During the mid-1980's, the U.S. goverment was putting pressure on the automanufacturers to come up some sort of effective passive restraint system to be installed on vehicles sold in the U.S. Ford Motor Company used the Tempo and Topaz to be the first production test of a supplemental air bag system.
The air bag system consisted of a module mounted in a special steering wheel. Sensors were mounted in the front bumper area. An impact roughly equivalent to striking a parked car (of similar weight) head on at 25 mph would trigger the sensors. The sensors would then deploy the air bag out from inside the steering wheel. After full inflation, the air bag would deflate. The entire deployment, from intial impact to full deployment, takes approximately 55 milliseconds. For comparisons sake, it takes 100 milliseconds to blink your eye.
Air Bag Deployment
This supplemental restraint system was just that, a supplemental system. It is designed to work in conjunction with the front seat safety belt. It helped to improve driver protection in the event of a severe frontal impact. The safety belts were designed to hold you in place during any sort of impact.
The Air Bag system was first available in 1986. It was only offered to fleet vehicles used in government agencies. After 1 year of real world testing, the Air Bag option was made available to the pulic in 1987. The air bag could be equipped on any Tempo or Topaz with the 2.3L HSC engine and 3-speed automatic. Because of the design constraints of the air bag module, cars with the airbag could not be fitted with either titl wheel or cruise control. The funciton of the horn moved from the center mounted horn pad to the turn signal lever, where you push the lever in towards the steering column to activate the horn. The airbag continued to be an available option up until the end of the run in 1994.
Due to pressures that all cars sold in the US have some sort of passive restraint system, all Tempo and Topaz vehicles sold in the U.S. recieved motorized shoulder belts for front seat occupants. When cars were equipped with the optional air bag, these were replaced with manaul 3-point safety belts for the front seat occupants.