Monday, February 18, 2013

The History of Vidal & Son's Tempo Werkes

The company Vidal and Son was founded in Hamburg in 1883 to provide harbour-side fire fighting services for the coal importing industry. In 1927, with the German economy crushed under the weight of Versailles reparations, the German coal importing industry fell into recession and Vidal and Son faced an uncertain future. Looking for a new opportunity, Max Vidal and his son, Oskar, decided to move into the auto industry. They saw an opportunity to develop a simple commercial vehicle, similar to Goliath's popular 1920 Blitzkarren. The result was the Tempo T1, a tricycle delivery cart powered by a single cylinder 198cc two-stoke motor. They also produced a larger version, the Tempo T2, with a 400cc motor.

The T1 and T2 were cheap, poorly built copies of contemporary delivery tricycles built by a plethora of other companies, such as Goliath, Phanomen and Rollfix. However, they were so poorly constructed that their constant break downs required Tempo to employ a full-time mobile mechanic just to keep them on the road.

A brochure of the early range of Tempo T series triporters. Prices range according to the size of the engine, and the type and size of the tray.

Such an inauspicious start could have been fatal to a new auto company, but after a tenuous start Tempo received a lifeline when their major competitor, Rollfix went bankrupt in the 1929 Stock Market Collapse. Rollfix's chief designer Otto Daus, jumped ship to Tempo and immediately applied his technical expertise to addressing the problems of the Tempo T' 1 and 2. The result was the Tempo T6, which although superficially similar to its predecessors, was in fact a completely redesigned vehicle. Powered by a reliable JLO 198cc two stroke engine, the T6 sold so well - over 3500 units - that Tempo relocated to larger premises in Hamburg.

A restored Tempo T10 owned by "Tempo Christian"

Tempo also produced a 350cc engine version, the T10, but as this sized engine required users to have a drivers license and pay road tax, it did not sell well. Less than a 1000 were built.

The Pony

Tempo tricycles were steered by a steering wheel, which turned the front wheel via chain and series of articulated levers. In an attempt to simplify things, in 1932 Tempo replaced the steering wheel with a tilting lever, which steered the vehicle by adjusted the incline of the front wheels, in much the same way as modern three wheeled scooters do today. This allowed Tempo to slash the price of the new Pony to only 675RM. Although the Pony was the cheapest vehicle on the road, customers did not like the strange steering mechanism and barely 500 were sold.

Tricycle Trucks

In 1933, Tempo's main competitor, Goliath, released their new commercial tricycle, the Goliath F400. Based on their successful Goliath Pioneer design, the F400 had a fully enclosed cab and optional body styles, and was a quantum improvement over contemporary delivery tricycles (for details about the Goliath Pioneer, see my post Tempo responded immediately with their own imitation, the Tempo Front 6. While the Goliath was powered by and under-seat engine driving the rear wheels by conventional drive shaft, the Tempo Front retained a simple train drive mechanism, now driving the front wheel. Front wheel drive necessitated mounting the engine atop the front axle so it could pivot with the front wheel as it turned. To accommodate this arrangement Tempo developed their distinctive chain case.

A Hanseat with its bonnet up showing its unique front wheel drive chain-case. The tiny engine was placed on top of the axle, rotating with the front wheel. Normally the battery was located under the seat.

Rarer than rare! Tempo Christian's latest garage-find - a Tempo Front. Machines like these still pop up from time to time.

The cab was wood framed with plywood panels covered in imitation leather. The new Front models were designated the D 200 with the JLO 200cc engine and the D 400 with the 400cc engine. The Tempo factory provided a wide variety of customised body styles, from simple flatbed tray, to high sided delivery van, to refrigerated van, and even a passenger sedan version.

Tempo's weren't always sold as commercial vehicles. Some were sold as passenger cars, like this three door sedan.

At the same time Tempo unveiled the V 600, the company’s first four-wheeled vehicle. The V 600 was powered by a 598cc JLO two stroke engine generating 18 horse power, with a carrying capacity of 1000 kilos. The V 600 was front wheel drive with independent floating axles.

All of these vehicles were popular sellers, but demand for the D 400, Tempo’s best-selling product, outstripped factory capacity, resulting in Vidal and Son selling up their Wansbeck factory and buying the 60,000 m2 Goliath factory in Harburg-Bostelbeck. In 1935 Tempo celebrated the production of their 10,000th vehicle.

The reliability of Tempo’s vehicles was conclusively demonstrated on 5 November 1934 when three Tempo D 200’s competed in a 1000 kilometre speed and endurance trial at the Berlin AVUS, motor racing circuit. Although the vehicles didn't set any speed records, they successfully demonstrated their well-known qualities of endurance and economy, completing the 1000 km course in 18:44:48 hours at an average speed of 53.333 kilometres per hour. Average fuel consumption was 7 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres.

A Goliath F400 and Tempo A400 side by side.

In 1936 Tempo released the ‘E’ range of tricycles. The E range were substantially more solid vehicles than their predecessors, featuring steel bodywork and a fully enclosed steel cab. Engines sizes remained the same. Sales surged and Vidal and Son were again forced to expand their new factory. With sales in excess of 14,000 per annum, Tempo finally overtook rival Goliath in the ‘kleinlaster’ small truck market.

In 1938, the Nazi government regulated the auto industry, imposing controls over which company produced what. Tempo and Goliath were granted a duopoly of the commercial tricycle market but Tempo were stopped from building the four wheeled V 600.

Tempo SUV G1200
In 1936 Tempo-werke responded to a Landwehr contract for a four-wheel drive light utility vehicle. Otto Daus' design was uniquely unorthodox. Powered by two 600cc JLO two-stroke motors, one in the front and one in the rear, each separately drive the front and rear independently suspended axles. Each engine had its own gearbox and could be operated together in four wheel drive mode, or they could be run independently for either front-wheel or rear-wheel drive. The car had a high ground clearance, four wheel steering and with the body floating over its independent suspension it was able to comfortably traverse even the roughest ground. Top speed was 70 kilometres per hour. Fuel economy was a reasonable 12 litres per hundred kilometres, which could be reduced further by running on one engine alone.

A 1939 Tempo promotional pamphlet for the G1200.

The German army however was prejudiced against two-strokes and rejected the vehicle so Tempo looked for export contracts. 1,335 G1200's were sold to countries such as Sweden,which placed the largest single order of 400 vehicles, Finland, Latvia, Denmark, Romania, Hungary Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and even Thailand. Despite their official disdain, the German army did use many seized G1200s in secondary roles during War.

A modified G1200 staff car. Note the scoops on the rear bodywork. To cool the rear engine a side mounted, fan cooled radiator was installed.

Post War
Tempo continued to build its ubiquitous tricycles during the War, many serving with the German Red Cross and other emergency services. As the War progressed Tempo's factories were increasingly given over to war production and consequently suffered extensive damage from Allied bombing. Perhaps surprisingly, the destruction wrought on Hamburg enabled Tempo to survive as, although the Allies post-war plans for Germany included the total dismantling of German industry, transport was essential to clear the rubble and rebuild the country. The British Occupation Force permitted Vidal & Sohn to re-open their factory to provide service and repairs and for the next two years the Tempowerkes eeked out a meagre existence repairing damaged vehicles and returning them to the road. Although not officially licensed to build motor vehicles, by 1947 the company scrounged enough resources to build 100 tricycles, which were exported on a specially chartered train to Holland in exchange for food.

In 1948, the Western Allies implemented a currency form and the Marshall Plan and the German "economic miracle" began. Tempo's cheap and hardy tricycles were just the thing and by the end of the year 3,500 tricycles rolled off the production line. 10,000 followed the next year. The factory at Harburg was now employing 2,000 people and had three construction halls.

In 1950 the old A400 was updated, modernised somewhat and renamed the Hanseat and the A200 was renamed the Boy. The V 600 4-wheeler made a brief return but was soon to be superseded by a whole new range of light commercials.

The Matador
Tempo's chief designer Otto Daus retired in 1948 and was succeeded by Dietrich Bergst, who had worked for Tempo since 1930. Bergst immediately set about modernising Tempo's range. The result was the Tempo Matador, unveiled in 1949. In many ways the Matador was quite different from its predecessors. It featured a forward mounted cab and was powered by a four-cylinder 1131 cc Volkswagen boxer engine mounted beneath the seat and driving the front wheels through a Volkswagen gearbox. However, it still featured the same tube chassis and floating axles of the Hanseat and the cab retained its wooden floor and Spartan fittings.

The first hundred Matadors were pre-production test vehicles, which Tempo contracted out to a transport company to put through their paces. All the pre-production vehicles were driven to death - quite literally all were destroyed in the process and none have survived - and a wide range of improvements were incorporated into the production model.

Tempo's four-wheelers had a uniquely anthropomorphic style. The early Matador was nicknamed "the Bulldog" for obvious reasons.

A nostalgic review of the Matador from DeutscheWelle.

The Matador proved to be an outstanding success and between 1950 and 1952 more than 13,000 were sold. In 1952 however, Volkswagen threw a spanner in the works when they stopped the supply of engines. Production was stopped while a replacement engine was sought. JLO, who had supplied Tempo with two-stroke engines since 1929, were contracted to deliver a new three-cylinder two-stroke for the revised Matador 1000. Unfortunately the JLO engine proved to be a disaster, being low in power and of poor quality. Tempo cast about for another supplier. DKW turned Tempo down as they did not want a competitor for their Schnellaster, so Tempo eventually settled on Heinkel Gmbh. Although more famous for the efficient four-stroke engines used in its scooters and microcars, Heinkel had recently obtained the rights to build copies of SAAB's two-stroke engines under license. In mid-1952 Tempo recalled the early JLO Matador 1000s and re-engined them with the Heinkel three-cylinder 672cc two-stroke engine.

Heinkel engined Matadors can be easily recognised by the repositioned, low-light headlights.

Unfortunately for Tempo the Heinkel engines were little better than JLO's and sales of the Matador 1000 quickly dropped to less than a thousand a year. In September 1952 Tempo introduced the Tempo 1400 powered by a 1092cc four-cylinder four-stroke Heinkel engine. The Tempo 1400 was marketed as a heavy work-horse vehicle with a strengthened chassis and suspension with bodywork and fittings customised according to the customer's requirements. Although the Heinkel four-stroke was a reasonably good engine, the Matador's reputation had been irretrievably damaged and sales continued to decline. Only some 5,500 thousand were built over three years.

The Viking

Tempo's eccentric and distinctive anthropomorphic styling reached its peak with the Viking's 'fish lipped' radiator grill.

While Tempo persevered with the underpowered Matador, they also decided to try and work within the limitations of the Heinkel engine and in 1955 they released the Viking (or Wiking), a small, budget four wheeler powered by Heinkel's two-cylinder 460cc two-stroke, which performed much better than their three-cylinder engine. The Viking was a relative success, some 16,000 being sold between 1955 and 1963, and helped claw back some of Tempo's lost market, but the company was now in trouble. A contract to build Landrovers under license of the British occupation forces was secured, but less than 300 were built.

This Tempo Viking has recently been returned to the road by in the US. It has taken several year to find the necessary spares for the engine.

To keep the company afloat Oscar Vidal sold a 50% stake in Tempo to the Hanomag Group. Hanomag's investment allowed Tempo to modernise its range and both the Matador and Viking received a makeover. Oddly however, Tempo continued building the old models in parallel with the new, which added to the confusion, and all were still powered by their troubled Heinkel engines.

The marketing artwork makes the Viking I and Matador modern, stylish and svelte. Unfortunately, neither were particularly speedy if powered by a Heinkel engine.

Tempo experimented with micro-cars in the early 1950s. Three and four-wheeled sedan prototypes were unveiled in 1954, but neither entered production.

Powered by a 400cc Heinkel engine, the Tempo micro-car was neither better nor worse than its contemporaries, such as the Champion 400 and Maico 400 (with which it shared an engine). But with the Hanseat, Boy, two versions of the Matador, and two versions of the Viking in production simultaneously, there really wasn't capacity to produce another range of vehicles.

In 1956 Tempo came to the assistance of Heinkel, manufacturing the bodies of the new Heinkel Kabine microcar. Several thousand were built before Heinkel outsourced construction to Ireland.

Although Otto Daus had officially retired, in 1956 he returned to work with Tempo on a small number of prototype amphibious vehicles for the army. These were just as unorthodox as the earlier G1200, but there wasn't really any market for these strange machines.

Tempo's unique three-wheeled schwimmwagen was another miss with the German army.

A single prototype has survived.

In 1956, after a production run lasting almost 30 years, Tempo stopped manufacture of the Hanseat tricycle. The designs and tooling were sold to the Indian company Bajaj-Tempo, which continued manufacturing the Hanseat virtually unchanged until 2000. The main change Bajaj made was to replace the two-stroke with a Lombardini single-cylinder diesel engine in 1978.

A common sight in rural India - an overloaded Bajaj-Tempo taxi.

The New Matador

Then in 1957 came the game changer. Tempo secured a contract with the English Austin company for their 1497cc four-cylinder four-stroke engines. Sales of the new Matador began to climb again. New export markets were secured. In the UK the Matador was sold via a joint-venture with Jensen as the Jensen-Tempo. The new Viking I Rapid also received the upgraded Austin engine. 21,000 were built until 1963.

In 1963 the Matador was upgraded again as the Matador E. Styling was quite similar to the contemporary East German Barkas van. The Matador E came with an optional Hanomag diesel engine. Some 70,000 of all variants were sold until production ceased in 1966.

A Matador E and Hanomag Courier. The models would be shortly merged together as the Hanomag-Henschel.

The 1969 sale of Hanomag to Daimler-Benz, opened a route to a new engine supply and the Austin engine was retired in favour of Mercedes-Benz engines. From 1967 Tempo's vans were sold under a bewildering variety of brand names, including Hanomag, Hanomag-Henschel, Rheinstahl-Hanomag and Mercedes-Benz.  In 1977 Mercedes-Benz wound up all the subsidiary brand names and bought them all under the Mercedes-Benz banner.

1949 Tempo Boy Brochure

1939 Tempo Brochure - German

A 1940 fact sheet and pricelist