This post was originally written for, and appeared here, on hooniverse.com.
So often in my life, I have discovered that a certain car exists and that I want one on the same day. The Tempo Hanseat fits snugly into that category. I was introduced to it by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the French filmmaker. His filmography includes Amélie and A Very Long Engagement. This particular Hanseat plays a role in his 2009 film, Micmacs (French Title: MicMacs à tire-larigot – Non-Stop Shenanigans).
Tempo was founded in Germany in 1924 and produced small commercial vehicles until WWII started. Naturally, they then shifted to producing military vehicles, which were mostly lightweight utility vehicles. After the war, they continued to produce small work vehicles with limited success. Then, in 1958, they teamed with an Indian manufacturer called Bajaj to create the Hanseat.
The Hanseat became very popular in both Germany and India. It was affordable and utilitarian. In Germany, which was still recovering from the economic stresses of WWII, it helped to deliver all types of products to market. It was cheap and useful, but merely a work vehicle. It had about 12 hp on tap. It was capable of about 25 mph, but rated to haul over 1,000 pounds with its 200 cc engine. Interestingly, Hanseats were front wheel drive. Throughout my limited research, I have not been able to find out how that system functioned.
At first glance, any three-wheeled vehicle looks a bit funny, but the more I see the Hanseat, the more I like the look of it. The raked grille, the cowl-mounted headlights, and the formed rear fenders all add up to what I consider the best looking three-wheeler around. Then again, perhaps Jeunet’s presentation of the vehicle is leading me into feeling this way.
The thing about all of Jeunet’s work is that he is so very good at presentation. The details in his films are amazing. For example, in the above shot, you have the old clunky Hanseat running next to a sleek, new light rail vehicle. The juxtaposition would be enough, but look closer and you’ll see more. First, the theme of green. The train has green, the Hanseat is green, and even the ground below the train is green. Next, the general shape of the front of the train matches that of the truck. This scene passes by in about 2-3 seconds, yet it is so meticulously thought out.
Two or three frames after the light rail scene, is the shot above. Just the Hanseat running down the road, right? Look closer at the billboard in the background. It’s a Hanseat driving along in front of a rural farming area. This shot reproduces that one with a modern architectural twist. Yet the vegetation in the foreground and the trees in the mid-ground carry over the feeling of the original picture. It is as if the buildings grew out of the field in the billboard.
Finally, we have a nice, artistic shot of the sun setting on the Hanseat and, coincidentally, the film, as this shot is near the end. Hats off to Jeunet for his use of this truck in Micmacs. It expanded my horizons; I learned of a whole new vehicle I didn’t even know I wanted.
(Note: The Hanseat only occupies about 45 seconds of actual on-screen time in this film, so please don’t go out and rent it and then complain that it wasn’t in the movie much. Do watch the movie for its own merits, which are plentiful.)