Once the Second World War was over, DAF started to develop their own trucks and the series production started in 1949. The Van Doorne brothers’ next goal was to develop and build an affordable and economical automobile for the people. Not only that, it also had to be easy to drive and to operate, regardless the age and the skills of the driver. In other words: what they wanted was a true volksauto, the Dutch equivalent of the Volkswagen.
Easy to drive and to operate. That meant it had to have an automatic transmission. But a conventional automatic transmission from that era (like in Van Doorne’s own Buick) wouldn’t work in a small and light car they had in mind. So Hub van Doorne started to work on an alternative in the fifties.
The end result was the most outstanding and renowned component in all DAF cars ever produced: the Variomatic transmission; the direct ancestor of what we now know as the widely used CVT transmission. The first DAF car, the 600 model, was officially introduced in 1958. An in-house design, the engine included.
Sooner than I initially had planned, I got me a fresh load of pictures for this car-episode of the DAF Museum tour. All pictures were taken on last Sunday.
Variomatic – swing axle combination, no differential. Used in the DAF models 600, 750, Daffodils, 33, 44 and 55. The Variomatic belts were made by Good Year.
Variomatic – De Dion combination. Introduced in 1972, used in the DAF 66 model (and the later Volvo 343 and 340 models).
Rear side of the Variomatic – De Dion, with a differential.
Three DAF two-cylinder boxer engines in a row; four stroke and air cooled. From left to right: 590 cc – 22 SAE hp, 746 cc – 30 SAE hp and 844 cc – 40 SAE hp.
The other side of the engine display, obviously the biggest engine is now on the left.
The four-cylinder water cooled Renault engines that were used in the DAF 55 and 66. On the left 1,108 cc – 50 hp and on the right 1,298 cc – 57 hp.
The very first series production DAF car, a DAF 600 De Luxe, built in 1959. It has the 590 cc engine under its hood.
This RHD DAF 600 De Luxe was exported to South Africa in 1961. In 2013 it was still a daily driver.
Both this DAF 750 model and the DAF Daffodil were introduced in 1961, powered by the 746 cc engine. The Daffodil offered more luxury and chrome parts.
The first Daffodil in the series was the Type 30.
The Daffodil Type 31 was basically the successor of both the DAF 750 and the Daffodil Type 30.
The Daffodil Type 32 was introduced in 1965 and it was the last in the Daffodil series. Italian designer Giovanni Michelotti redesigned the front, the hood and the trunk. It was Michelotti’s first DAF-job; but it certainly wouldn’t be his last.
After the introduction of the bigger DAF 44 in 1966, the smallest DAF car model was renamed DAF 33 in 1967. The 33 van was popular among electricians, plumbers and the like.
A single rectangular rear door.
Once a very common sight in my country, a DAF 33 van as used by the Dutch postal service, the PTT (the logo is on the van’s door).
Much rarer was the DAF 33 pickup.
Payload capacity 330 kg (728 lbs).
The all new and bigger DAF 44 was introduced in 1966, fully designed by Giovanni Michelotti. Powered by the 844 cc DAF engine.
A DAF 44 wagon police car.
In 1974 the DAF 44 got a De Dion axle with a single belt and was renamed DAF 46.
DAF 46 wagon. Exactly how a lot of people want their cars these days: compact, roomy, practical and cheap to buy and to run.
Looking further inside the 46 wagon.
The DAF 55, introduced in 1968, looked the same as the 44. Although it did have a bigger -and open- grille and bigger tail lights. The first DAF car model with a water cooled engine, the Renault 1,108 cc four-cylinder.
Original DAF sticker on the rear window.
Now this may come as a surprise, but DAF was actually a successful race, rally and rally-cross participant in the sixties and seventies. Above a DAF 55 in full rally trim.
Two DAF 55 rally cars drove the 1968 16,500 km London-Sydney Marathon. Number 30, the car driven by Rob Slotemaker, ended as 17th of the 100 entries. And the DAF production model “Marathon”-trim line was born.
The face of a DAF 55 Coupe.
And the front of a DAF 66 1300 Marathon Coupe. The DAF 66 model was introduced in 1972. Volvo bought DAF’s car division in the mid-seventies and rebadged the DAF 66 as Volvo 66. Meanwhile Volvo has also left the building, that is: the car plant in Born, the Netherlands.
The 66 was available with the 1.1 and 1.3 liter Renault engines.
The DAF 66 1300 Marathon as sedan.
DAF 66 wagon, also available as 1300 Marathon.
An overview of the DAF cars in the museum. Sedans, coupes, wagons, vans and pickups. From the first 600 to the last 46 and 66 models. They’re all there.
In the next (and last) article in this museum series we’ll have a closer look at some very rare DAF vehicles: the specialties.
Fascinating story. I’ve heard of DAF, but I’ve never seen one, at least not in person. A friend of mine told me about someone who had a Daffodil when he was a boy. At the time, I laughed. A car called a Daffodil?
The Daffodil had a daffodil on the steering wheel.
I’ve heard of DAF, but I’ve never seen one, at least not in person.
If you are anywhere near west Michigan, head over to the Gilmore next summer for their “air cooled” show. I went to that show last year and there was a Daffodil, in a line with a 2CV van and two Trabis. Unfortunately, the owner was not around at the moment.
Great tour. Always had a soft spot for the early DAFs. What a great pioneering concept, and one that has finally having its day. CVTs are becoming ever more common.
Neat little cars. Interesting how their “face” got less angry with each iteration (to the point where it had virtually no character by the end).
Johannes, thank you for the informative post, esp. helps to see those drivetrains. The boxer config was a widespread phenom, which is interesting in light of the earlier article on how the Corvair influenced Euro design, because it appears that wide boxer use in Europe influenced GM to use one in the Corvair. Not hard to imagine engineers going back and forth on Super-Connies and swiping ideas from other continents.
As I browsed the drivetrains I wondered if there would have been a way to change the ratios independently when cornering, which would eliminate the need for the diff and its power slurpage, but I’m thinking that would require sensors and electronics that weren’t available then. The early ones had no diff? Did they squeal on turns and wear out tires faster?
Also, the expression of the early ones I’d describe as being more supercilious than angry. The arched eyebrow is better integrated than on the popeyed-insomniac-looking Fords of the late 50’s.
The variomatic was a nifty system which sensed load (both engine load and wheel resistance) and shifted down for it. Until the later models they didn’t need a differential because of that, just a separate belt per wheel: in a corner the outside wheel had less load and was in a higher gear, the inside wheel with a higher load was in a lower gear.
It acted as a limited slip differential because of it. When the transmission was in its lowest gear (at crawling speed) the forces were too small to enable this though, which meant that when parking around a sharp corner my 55 would have the inner wheel hop and squeal a bit. It adds character.
I still own my 55 coupe, so I know all about it.
Nice to hear from a 55 coupe owner !
That’s a good explanation, the rear wheels were independently driven (Variomatic – swing axle) and the Variomatic system itself handled the cornering.
Thank you. How long did the belts last? If one side broke, could you still drive to get it serviced?
The belts last about 40000 kms, and with every DAF except the single belt 46 you could get home on one belt. I’ve had to do that as well.
The belt life was very dependent on driving style and state of tune of the car. Since the belts work on friction they get very hot, high power (over 120 HP) cars could burn through them much faster.
I am deeply impressed with the Variomatic. There is something quintessentially Scandinavian, practical, and elegant with that approach to gear reduction and differential. Truly remarkable.
The Netherlands isn’t Nordic enough to be Scandinavian, but I see what you mean.
air-cooled front mounted engine with a dual belt cvt and no diff!
more like scandinavian practical mixed with french eccentricity 😉
Nice post, I owned a lot of those, mostly 66’s, and even raced them a bit.
Always in doubt if I should get a nice 1300 Marathon again, for a daily driver, still my favorite cars.
I found the font of the chrome emblems on the early models really excellent. I know styles change, but they should have kept that.
The Michelotti work on the later models looks very close to what he was doing around the same time across the channel with Triumph with the Herald and Toledo. I wonder if DAF realized that they would get recycled work from him.
Did the sales of the DAF ever meet expectations? Holland seems like a small country to support it’s own peoples car. I can see how a few auto exports and many fewer auto imports might seem like a worthy goal.
When the CVT was tried later, an early drawback was limited torque capacity. Did the vestiges of DAF at Volvo have any ideas to overcome this, or were they happy just to enjoy the patent royalties?
Thanks for showing us this great museum.
John, Volvo has nothing to do with the CVT.
When Hub van Doorne retired in 1965, he kept on working on the further development of the Variomatic and Van Doorne’s Transmissie B.V. (VDT) was founded later on. Some early working titles were Deurnomatic (after his hometown Deurne, nearby Eindhoven) in 1970 and Transmatic a few years later. Finally it was just called the CVT.
Robert Bosch GmbH bought VDT in 1995.
Have a look at this:
Interesting write-up. Great photos of the Variomatic transmission. Fascinating. IIRC, my 2000 Volvo S40 (a mostly reliable car with a conventional 4 speed automatic; owned it 10 years) was made in the Netherlands in a former DAF or a related (Nedcar?) plant, actually as a cousin to a Mitsubishi that was also made there. Fascinating also how things are tied together sometimes, and how old ideas sometimes become new again (like the CVT).
Yes, Nedcar in Born is the former DAF car plant.
The plant, at the Dr. Hub van Doorneweg 1, is now called VDL-Nedcar (production of the Mini).
The Dutch VDL Group (also from the Eindhoven-area, the industrial heart of the Netherlands) saved the plant from closing down a few years ago.
Ive seen two DAF cars in the metal both at a museum one over an inspection pit so I had a good view of the belt drive system but now youve fully explained it I must admit its ingenious, how did these DAFs perform on hills? There are so few here I wouldnt know who else to ask. I do like DAF trucks to drive and surprising to some but a new KW was delivered to where Ive been part timing it has a DAF chassis yes I know its all PACCAR but several drivers there didnt.
It did just fine Bryce, look:
Awesome, I just wondered because Holland is mostly flat but I note one there trying to out corner a Renault so the handling must have been rather good and a finish in the 68 London to Sydney marathon is a good rep won by a Hillman Hunter, lots of much more fancied entries didnt make it.
Some interesting names on those rally cars.
I’m wondering if David van Lennep is a relative of Gijs, assuming Paul van Doorne is “one of them”, and also wondering if “Lammers” has any connection to Jan Lammers?
Johannes, you guys have every to be proud of DAF and the van Doorne brothers for their ideas and perseverance.
Some interesting engineering solutions, great styling and cars that seem very appropriate for the Dutch market (flat, quite crowded, not class conscious?).
The only downside I see is that the CVT and longitudinal engines was not a space efficient layout.
What is the link between DAF and VDL (VDL is van Doorne Ltd, I think)? Is it the bus division of DAF?
And how should we pronounce DAF? As “daf” of D-A-F?
DAF is pronounced as a word, not as the letters d, a, f.
You say “deaf”, I think. We just say “daf” 🙂
VDL = Van der Leegte, lead by Wim van der Leegte. No Van Doorne connection.
They also build buses, like the VDL BOVA Futura below. Of course it has a DAF engine…BTW, there’s a classic DAF BOVA bus in the truck article of the DAF Museum tour.
Vary similar, on some levels, to the Corvair in that one little car managed to spin off several variants (body styles) to suit several different needs and yet in the end it was a bit of an automotive dead end.
As ingenious as the CVT idea is, the execution seems to be hit and miss…depending on the manufacturer and sometimes the model of car. I’ll stick with a manual transmission as long as I can, thank you.
I wouldn’t call the DAFs with their Variomatics an “automotive dead end”. I think they were decades ahead of their time.
Affordable, fuel efficient, practical (look at the DAF wagons) and compact cars with an automatic transmission (or semi-automatic), the CVT included, are highly popular and common right now.
The only real dead end were the air cooled boxer engines. Problem solved by using the Renault engines later on.
That 1972 66 Marathon Coupe is very nice
The 70’s black stripe really makes it.
A few years ago I looked at this car, one 3 (?) DAF Shellettes in existence. it was built on existing DAF platform (a 600 maybe?) with a custom body
LtDan, talk about the one that got away. Another desirable Michelotti. Was the asking price excessive? Fiat versions of this sort of ‘beach transport’ now fetch 6 figure sums.
it wasn’t for sale, the owner hired me to do an appraisal on it. Its the only one known in existence here in the US so yes it would be quite pricey if it were for sale
Great piece. 66 fastback for me, although I do love the ‘daf’ script on the hood of the earlier models.
Was the 55 based Siluro (Italian for torpedo) Coupé concept not on display?
Maybe these’ll be featured in the last part of the series – as Johannes puts it at the end of this piece; the specialities.
I completely missed that part in the text. My bad…
No problem. I would have done the same, probably. 🙂
Correct Don, they’re all in the next article. And much more, including something very fast.
The City concept was also neat and ahead of its time; sliding drivers side door and a passenger side configuration not unlike that of the Honda Element:
The DAF 44 and 66 have a lot of Triumph 2000 vibe to them — the 44 in particular looks like a superdeformed Mk1 2000 (also styled by Michelotti, of course).
Interesting writeup on a car line I was not very familiar with.
One thing that jumps out at me is the colors. That yellow-gold, the light green, & the light blue all look like they were working with the same palette as the phone company in the US.
DAFs and Volvo 66s were still common sights on the streets of Hilversum when I lived there in 1984. I’m glad you posted the rear view photo of the transmission, as I’d only ever seen it from the front. As a result, I’d always thought the rear pulleys were mounted directly on the axles. Now that I can see they’re not, the suspension geometry of the swing axle car makes more sense. If the pulleys were on the axles, a simple trailing arm might have made sense, even if it created jacking issues.
I remember the reverse races that the DAF transmission inspired in the Netherlands. DAFs were among the fastest cars in the world, in reverse. The nature of their transmissions meant that the speed range was the same backwards. It makes me want to get my hands on a CVT Honda Accord and see if I can hit 120 mph in reverse, except I still remember losing control of a car with a digital speedometer that worked in reverse at 50 mph behind a Best Products store back in the day.
66 wagon looks a lot like a Fiat 128 wagon.
A truly fascinating story. Many thanks, Johannes!
Really late here, but great article Johannes! I’ve seen the odd RHD UK-spec Daf over here in New Zealand, but I’m unsure if they were sold new here or not. I had no idea the 33 van/pick up existed, they look like neat little things!
Scott, I can’t tell to which non-Euro countries the DAFs were exported. I do know that the Daffodil was exported to the US (hence all the chrome, I guess).
The green RHD DAF in the article was exported to South Africa when it was new. It’s not exactly a barn-find, because it was still driven daily until a few years ago.