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Car Reviews

Driving the 1988 Ford Tempo GLS: An 80s Car Experience

When it comes to exploring the automotive past, few things excite me more than getting behind the wheel of a classic car. Recently, I had the chance to drive a 1988 Ford Tempo GLS, a vehicle that embodies the charm and quirks of 1980s American front-wheel drive cars.

The Engine: A Modest Performer

The 1988 Ford Tempo GLS is powered by a 2.3-liter inline-four engine paired with a three-speed automatic transmission.

While it may not be the most powerful setup, with just over 100 horsepower, it delivers a surprisingly smooth and comfortable ride. The suspension handles bumps and train tracks with ease, making for a floaty, relaxed driving experience.

Stepping Inside: A Trip Back in Time

Inside, the Tempo GLS offers a mix of 80s design and practicality. The dashboard features a set of gauges with a tachometer on the left, a speedometer in the center, and fuel and temperature gauges on the right. The speedometer even highlights 55 mph, a nod to the era’s speed limits. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is well-sized, and the cruise control buttons are conveniently placed.


The climate controls are adorably tiny, with basic settings for off, floor, and defrost. The fan speed control is separate, located on the gauge cluster. The factory radio, complete with a cassette player and bass, treble, balance, and fade controls, takes you back in time. The shifter is tall and plasticky, but it fits the car’s overall character.

One unique feature of the Tempo GLS is its power seat belts, a very 80s touch. While the seats themselves are comfortable, the back seats are quite upright and offer only lap belts, another characteristic of the time.

Hitting the Road: The Drive Experience

Driving the Tempo GLS is like taking a step back into the late 80s. The ride is smooth and comfortable, but the car’s handling is not particularly sporty. Taking corners at speed can be a bit of an adventure, with the car’s floaty suspension letting you know it prefers a gentler pace.

Despite its age, the car’s interior holds up well. The power windows and locks are a nice touch, and the headliner, though sagging in places, adds to the vintage feel.

The rear seats are straightforward and functional, and the trunk offers a surprising amount of space, a feature that’s often missing in modern cars.

First Impressions: A Looker from the 80s

The Ford Tempo GLS has a certain nostalgic appeal with its aerodynamic design, which was a departure from the boxy styles of the early 80s.

The rounded edges and sleek lines of the Tempo were part of Ford’s new design language, introduced alongside models like the Taurus and Thunderbird.

Driving Experience

Driving the 1988 Ford Tempo GLS was more than just a trip down memory lane; it was a journey through a pivotal time in automotive history.

The Tempo, though not a financial success for Ford, was a significant part of many American households in the 80s and early 90s. It sold in impressive numbers, even outpacing the Toyota Camry in the United States at one point.

The Tempo represents a unique chapter in Ford’s history, a period when the company was experimenting with new designs and technologies. While it may not have been the most beloved car of its time, it holds a special place in the hearts of those who grew up with it.

A Special Thanks

I want to extend a huge thank you to Kevin for allowing me to drive his Ford Tempo. This car, previously owned by my friend Spencer, is a evidence to the lasting appeal of 80s American cars. It was an absolute pleasure to experience this piece of automotive history firsthand.

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