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Oddball Truck: 1957 Tempo Matador

1957 Tempo Matador

There is nothing like discovering a vehicle that you previously didn’t know existed. Well this 1957 Tempo Matador is the first I’ve ever seen, as a matter of fact I’ve never even heard of the German manufacture Tempo. This one is in need of a complete restoration, but the seller is asking just $1,400 or best offer. This could be a really interesting and fun project, so find it here on craigslist in San Francisco, California. Special thanks to Robert J for the tip!1957 Tempo Matador Cab

From these few dark photos it’s hard to tell what exactly you are looking at. From some angles it looks a bit like a VW Bus and others it looks like a full blown work truck. It was designed to be a light commercial vehicle that was cheap to maintain and versatile. Before VW decided to create truck versions of the Bus, the Matador was actually powered by a VW motor, but when they introduced the Transporter they decided to not supply their competitor with motors. While Tempo Werkes had to turn to VW for motors they were actually a long established German manufacture, but after WWII the company struggled to find it’s place in the global market. While they saw some success in the domestic market, it wasn’t until the mid ’50s when the company partnered with Firodia Ltd. to produce three wheel vehicles for the Indian market that the company really saw success at a global level. In 1966 they partnered with Hanomag AG to build the Henschel and in 1971 they were bought out by Daimler-Benz.

Tempo Matador Interior

After the VW motor supply dried up, Tempo was desperate to find a new engine for their truck so they turned to Austin. The 1.5 liter Austin built A50 is by no means a power house motor, but it was actually an improvement over the air cooled VW unit. Unlike the Transporter or most work trucks, the under cab motor doesn’t power the rear wheels, but the front ones. It might seem like an unusual configuration for a work truck, but actually proved to be effective for most jobs. This truck is going to need a lot of work, as there is rust on the cab and in the floors. As long as the rust is localized to the body and hasn’t spread to the frame, this shouldn’t be an extremely difficult project. Sourcing replacement parts could present be a challenge though.

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The Matador might be one of the more unusual trucks I have seen in a while, but there is something appealing about it. It is similar enough to a VW to be mistaken for one at first glance, but the subtle differences draw you back in for a second take. I’m not sure about parts supply, but given how much of the truck was outsourced it might not be that hard to find most parts. This truck has lots of potential, but it is going to take an owner with a lot of knowledge and know-how. In the right hands, this could be one cool truck! So any takers?


  1. Rick

    Whattaya talkinabout – you never heard of a Tempo before? Ford used to make it in the 80s (and a Mercury badged clone whose name excapes me at the moment) really mundane, lots found their way into rental fleets

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  2. jim s

    new one on me also. if there is any rust in the 2 tubes that make up the frame that would be a real problem. nice find

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  3. Mark E

    Shouldn’t be hard at all! Since nobody’s seen/heard of these, you can finish it any way you like. Work up a really good story and stick to it, nobody will be able to prove you wrong! ;)

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  4. Brian

    Any salvage yard in North American worth their salt should have at least half a dozen of these sitting on the back row just waiting to be carved up for restoration parts…

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  5. Jeffry

    Just to clarify the location, it is listed as Exeter which is in central Cal near Fresno. Cool little rig, great for hauling Vespa’s or Lambreta’s, and by the way, Barn Finds it is nice to see that you generated some fire under you and are putting more time into your site. I am finding that i am now looking forward to your posts and what might be next.

    Like 1
    • Josh Staff

      Thanks Jeffry! It’s always good to get a fire going so you push yourself to do better! And while hunting for oddballs is a lot of work, it is always worth it in the end. And I hope you keep enjoying the site well into the future!!!

      Like 1
  6. Leo

    If i didnt already have a project i would be on the phone! Cool vehicle I never knew existed untill this feature . Gotta hand it to you Jesse, on the featured vehicles lately. What ever it was that happened, it got you focused and it shows lol. One suggestion i might offer FWIW is to write from a third person perspective rather than an “I” perspective. It will engage ypur audience more. Great job !!

    Oh yea , if you run across an obsure british car in your explorations let me know about it before you post it and kill any negotiating leverage lol. Just kidding as i already have my long term project car :)


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  7. Leo

    About this truck.. It is really hard to assertain what all is missing and that is not a good thing. Mechanicals are rarely major killers but trim and mechanical support assemblies can ruin ones day when it becomes apparent they are made of unobtainium. ( which may be why this truck is for sale).
    It would behove any interested parties to visit in person before laying out any money

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  8. Charlie F

    Gotta say – I like the first person narrative. Makes the site seem more personable and approachable, more of a labor of love and less a search for internet wealth. Not that I mind the search for wealth. Please keep doing what you are doing and I’ll keep reading!

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  9. guggie

    reminds me of a Golith , an older gent in our town had a Golith pick up truck he drove for years , his daughter my even still have it . I dont know any specifics on that truck ie motor ,drive line !

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  10. Kevin

    What’s a Matador!? Heh, ad campaign for the AMC Matador in the 70’s. But it does fit here.

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  11. Murph

    Never seen one.
    Looks great!

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  12. Thomas B

    These Tempo Matador trucks (and minibuses) were not common here in Sweden but they were definitively here. They did sell in small numbers until they partnered with Hanomag wich created the F20/F35 range which later was renamed Mercedes-Benz 206/306 when they started to be quite common on our roads, engines were Austin/BMC/BL gasoline of 1600-1800 ccm or Hanomag (Borgward) 1800 or Mercedes-Benz 2000-2200 ccm diesels. I myself drove a 306D with crew cab and long bed for a couple of months in 1978…

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    • DT

      I have the Borgward B-2000.the contract to the German government was carried out by Bussing after Borgward had the rug pulled out from under them.I always liked the Hanomag campers.not too long ago I saw a Hanomag
      with an Airstream grafted on to the back of it,I wanted it

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  13. James

    Hello I just bought the tempo. Thx 4 the lead u can follow the project on Instagram. User name vwtrends

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    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Thanks for letting us know. Please send in progress updates so we can post them here on the site. Thanks!

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    • Lindsay

      My father had the Tempo Matador tray version which he used as a milk delivery truck from about 1960 through until the mid 70’s. We lived in Australia so it was a RHD version with an Austin engine, which was very under powered. The Matador was very unusual in Australia. I only ever knew of one other. Thanks to the FWD the tray was very low which made it perfect for milk delivery. It was also the first vehicle I ever drove, as my father taught me to drive at 13, illegally, so I could help him with early morning deliveries in our small country town. As a first job this was a much superior alternative to delivering newspapers on a pushbike :)

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      • Simon smith

        Hi Lindsay
        What area was the milk run , my father has just restored an amazing example of this truck would love some more information as I believe what we can fin out this is the only truck like this in Australia and very rare world wide feel free to call me 0412794987

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  14. seann

    hi there
    just found this so im going to beg for you help and hope you see it. ive brought one exactly the same (colour included) there is no vin plate on mine and was hoping you might be able to tell me a area to look in for it being stamped on the chassis or possibly a body number? any help would be great!!
    cheers seann

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  15. Janine

    I am the proud owner of a Tempo Matador. But mine is from 1964 and turned into a campervan. Did not now it was such a rare brand when i bought it, just fell in love. I started making a website about the restauration of the Tempo.

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    • Lindsay

      I just realised that I left a comment about 18 months ago, so this is very similar, but my dates stated previously were about 10 years or so out. My father owned a Tempo Matador during the late 1950s and early 1960s which he used as a milk delivery truck in a small country town in Australia. It had a tray back with an open canopy. The front wheel drive meant the tray was able to be very low, making it ideal for deliveries, and of course, conversion to a motorhome. The engine was an Austin A40, very under powered and somewhat unreliable. I learned to drive in it, and I distinctly remember the weird gear stick which protruded straight out from the middle of the dashboard. And you are right. The Matador was very rare. I only ever knew of one other in Australia. My father traded it on Commer van in about 1966.

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    • jay

      Im here in north carolina. I saw one go by about a month ago. I thought it was a VW, but now that i see the front end of the Tempo. I realize that it wasnt.

      Like 0

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