Should have been named Temp-slow.

  3. Leon

    Are wheels from later Tempo model ??

    Like 1
  4. Craig

    Drop a 428CJ in there… er….never mind.

    • boxdin

      It needs a Cummins.

  5. Rekked neb

    Had a 84 escort diesel and a 84 tempo diesel. I always thought they were Mitsubishi diesel motors. Decent cars when new, but once high miles had low compression, poor starting, and eventually head gasket issues. Fantastic fuel economy. Over 50 mpg with the escort.

  6. Gay Car Nut

    I remember the Ford Tempo and Mercury Topaz. I’ve always found the Topaz the best looking of the two. Although I remember the Tempo Diesel being offered, I don’t remember ever seeing one in person. I consider it a damn shame that the diesel wasn’t on the market for very long before being discontinued. It may not have been everyone’s favourite engine, but I believe that it should’ve remained on the market for at least 4 yrs before being discontinued. That would’ve given the American car buying public long enough to decide whether they like it or not.

    Like 1
    • Joshua Hunter

      My brother had one. It wasn’t pretty. It stunk but it ran. He’d leave it running keys in ignition title on the dash with a note saying take it. Was always there when he got back. No one wanted it. But it worked.

  7. Brian

    Is the dash mat there because the car was cherished or because the dash is cracked?

    And at 300k miles, is this still considered a survivor?

  8. David Miraglia

    Had one back in the 1980’s, Worst Ford I ever owned. Send it too the auto wrecker and crush it.

  9. angliagt angliagt Member

    Ford Tempo Diesel,in Beige –
    can it get any more bland?

  10. Bryon

    The Mazda is the RF model diesel of about 50hp. They also had a 2.2L R2 version the difference is the injection pump was up front. Never overheat one of these as the heads are aluminum. Very quiet for a diesel. The did make a turbo RF in later years. I have a new base engine model R2 in my barn.

  11. Will

    I could see my wife in this. In fact she drove a tempo when we met. Our first weekend together was in it. It wasn’t a diesel though. This one would be perfect for her granny duties now.

  12. Francois

    The odometer looks more like 32,000 miles to me.

  13. Nikolaus

    They also made this in an all wheel drive version.

    Like 1
  14. Blyndgesser

    Clearly the gas model was too fast.

  15. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Dang, if this thing was AWD it would be very tempting. Nice find, Jeff!

    Like 1
  16. geomechs geomechs Member

    We put a few of these through our shop. Head was susceptible to cracking but we stitched them all together. Timing belt was somewhat of a hassle and the water pump HAD to be changed when you changed the belt. The engine was NOT a free runner so if that belt jumped, you had an engine job to do. We had a customer who flatly refused to change the water pump ($135.00) so I had him sign a waver, plus acknowledge that on the work order. He said he was trading the car off. Well, the water pump seized; the belt broke and the engine was heavily damaged. He tried to sue us, and lost but we still had to fight it. New policy in our shop: If we cannot fix it the way it should be fixed, bring a scoop shovel and a tow truck because we refuse the job; it will NOT drive out under its own power….

  17. Brad

    A guy in my National Guard unit had one of these with AWD. Pretty cool.

    Like 1
  18. ICEMAN

    I had a 1989 Mercury Topaz, 2 door, 5 speed manual, power brakes, power steering, AC, AM/FM radio with cassette deck. Bought it brand new at Landau Lincoln Mercury in Winnipeg, Sept 1989. It finally died Sept 2005, with over 300,000 KMs on it. Well, did not actually die but gaskets were leaking oil. The engine actually ran fine and passed British Columbia’s annual Air Care Inspection with perfect scores. If the gaskets hadn’t worn out, probably would have kept the car for a few more years.

    Like 1
  19. Rob S.

    This is rare! Only worked on a few of these when new. These would run for 500K miles if maintained correctly. Tempos were really good, reliable cars when maintained right. Havn’t seen one in years! Not a hot rod by any means but if you are looking for a great daily this would be it. Topaz was a much better looking ride, didn’t have that funky extra window on the side.

    Like 1
  20. Jwinters

    i woundnt pay that much money for ANYTHING with 300k miles on it….

  21. Mark

    I have about 10 of these. None roadworthy anymore. Just sitting rotting. They were good cars back in the day. Put 240,000 on one commuting. Rebuilt the cooling system every 2 years, timing belts, and suspension rebuild at 140k. Needed nothing else. Very slow though. I couldn’t stand it on todays roads. The owner is on crack if they think they’ll get $4500. $1000 would be a good sale. If anybody needs parts…it’s all for sale.

  22. Greg

    The odometer says 32,000, not 320,000.

  23. Ed

    There are about 15 of these left in the world. And 10 of them are in Michigan, owned by a guy named Mark.

  24. Tempoman

    It was offered from 1984 through 1987 in escort, lynx, tempo, topaz

  25. phil weimer

    I had a 1984 2 door stick silver diesel in college. Got 54mpg; no joke; slower than crap but hey, I had a car in college. Think I had a bad motor mount because the engine torqued all the time which cracked the exhaust pipe from the manifold. It was hilarious pulling in next to semis to refuel.

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