Bostelbek’s resourceful and determined Kleinlaster manufacturer reached the mid-1950s in a state of existential crisis, with their promising Matador range in desperate need of a suitably powerful, efficient, and dependable engine. The smaller Wiking truck was selling satisfactorily, but the Land Rover joint venture had no future, and the once-staple Hanseat Dreirad was a vehicle type soon to be consigned to history, at least in Europe. There was some short-term stability through a one-year contract to manufacture bodywork for Heinkel’s Kabine bubble car through 1956.
In 1956, Oscar Vidal found the partner his company desperately needed, when 50% of the business was bought by Hanomag, itself part of the Rheinstahl steel, mining and manufacturing conglomerate.
Changes were to follow rapidly. Three wheeler production ended in 1956, and by 1957, Tempo had two new engine suppliers. One was Hanomag itself, with the Borgward-designed 1.8 litre D301 diesel, and the other was the British Motor Corporation, sending their A and B series engines across the North Sea to power the Wiking and Matador. To mark the changes, the vans were given a styling facelift.
The new power units transformed Tempo’s fortunes. Two-strokes were rapidly falling out of favour, and the three new engines, although relatively modern, were well-proven and straightforward in their design. Furthermore, the large multi-national BMC was remote from the power games being played within the fragmented and fractious German automotive sector, therefore supplies were assured. The availability of a diesel engine gave Tempo an advantage over Ford and Volkswagen, who did not offer anything comparable until decades later.
In 1958 Tempo and the Bachraj Trading Company announced the creation of an Indian joint venture, Bajaj Tempo Motors, with the German company taking a 26% holding in the business, whose first venture was production of the Hanseat three –wheeler at Goregaon, Mumbai.
Also in 1958, Jensen Motors Ltd commenced licensed production of the Matador for sale in the UK and some British Commonwealth markets. The West Bromwich firm, whose core business was the manufacture of car and commercial vehicle bodywork, recognised the suitability of the versatile front wheel drive Matador chassis for specialist applications, and promoted this aspect vigorously. However their vehicles were expensive compared with domestic competitors, sales fell short of expectations, and the arrangement with Tempo ended in 1963.
Tempo thrived in the later Wirtschaftwunder years, but seem limited in their ambitions compared with other automotive enterprises, particularly Bremen’s fast growing and wide-ranging Borgward. It is easy to make comparisons between Borgward and Tempo; both based in Hanseatic port cities, established around the same time, and making superficially similar vehicle types. However Tempo was far smaller, probably producing fewer than 20,000 vehicles in a good year, and never built their own engines.
Borgward’s vaulting ambitions contributed to their downfall in 1961, Tempo’s more evolutionary approach underpinned their continuance. Eventually circumstances would link the two companies.
Borgward’s beginnings as a maker of low-powered freight carts was but an early step on the way to passenger car and heavy commercial vehicle production. Despite occasional ambitions, Tempo’s passenger car output was limited to a few Dreirads with Kombi or cabriolet coachwork.
An attractive Heinkel-engined microcar was developed to an advanced prototype stage between 1950 and 1954, but Tempo management decided against production on grounds of insufficient factory space, although the Matador engine supply problems were also weighing heavily on liquidity at the time.
In 1963 the Wiking series was discontinued , and the Matador E was introduced. Light restyling gave no hint of the major mechanical changes below; a ladder-frame chassis replaced the original triangular design, with torsion bars adopted as the springing medium in place of the front transverse leaf spring and rear coil springs. The powertrain was turned round with the engine now ahead of the front axle line and the transaxle behind. Power was still by the Hanomag 1.8 litre diesel or the BMC B series petrol engine. 
In 1966 Hanomag bought Vidal & Sohn’s remaining shares in Tempo-Werke. For Europe, this meant the end for the Tempo brand, with Matadors re-badged as Hanomags even before a 1967 facelift which introduced a horizontal radiator grille flanked by rectangular headlights, and the discontinuation of the Matador name .
With the arrival of the refreshed Harburger Transporter, now unromantically entitled F20, F25, F30, and F35, Hanomag also ended production of their similar-sized Kurier range, on sale since 1958.
Despite investment in new and refreshed products, mostly in the heavier-duty Henschel division, Rheinstahl’s vehicle manufacturing division was not the profit engine they had hoped for. In a rapid series of events, the troubled conglomerate merged their Hanomag and Henschel commercial vehicle manufacturing divisions on April 1 1969, to form Hanomag Henschel Fahrzeugwerke GmbH (HHF), with Daimler Benz taking a 51% holding in the new company. At the end of 1970, Daimler-Benz bought the remaining stock to take full ownership of the business.
Returning to my discovery in August 2019, after some easy research I located the Bostelbek site. Exactly north of the apartment where I was staying, I had walked past its car park several times without realising the significance of the location. In the Tempo days it had its own railway station, Bahnhof Tempowerk, of which only the pedestrian underpass remains.
The site has now been redeveloped and expanded as Daimler Hamburg, employing 2500 people to produce drivetrain and steering components. The characterful Tempo buildings have mostly gone, replaced by anonymous and efficient production sheds, but the office block on Am Radeland at the south-east corner of the site is still in place, largely unaltered.
The former Hanomag-Henschel production sites turned out to be of great value to the Stuttgart company. The Bremen factory, established by Borgward and under-utilised by Henschel, was in a city with a long history of engineering and manufacturing, an established automotive workforce, and ready access to the North Sea port of Bremerhaven. From 1969 Harburger-Transporter production was gradually transferred to Bremen, with the first Hanomag-Henschel badged van coming off the Sebaldsbrück line on 1 September of that year.
The erstwhile Matador outlived the company which created it by 33 years , and went through a series of identity changes in in its final ten years in Europe.
Following the full takeover by Hanomag in 1966 and the retiral of the Tempo brand, Matadors were badged as Hanomags. From 1970 onwards, the Harburger-Transporter carried dual identities, as the Hanomag-Henschel F20-F35 and the Mercedes-Benz L206D / L207 / L306D / L307. The Hanomag-Henschel brand was dropped in 1974.
Other than badgework, the appearance of the van in its Mercedes-Benz guise was visually scarcely changed from the 1967 Hanomag facelift which introduced a horizontal radiator grille flanked by rectangular headlights.
Mercedes-Benz made their own engineering alterations, broadening the ladder frame chassis rearwards of the cab to accommodate a dead beam axle suspended on longitudinal leaf springs. The Hanomag diesel engine was replaced by the Stuttgart company’s own OM615 unit in 2.0 and 2.2 litre displacements. However, the small demand for petrol engines continued to be met with the B-series, in 1.6 and 1.8 litre capacities – probably the only instance of a Mercedes-Benz product powered by engines made by British Leyland.
Despite the van’s ancient origins, Daimler-Benz seem to have had a fondness  for the Harburger-Transporter, as it gave them a competitor for the Volkswagen Transporter and Ford Transit for very little investment in money or design resources. Over 175,000 of the series were sold under the Mercedes-Benz brand, and a further 165,000 as Hanomag-Henschels.
In 1977 production of the TN series, the replacement for the venerable LCV commenced at Bremen. The new 207/307 was a more conventional rear wheel drive range of vans, accorded the informal name of the Bremen Transporter. In the same year, passenger car manufacturing began at the factory with S123, the estate car version of the hugely successful W123 series.
Mercedes-Benz had higher ambitions for Bremen as a production facility. It was selected for manufacture of the new W201 Baby-Benz, which had been under development since 1974. The exacting strictures set by the city fathers of the Freie Hansestadt Bremen resulted in the expanded factory not being ready for production of the Mercedes-Benz 190 at its launch in December 1982, so the first year’s production came from Sindelfingen.
In December 1983, the W201 lines at the former Borgward factory site started work, and after an unfortunate interregnum of 22 years, Sebaldsbrück was once again producing the world’s best compact premium saloon.
 The Wiking tooling went to Bajaj Tempo Motors, Tempo’s joint venture with Bachraj Trading Company , which had been producing the Hanseat three –wheeler at Goregaon, Mumbai since 1958. Indian production commenced in 1964 and continued until 1973.
 BMC supplied the B series in a Tempo-specific 1593cc capacity, achieved with a 75.5mm bore size, reduced from the standard 76.2mm or, Imperially, three inches.
 Although Harburger Transporter production ended in Bremen in 1977, Bajaj Tempo continued building Matadors until 2000.
 The diesel engine went to a new life in India, where Matador production by Bajaj Tempo Motors began in 1969. It was the key ingredient in the van’s phenomenal success, which led to ‘Tempo’ becoming a generic name in India for any light commercial vehicle, much like ‘Transit’ in the UK.
 Mercedes-Benz had less regard for the larger Hanomag-Henschel F-series vehicles, which were unrelated to the Harburger-Transporter. Despite being far newer in origin, and pleasingly styled by French industrial designer Louis Lucien Lepoix, they were discontinued in 1973 after only six years in production.
Versatility? TEN wheelbases! Beat that, Transit…