Australia's first experience of the Volkswagen was not, as you might expect, the ubiquitous beetle. In fact it was the rather more obscure Tempo Matador that introduced Australia to Volkswagen in 1949, via the Tempo's 1131cc Volkswagen engine. The beetle itself wouldn't arrive in Australia until 1952.
Even Australians with only the slightest interest in automobiles would have heard of the infamous 'volkswagen', before, during and immediately after the war through numerous stories in the automotive press. Stories about the Volkswagen, commencing in 1936 were generally positive. Herr Hitler's grand automotive project certainly resonated in distant Australia, a country without any native motoring industry. The war however destroyed that impression and the Volkswagen project was regularly denounced as a Nazi scam and fraud.
Immediately the war started the Allied press denounced the Volkswagen project as a Nazi swindle. The Mercury, Hobart, 17 November 1939
Immediately after the Second World War, Tempo began building its trusty Hanseat three-wheeled trucks, but it was clear that a new model was needed to break into the export market. In 1949 Tempo sourced the engine for the new Matador truck from the Volkswagen works at Wolfsburg. The engine was the stock 1131cc engine used by the Standard model sedan with unsynchronised gearbox. Volkswagen were happy to supply the engines at this time as they had substantial engine manufacturing capacity but finite supplies of sheet metal for bodywork. Additionally, Volkswagen had not commenced work on their own transporter van. The Tempo Matador hit the market in 1949 and was an instant success. It was soon followed by a raft of similar vans from marques such as DKW, Lloyd, Goliath, Gutbrod and, inevitably, Volkswagen itself. Once the Volkswagen T1 Transporter had established itself in the market in 1951 Volkswagen withdrew supply of engines to Tempo, virtually destroying their business overnight. Tempo would struggle along for a dozen more years trying to find a suitable replacement engine. http://tempohanseat.blogspot.com.au/2013/02/the-history-of-vidal-sons-tempo-werkes.html
Australia was one of the first countries in the world to import the Tempo Matador. They were imported a number of dealers, such as Continental Motors, Sydney and Australian National Motors, Melbourne, both of whom had been agents for DKW and other smaller German manufacturers.
Early reviews of the truck were very positive, despite the reviewers' unfamiliarity and perplexity with the Volkswagen air-cooled engine and front wheel drive. It's interesting to note that in the second review below, the reviewer mistakes the Tempo for the Volkswagen Kubelwagen used by Rommel's forces in North Africa.
Many Unusual Features In Tempo Truck
The Advertiser, Tuesday 4 March 1952
The Tempo Matador truck, a light commercial to carry pay loads up to one ton, is one of the most unusual vehicles to come to Australia. The truck is manufactured in Europe, where there are several hundred thousand of them on the roads. Its unorthodox features are an air-cooled engine with opposed offset cylinders, air cooled by pressure blower, thermostatically controlled, and a front wheel drive. The only radiator on the vehicle is for cooling the oil. The Tempo is also front wheel drive with the normal planetary type differential gears and with a universal carden shaft drive to the front wheels. The engine, differential, and gearbox are compactly situated under the front seat, leaving an unusually large payload area for the truck. Road tested yesterday, carrying a payload of 15 cwt, it gave a first-class perform on hills and through city traffic there was little evidence of it being under load at all.
Economy is one of its main attractions and a petrol mile age of about 40 to the gallon is claimed. This is quite feasible when it is considered that the top gear is really an overdrive with a ratio of 3 to 1. There are four forward speeds, with a short, floor change gear lever, giving easy changes. Another economy factor is the engine which is only 1,131 cc and yet manages a ton payload without any stress. Access to the engine is easy. The seat can be removed in a few seconds exposing all working parts and components, including the transmission. The Tempo cruises easily at between 40 and 50 mph, and good average speeds can be maintained with loads on hills by judicious use of the third gear. The chassis frame is strongly built to resist all distortion on bad surfaces. It consists of two steel tubes, braced with welded cross members. With cab and tray, the truck weighs 21 cwt.
Tempo Matador - Unusual Design With Many Possibilities
Test Run In Flood Weather
The Farmer and Settler, Friday 15 August 1952, page 11
By Our Motor Editor
Last week we road tested an unusually designed commercial vehicle with many interesting possibilities. It was the Tempo Matador low loader, a 1 ton general purpose carrier.
We covered our usual course through Mulgoa and Wallacia, to Penrith, Richmond and up to Kurrajong Heights in the worst weather that Sydney has experienced for years. A few hours after we had completed the run, the Nepean River flowed over the bridge and isolated Richmond and Windsor, so that conditions during the trip were anything but good. We started out with some doubts, but found that the capabilities of this truck for coping with bad conditions and extremely bad road were excellent.
The truck is of German design, and is claimed to be the same unit that Rommel used In North Africa to supply his army. It is distinctive in appearance, low oiling, but with good clearance. Chassis is robust, and constructed of four-inch tubular steel, with strong cross members. It is rigid in construction, and we were informed that the truck would run without tipping with one rear wheel off. It has a front wheel drive, which we found to be most effective under the wet, muddy conditions. Front suspension is orthodox, with transverse spring, wishbone suspension arms and shock absorbers, but rear axle is of the 'swing' type with dual heavy coil springs and shock absorbers. Rear wheels canter in at the bottom when unladen and at rest, and adjust themselves independently according to load and road conditions. It is this unusual rear suspension, probably, which helps the rear to 'follow' the front drive without any tendency to slide on corners or rough patches.
The engine is a four-cylinder, four-stroke air-cooled job. It is certainly unusual in design, but simple and compact. The air cooling we found to be remarkably effective, and on the grueling Kurrajong climb in low gears the engine showed no signs of overheating. It is conveniently located at the rear of the driver's seat, and is accessible without leaving the cab— a useful feature for wet weather. Drive runs forward to the gearbox then back again to the front drive assembly. For any major repair work the engine can be easily disconnected and dropped straight through the floor in a matter of minutes.
Air cooling is by a powerful blower, which also carries exhaust fumes away, and can be diverted into the driving cab to provide an efficient heating system. This is done by the adjustment of a switch. There are four forward gears, ranging from 1:3.00 to 1:0.00. Fourth gear is therefore in the nature of an overdrive, and is used for straight cruising at top speed. When the engine is required to work, third gear is used. This is rather an unusual feature for a 1-ton commercial vehicle but cut down running costs considerably. The model we tested was a low-loader type, with a handy low loading level of only 3 inches from the ground — a big saving when loading and unloading general farm work, and particularly useful for carrying livestock. The Tempo has several body adaptations, including the ordinary flat tray, panel van and six-seater mail van, as well as a station wagon model. However, we were intrigued with the many variations possibilities with the low-loader body as a base. There really seems to be no limit to the useful adaptations possible to the ingenious-minded owner.
In country and through city streets we found the Tempo easy to handle, light in response and very maneuverable. Gears are not synchro, but changing is smooth and easy once the driver gets the knack of it — only a matter of a few minutes at the wheel. In fact, anyone who has driven a 'pro-synchro' car will find the Tempo gears much easier than the former. Top speed is quoted as 50, and this would be about correct under normal working conditions. However, the speedo reads to 70 and we had our model right to the limit on a good run with a slight down grade in top gear. For hills we changed to third approaching and took them in good style. Pulling power in this gear is quite good under ordinary conditions.
The Mulgoa-Wallacia road was a sea of water and mud, with deep holes washed out by the rain and some very slippery, soft surfaces. We used top and third along this road, cruising generally between 30 and 40 m.p.h., with some runs much fasten. We tried on occasions to make the truck slide on the greasy surface, but did not have the slightest trouble in this regard. The front wheel drive took us through the worst parts of the road steadily and surely, and there was no evidence of tail slide or of wheel spin. Bad bumps were taken at good speed, and suspension proved itself excellent. There was no loss of control hitting the worst of these. We ploughed through water at high speed (for those conditions) and took some into the engine housing without ill-effect. Engine and electrical equipment seem to be well protected in this regard. Riding was quite comfortable. Naturally, as the seat is located over the front wheels, riding is a little harder than it would be otherwise, but we found the suspension very effective and conditions much better than we expected.
For a vehicle that only develops 25 BHP at 3300 revs, the Tempo gives rather a good performance. It needs to be driven constantly at 3300 revs, for best performance, which really means that it should be driven at about maximum speed in all gears. As maximum speed is not overly great there is no risk of getting to dangerous limits, but a very handy 40 to 60 average can be kept up for miles on end.
Our climb up the tough Kurrajong Heights road was quite good. We covered the 3.76 miles in 8 minutes 30 seconds, and lowest speed at any stage was 16 m.p.h. We started at the bottom at a speedo reading of 55 in top gear, changed to third at 35 on the first climb, then to second at 35. At this speed we topped the first rise and changed up again to third, reaching 30 m.p.h, which gradually decreased to 26, still in third. Going into the steeper grades we soon dropped to 30, when we changed down to second and, after slowing gradually to 15, maintained this speed to the first right-angled turn, 30 m.p.g. doing into the turn we picked up to 20, and hold this steadily to the second bend. We took this corner at 20 and were able to maintain this speed steadily to the third bend, where we dropped to 18. On the last hill climb we kept the steady 10, and as the grade eased built up to 25, when we changed up again to third, built up to 30 and held a steady 33 for most of the climb. We dropped back to 30 at the crest. This performance was quite good. Of course, we were unladen, but the truck gave the impression that it would hang on well in second gear with a good load up.
Altogether the run was impressive. The whole construction of the vehicle, both in chassis, bodywork and engine is unusual enough to create interest. The manufacturers seem to have embodied some very sound features in their product. On the day we covered 137 miles and made the trip as hard as we could. From the petrol consumption angle however we found that we had consumed only 4 and a half gallons of fuel, which gave us an average of just over 30 m.p.g. This is certainly economical running.
Our model had 11,000 miles up on the speedo. It was made available by the distributors, Australian National Motors, William Street, Sydney.