1985 Mercury Topaz: Red Relic

I don’t know if it was due to Jack’s post on the 5-speed V6 Tempo, but today I ran across this. Last time I saw one of these early “Tempazes” was probably 1994 or so, though I do see the final-gen Tempo sedans around even today.

But these early ones? Nope. So I was drawn to this one on Marketplace, especially in that spiffy red on red color combo. Remember when car interiors were color-keyed to the exterior paint? That’s pretty much extinct now too.

At any rate, this one is in remarkable shape, with less than 25,000 miles on the clock. Per the ad: “1985 Mercury Topaz with 21k original miles. This car is like brand new. Daily driver currently. Rubber parts replaced including tires, cv axle, all belts, valve cover gasket, front calipers, wipers.”

“New exhaust, power steering pump, water pump, fluids flushed and replaced. Never seen a winter or salt. Absolutely no rust. All plastics restored. You will never find one in this shape again. Amazing on gas. 3 speed automatic 4 cylinder 2.3 ford engine.”

They’re asking six grand. No idea what these are worth. When new they were just fairly humdrum daily drivers, always the wallflower next to the Town Cars and Cougars it shared showrooms with. So I couldn’t call this one a Klockau Lust Object. But seeing this made my morning. Like a part of my past popped up to say hi. And that’s worth something.

41 Replies to “1985 Mercury Topaz: Red Relic”

  1. Dennis E Widner Jr

    I had one of it’s sisters… a 1986 Ford Tempo. I had that car back at the dealership more times that at home. I drove it for three years and traded it for a good Oldsmobile. I have driven GM products since.

    Reply
    • Patrick King

      In the nineties my boss bought a new white 2-door Tempo with the red interior which he later traded for an Olds Cutlass Sierra wagon with wood panelling. They were company cars so I drove both extensively and was unimpressed, although the V6 wagon was reasonably quick.

      For a German guy who immigrated to America as a teen and became a nationally renowned graphic designer/art director at Polaroid and the Boston Globe he sure had Americanized taste in cars!

      Reply
  2. bluebarchetta

    I dated a girl in HS who had one of these. What I remember:

    The brakes had a spooky “air brakes” feel in which pedal travel seemed to matter more than pedal effort. You push…not much happened…push more…not much happened…push more and you’re screeching to a stop, rears locked.

    Seats were surprisingly comfortable – better than a Celebrity or an Aries.

    This 2.3 was not the OHC Lima 2.3 found in the Mustang, Pinto, Ranger, Fairmont, etc. It’s a pushrod engine that’s essentially two-thirds of a 200 ci straight 6. It was wheezy and not very powerful, but durable as hell. Like a Ford version of an Iron Duke.

    BTW, Tom – loved your writeup of the big-block Monte Carlo over at hagerty.com.

    Reply
    • Tom Klockau Post author

      Thanks. Jason has since sold that Monte Cristo, but just got a triple-green 1970 Caprice coupe – with a 454!

      Reply
  3. dejal

    Man, hard decision back then. One of these or an import.
    Sarcasm off.

    Car pooled in one. Fisher Price plastics.

    Reply
  4. Compaq Deskpro

    Despite being clearly an 80’s car, the details look surprisingly 70’s, like the chrome window trim and the vinyl door panels, and the hint of bustleback. I imagine once the Taurus was in the show room they couldn’t give these away.

    Reply
    • CJinSD

      I think Mercuries had intentionally frumpier trim than the Fords they were based on. Nonetheless, the Tempo/Topaz looked quite contemporary in 1985 compared to the Aries/Reliant or Citation II/Omega/Phoenix/Skylark. The worst elements of their appearance were the narrow track and small wheels relative to their height.

      Reply
  5. David Florida

    I drove a 1984 Tempo 2-door with manual transmission from the late 80s until I bought a used 1st gen Sable in 1992. Blue exterior, blue cloth interior. After getting the carburetor rebuilt, it needed a new clutch, a front suspension rebuild, welding on the broken driver’s seat back frame, and a replacement of the anti-theft keylock cylinder. I performed that latter task in a parking lot at college, after the original failed to release the key or to turn any longer.

    I hated it – until I had the Sable and my spouse’s Escort EXP for comparison points!

    Reply
  6. CitationMan

    A friend had his Tempo’s two passenger side doors stolen while he was at work. He drove it home, Jeep Wrangler style.

    Reply
      • CitationMan

        That occurred in my old hometown of Chicago, a few blocks from downtown. There have been almost 600 carjackings this year in Chicago, so I think I’d rather just have my doors stolen.

        Reply
  7. Eric L.

    Wow! That red really is something. I… actually, un-ironically like it! Have we lost the capability of coloring plastics like that, or has the disappearance of colored interiors simply been part of cost-optimizations?

    Imagine how much more amazing the Burnt Ember (iirc) interior of the Maxima and FX35 would have been with matching deep orange plastics. https://maxima.org/forums/attachments/6th-generation-maxima-2004-2008/36385d1501434217-i-am-noob-orange-max-img_6929.jpg

    Reply
  8. sgeffe

    My grandmother had a gray steering wheel cover which looks similar to that, probably with an elastic band in it, in her 1991 Tempo GL, ironically enough. Also had a backing which would decompose into thick clouds of dust—her gauge cluster would almost be opaque from it, despite the car spending its life garaged.

    Wherever that car ended up, if it was ultimately destined to be a parts car, the like-new, hardly-ever-occupied back seat would have been a good find for someone refurbing a dove-gray Tempaz, and the unobtanium mouse belts would have been worth setting aside, as well. The car could at least get out of its own way, and IIRC, never failed to start. (About the only thing I recall was that the car left my grandma stranded at church in the last year or so that she drove—2013 or thereabouts—because the warning chime had fritzed-out by then, so on that foggy day, she wasn’t alerted that the headlights were on.)

    Reply
  9. -Nate

    Wow ~ it looks okay to me, I remember when these were everywhere .

    I too like the bordello red interior .

    -Nate

    Reply
  10. Mike

    “Amazing” being a relative term; I’d be amazed with a single planetary gearbox and a torque converter if this anachronism managed 30 mpg. I’d be equally amazed if it could peg out it’s 85 mph speedometer.

    It’s a neat car, but it really has one place- a Ford museum. There are classics I’d rather drive that look much cooler, and newer cars that are much better, for that same money.

    Reply
  11. Dean

    My Dad had an ’85 Tempo 2-door, with the 2.3 and a 5-speed manual. It never really broke, except for a cracked distributor housing. He put 140,000 miles on it, 32mpg. For the time, it was a decent car.

    Reply
  12. Gary

    $6k seems steep.

    That said, I’d probably submit it to Bring A Trailer and hope a few idiots would bite.

    Reply
    • CJinSD

      BaT may well be a meaningful repository of Biden’s infrastructure liquidity, but I don’t think anyone there is pining to relive their most disappointing trip to the Avis counter.

      Reply
          • -Nate

            It’s pretty easy when you’re a true Conservative and note a hate filled scared coward .

            Try it some time .

            -Nate

          • CJinSD

            Is claiming that six trillion dollars of marxist pet projects count as infrastructure true conservatism? How about believing Fauci’s obvious, shameless, and now proven lies? Was that honest, loving, and conservative? You don’t get to call yourself a conservative and someone else a liar at the same time. Hypocrisy should hurt.

          • -Nate

            You’re the only lying hypocrite here .

            ? What will you do when Democracy dies ? .

            -Nate

          • CJinSD

            I know what I’m doing, not that we were ever a democracy. Democracy has always been about mob rule and child sodomy.

          • CJinSD

            I like thinking about you trying to dissemble your way out of hating yourself for supporting “Racial Jungle” Joe Biden and and his N-word-slinging, crackhead son.

      • Compaq Deskpro

        Are you saying that infrastructure funds are being misappropriated, and the corrupt are buying mint Integra Type-R’s and Supras?

        Reply
        • CJinSD

          Or as a sack of crap fascist whose life I saved in a moment of poor judgement once said to defend his phone-number salary, “I provide liquidity!” If I’d known he would go on to be a named top donor for Obama, I’d have let him die and slept like a baby.

          Reply
          • -Nate

            O.K. then cj ;

            You’ve now bragged about supporting fascism, racism and anal sex, I hope you’re talking about consensual adult sex not pedophilia but I doubt it .

            What’s next ? .

            -Nate

          • CJinSD

            You shouldn’t skimp on glue if you’re going to huff it. When did I do any of those things?

  13. trollson

    What’s amazing is how clean it is. Someone really took care of it despite the fact that it’s a total turd. Good find.

    Reply
  14. John C.

    It is interesting to think how fast engine output was rising at Ford in the mid eighties. The 1983 Fox bodies with the 3.3/200 inline six had 85 horsepower. The related 2.3/140 inline four Tempo debuted in 1984 with 84 horsepower. The 1985.5 Escort with the 1.9/114 CVH engine debuted with 86 horsepower. All with carbs and not in H/O trim. It shows how much the Euro centered management was using the advances to only reduce displacement. As with the Euro style controls on this Topaz, I am not sure the strategy won many new customers.

    Reply
    • CJinSD

      The 1.9 liter CVH replaced a 1.6 liter engine in the Escort. The base engine in the 1983 Fox bodied Fords was a 2.3 liter; the same displacement as the base engine in the Tempo. On the one hand, your argument doesn’t seem to be based on any evidence of displacement reduction. On the other hand, drivetrain choices during the era were being dictated by increasing CAFE requirements. Also, the ‘Euro centered’ 1986 Ford Taurus was one of the last cars produced by Detroit that could compete with Honda and Toyota for consumer appeal.

      Reply
      • John C.

        The alternative can be seen at Chevy where the RWD F body Camaro 2.8 V6 went from 112hp to 135hp for 1985 improving the buyer experience with no economy cost.. At Chrysler the base carbed 2.2 had gone from 84hp a few years before to 96hp in 1985. At Honda, the carbed Accord 1.8 went from 75hp to 86hp for 1984. Instead Ford kept hp steady and attacked displacement. Notice on your prized Taurus, the new Vulcan 3.0 had the same horsepower as their 3.8 V6 in the Foxes, They thought American engines were too big, and not for packaging, an import attitude. That Vulcan only then gained 13 hp over the next 21 years even as the Taurus gained 400 pounds. A 2005 GM 2.8 V6 had 175hp.

        Reply
        • CJinSD

          I’m not here to defend Ford’s engineering. It’s the worst in the industry; giving VW something to fall back on when their engineering team is trying to keep their razors away from their wrists. Nonetheless, they were chasing CAFE targets until Reagan stabilized US energy supplies, at which point they put 3.8 liter engines in Tauruses, brought 4.9 liter V8s back to Mustangs, and offered a 220 horsepower 3 liter in the Taurus.

          Reply
          • John C.

            I think West Side Story and MJ’s Beat it video imply that when you are truly the worst the razor blades turn outward. Wonder when the death match happens between Great Wall and Mahindra?

  15. Danio

    This brings me back. My mother had a dark blue example when I was young and I remember it vividly. My parents remember it as perhaps their first experience in modern car reliability, having it for 6 years without any notable trouble before it was sideswiped by a truck, then sold to my father’s coworkers’ son for the insurance buyout money. He drove it for a while longer while in college. All the cars they owned before were remembered as heaps of shit that were useless by their 4th birthdays. Those vehicles were a 50/50 mix of Japanese and American products as well. Don’t makem like they used to, thankfully.

    Reply
  16. jc

    I remember test driving one of these, comparing against the Mazda 626 I ended up buying. When I drove the brand new ford over a railroad track it sounded like a bucket of bolts. And somehow it managed to have a larger engine, lower HP, and worse gas mileage than the Mazda which was just a wee bit more expensive.

    I think this and the Cavalier were the only two US made cars of the time available in a two door with standard transmission. I had already experienced Cavalier “quality”.

    As to the car I did actually buy rather than this, the Mazda 626 went 170,000 miles with exactly ZERO unscheduled work and still had the original clutch in it when I sold it. By the time I sold my Mazda in about 2000 I hadn’t seen a Tempo-Topaz in YEARS.

    Reply
    • John C.

      Imagine having to look at and sit on the Tempo’s red seats all those years, and dreaming of the 626 with the grey seats that got away. Sure you would have had a few less bucks due on your car note, a bigger interior, and the taller gearing might have quieted things down a bit, but you dodged a bullet.

      Reply

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