By on October 28, 2010

Mention the word Tempo to a German car nut, and something very different than the Ford Tempo will likely come to mind. It’s easy to forget that in the fifties, much of Germany was in a very different state of development. And the Tempo played a role of motorizing the lowest level of transport still used by small farmers, tradesmen and business owners: the horse and wagon. With between 10 and 15 hp on tap, it was faster than the one horsepower wagon. But why would Tempo take one to the Avus high speed track to set a world endurance speed record? I guess it’s all in the name.

What started out in the twenties as an evolution of a motorcycle with a small load bed in the front (above), eventually got turned around to put the bed in the back. But the tricycle arrangement stuck, as well as front wheel drive. Yes, the 12-15 hp that an assortment of two-stroke engines put out were delivered to that sole wheel; whether it was via a chain or shaft is not obvious from the pictures.

In 1934, Tempo took one of their trucks to the Avus high-speed track in Berlin, and set five world endurance records for the “open delivery truck under 200cc class”.  The average speed: 54.1 kmh, or 33 mph. This is why you read TTAC.

There was even a woodie wagon “kombi”. Strictly speaking, the “Boy” versions had somewhat smaller engines than the man versions; a 10 hp 244 cc motor in order to qualify its use by a Category IV driver’s license, which was immensely easier and cheaper to obtain.

I remember a few of these in Innsbruck as a kid. You could see them parked by the big open-air market, used by the framers to bring their produce to town. Their rated load capacity: 500kg, or 1100 lbs. That’s one hundred lbs. less than my half-ton F-100.

In the mid-fifties, the three wheeler finally gave way to the four-wheeled Matador, now using a VW engine, but still driving the front wheels.

The final version got an updated cab, whose styling was referred to as the “fishmouth”. Curiously, these were now powered by an English BMC 1600 cc engine driving the front wheels.

Interestingly (or maybe not), this Tempo story now intersects my Mercedes Van history from a while back. Hanomag eventually absorbed Tempo, and built a new advanced line of fwd vans and trucks, which Mercedes rebadged as their own after they swallowed Hanomag. That’s today’s obscure automotive history lesson; class dismissed.

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18 Comments on “Tempo Boy, The Other Tempo: Three Wheeled Truck, 200cc, And World Speed Record Holder...”

  • avatar

    A few toucan-nosed Hanseats (under the Bajaj name) are still in employ in some places India … and their engines sound quite rorty!

  • avatar

    Yep, they used to be quite popular in India up to the early 80’s.

  • avatar

    Thank you Paul for continuing to remind me that a truck doesn’t necessarily need a big-a$$ engine to get its work done. When I was younger I thought all trucks had to have at least a V6 to do anything useful and that to tow anything it was V8 all the way. Admittedly I was very naive and didn’t realize that many trucks, at least at the time, were tooling around with 4-cylinder engines.

    I continue to be fascinated to have my perceptions blown out of the water.

    • 0 avatar

      There’s some weird presumption taken hold that “truck” = pickup, big, or both. I refer to my Suzuki Sidekick as a truck, and people look at me like I’m nuts and tell me it’s not one. It’s a perfectionally functional working truck. Hauls my painting gear, ladders, hundreds of pounds of paint… It may be on the smaller side, but it’s still a truck, and works like one.

  • avatar

    That’s a Matador?

  • avatar

    Three wheeled trucks are a fairly common sight in smaller cities and rural areas in China.  While they certainly do not dominate the roads I’ve seen quite a few of them while traveling in Jiangsu and Zhejiang Provinces.  Many of them are the cab-over style and most seem to be re-tooled (knock-off perhaps) versions of four wheeled trucks.  I suppose three wheelers appeal to tight-fisted contractors who use their vehicles exclusively on lower speed roads.
    Trikes (ie, one wheel up front and two in the back) are a far, far more common sight in China.  A lot of these have very small pick-up style beds and are used for light duty hauling.

  • avatar

    Underpowered, these 3-wheelers were, indeed. Loaded to full capacity, they hardly made it uphill.
    BTW: Here is a nice pic of an early flatbed 4-wheel Matador:

  • avatar

    When Peak Oil Godzillla arrives this will look like an F-150.

    I mean it would look like an F-150 if you had really good shit and stuff.

  • avatar

    “In 1934, Tempo took one of their trucks to the Avus high-speed track in Berlin, and set five world endurance records for the “open delivery truck under 200cc class”.  The average speed: 54.1 kmh, or 33 mph. This is why you read TTAC.”
    It’s not the only reason, but now I have my obscure car trivia fix for the week. Gott segne deinen kleinen Tiroler Herz!

  • avatar

    Thank you, Paul.  This kind of article is so much more interesting than the usual car-blogger ranting how some muscle car totally sucks because it has only 299 horsepower and some other car has 301 and is therefore totally superior.
    I really enjoy your writing for 2 reasons: first, because you cover obscure subjects in a way that makes them interesting to a broad audience, and second, because of your live-and-let-live attitude.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    From Bavaria to Bombay… the beauty of three wheels lives on!
    Great article. Thanks for opening an interesting chapter of automotive history to someone who saw 74 Ford F150’s cross the block this evening.

  • avatar

    these were manufactured thru 90s in India by what is now Force Motors
    cheap utility vehicles although FWD was a problem

  • avatar

    This is why you read TTAC.
    Indeed, it is.
    But one must wonder how many other vehicles competed in the “open delivery truck under 200cc class” . . . .

  • avatar

    According to German wikipedia, the front wheel was chain-driven.
    There’s another interesting three-wheel transporter to cover in future editions, the Piaggio Ape.

  • avatar
    Jordan Tenenbaum

    I have a very nice Siku model of a Tempo Matador. I picked it up at one of the many flohmarkts I went to when I lived in Dresden.

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