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Lost Marques: DAF

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DAF

DAF

 1950 - 1975
Country:
Netherlands
ALTHOUGH a very late starter in the field of volume car production for the European market, the DAF company (later to be controlled by Volvo), had been active in many fields of transportation since it was set up in the early 1920s by the Van Doorne brothers.

With money borrowed from a Dutch businessman, the two brothers originally concentrated on the field of semi-trailer production, bringing out a new, light unit which received a very ready acceptance from the rapidly expanding, yet still fairly embryonic, European road-haulage industry.

The fact that Dutch road hauliers eventually became the largest single section of this growing industry, helped DAF in their expansion, and soon the company's products were a familiar sight on Continental roads.

With Hub Van Doorne providing the design impetus and his brother Wim contributing considerable business acumen to the partnership, DAF enjoyed a steady rate of expansion while gaining for itself a reputation for first-class products and top-quality after-sales service.

Even World War 2 was not a major deterrent to the thinking of the Van Doorne brothers, and the factories at the company's headquarters in Eindhoven, Holland, were soon in production again after the end of the war. The next major step in the company's progress was taken in 1950 when DAF decided to enter the commercial-vehicle industry with a product of the company's own design.

Built to the same parameters as DAF'S successful range of trailers and semi-trailers, DAF trucks capitalized on the good reputation of the company's name and on the already existing sales and service network, which offered Continental hauliers a Europe-wide organisation of service and parts depots.

The Unique Variomatic Transmission



By 1974, DAF was an important producer in many fields ancillary to that of commercial vehicle production and, in fact, manufactured armoured cars, specialist vehicles, marine engines and other items of heavy industrial equipment. However, to most motorists the name DAF was synonymous with the unique Variomatic transmission, which was a product of the fertile engineering brain of Hub Van Doorne.

Introduced at the Amsterdam Motor Show of 1958, the first DAF car was a small, two-door saloon, powered by a 600 cc twin-cylinder, air-cooled engine. It was the use of rubber belts and variable diameter pulleys as a form of transmission which intrigued both the general public and automotive engineers alike.

The Variomatic was the brain child of Dr. Hub van Doorne (van Doorne's Automobiel Fabrieken - DAF) and was infinitely variable in its ratios - there were no noticeable gear changes. The pulleys in the transmission expanded and contracted, depending on speed, road conditions and driver's demand automatically. Final drive to the rear wheels was transmitted by rubber-composite drive belts. It became known as the "car of a hundred gears" and "the easiest car in the world to drive". There was a selector lever between the front seats - simply push it forward to go forwards and back to go back! And as with any other automatic car, there are just two pedals - accelerator and brake.


1958 DAF Daffodil
Introduced in 1958, the DAF Daffodil used a 600cc twin-cylinder air-cooled engine. Its transmission system used rubber belts and variable pulleys.

1966 DAF Daffodil
This is a later version of the original Daffodil, circa 1966.

1967 4 cylinder DAF 1100
The 4 cylinder DAF was introduced in 1967, and used a 1100cc Renault engine. A later sports version was introduced in 1970, which was fitted with a 1440cc engine which produced 140bhp and had a top speed of over 115 mph.

1967 DAF 33
1967 DAF 33.

1973 850cc DAF 44 in Stationcar form
This picture shows a 1973 850cc DAF 44 in Stationcar form.

1975 Brabham Formula 3 with DAF Variomatic Transmission
This photo was taken in 1975, and shows a Brabham Formula 3 using the Variomatic transmission.

Rallycross DAF driven by the de Rooy brothers
This rallycross version of the DAF was driven by the de Rooy brothers.

1967 DAF Truck
Volvo assumed control of DAF in 1967, the name used on trucks.

DAF Variomatic transmission
The DAF Variomatic transmission.

1973 DAF 66 Marathon
1973 DAF 66 Marathon.

Changes in the diameter of the primary and secondary pulleys of the Variomatic transmission were effected by a combination of engine torque, spring pressure, centrifugal force, exerted by bob weights in the primary pulleys, and by the filling and emptying of vacuum chambers - again in the two primary pulleys.

Although sounding complicated in theory, in practice, the Variomatic transmission system gave infinitely variable gear ratios between the maximum and minimum diameters of the pulley, eg: between 14.22: 1 and 3.6: 1 in the case of the Variomatic fitted to DAF's 66SL range of cars.

The completely stepless ratio changes, in what is virtually the final-drive ratio, meant that DAF cars could accelerate or decelerate without any of the jerks or bumps which sometimes bedeviled other forms of transmission, both automatic and manual. After 1958, DAF steadily capitalised on the benefits of the Variomatic transmission and on the acceptance gained by DAF cars throughout Europe.

The product itself was subject to a continuous development programme and the last models bore little physical resemblance to the rather crude device originally shown. DAF didn't ignore the potential of the transmission system with regard to motor sport.

In the early days of the car's development, the factory embarked on a programme of participation in single-seater racing in the Formula Three Class. In this category of intensely close racing, the Variomatic proved more than capable of handling the power of a highly tuned engine: over 100 bhp in a Brabham chassis.

A further benefit of the transmission in motor sport terms was that it absolved the driver from the responsibility of making gear changes, a fact which was very quickly appreciated by the rallying fraternity and which, in turn, led to DAF competing in the majority of the important international rallies, scoring many class wins and some outright victories when transmission reliability and rugged dependability were of paramount importance.

With the inception of autocross and rallycross in the European motor-sporting scene, the Variomatic transmission easily established its supremacy on icy or muddy surfaces, and the specially developed DAF rallycross cars of the De Rooy brothers, Jan and Harry, eventually ended up with four-wheel drive and 220 bhp, still using the basic principles of the Variomatic transmission system.

The DAF 33 and 44



In fact, the Variomatic transmission system has always been a novelty of DAF design. In 1962, it was used on the DAF 33, introduced as a 750 cc version of the original Daffodil model. The car proved so popular that two years later DAF production was running at 20,000 models a year. In 1967, a larger version, called the 44 and powered by an 850 cc engine, appeared. Styling was by Michelotti and the bigger DAF was capable of over 75 mph.

The 55 was introduced in 1968 and with this model DAF made a break from the twin-cylinder engines used previously. The 55 was powered by a four-cylinder, 1100 cc Renault motor and a more powerful sports version appeared a year later.

After 1958 there were many changes in the financial structure of the DAF empire in general and the car producing sector in particular. The growing popularity of the DAF car meant that the production capacities of the Eindhoven plant were stretched beyond the limit of acceptability, and sociological and economic changes within the Dutch economy also contributed to major developments in the company's history.

The discovery of abundant supplies of North Sea gas in Dutch territorial waters brought about the virtual collapse of the country's mining industry, bringing the threat of severe unemployment to the mining areas situated in the south of Holland. It was with these factors in mind that the Dutch Government stepped in and offered financial aid in the building of a completely new car-producing factory at Born, in the south of Holland, in return for financial participation in the company.

This move was to lead to a complete re-organisation of DAF's financial structure so that by 1974 DAF consisted, in essence, of three separate units. The first of these was a holding company which oversaw the activities of the other two separate units - the Truck Division and the Car Division.

Further financial involvement with other international companies, interested in utilising the skills and techniques of the Dutch concern, brought about participation of the giant American International Harvester Company in the Truck Division's financial structure and by the Swedish Volvo company in the Car Division's financial structure.

The DAF 1300 Marathon



The solid financial and technological backing of these companies, together with the active participation and co-operation of the Dutch Government in DAF's affairs, resulted in the successful operation of the Born plant and the plan of the Car Division's management to double the capacity of the factory by the end of the 1970s.

The company's trucks continue to be made at Eindhoven, but a shortage of skilled labour in Holland resulted in several satellite factories being built in surrounding areas. Work continued on the development of a strong model line and DAF's new car of 1973, the 1300 Marathon took the company into a bigger sector of the market than was ever possible before.

Work also continued on development of the Variomatic transmission and on refining the design philosophy and application of the system. It was expected that the late 70S would see a far greater use of the Variomatic transmission in fields not exclusive to the private motor car.

The DAF 66SL 1300



In May 1974 a new model, the 66SL 1300, was introduced, exclusively for the British market and to be built only in limited numbers. The car was primarily designed as a livelier addition to the range, with improved performance from a 1289 cc 65 bhp engine and sporty roadholding aided by wide wheels, radial tyres and a de Dion rear suspension. November of the same year saw the introduction of the 46, a new model based on the popular 44 and, like previous cars, available in saloon and estate versions.

The car featured de Dion rear suspension and a further developed version of the Variomatic transmission, in this model using only a single belt. The model continued in production until 1976 and, with future developments following their course, it was to be the last car from the Dutch manufacturer to bear the name DAF, which then only appeared only on the company's commercial vehicles.

As from the 1st January 1975, Volvo's shareholding in DAF Cars BV was increased from 33% to 75% - making the company a Volvo subsidiary. Management and control of DAF were taken over by Volvo and on 1 May 1975 the company's name was changed to Volvo Cars BV, Netherlands.

From the beginning of DAF's cooperation with Volvo, testing and development was carried out on a large scale to modify the DAF 66 to meet Volvo's stringent quality and safety requirements. With the change of control of the company, DAF cars ceased to be made under their own name and, although mechanically virtually identical to the original product, the 66 was given up-market trim treatment and renamed the Volvo 66.

The small Volvo range was later extended with the introduction of the 343 which was again a DAF in everything but name, marking the once ridiculed 'rubber band' transmission with its most impressive seal of approval. The 343 was available with Variomatic transmission up to the end of its manufacturing run in 1991. However, the spirit of Variomatic transmission lives on in new generation CVT cars.

Also see: DAF Car Reviews

DAF
Models
Year
DAF 600
1959
DAF 600
1960
DAF Daffodil 30
1961
DAF 600
1961
DAF Daffodil
1962
DAF 750
1962
DAF 600
1962
DAF 600
1963
DAF Daffodil 32
1965
DAF Daffodil 32
1966
DAF 44
1966
DAF Daffodil 32
1967
DAF 44 1.1
1967
DAF 44
1967
DAF 44
1968
DAF 44
1969
DAF 44
1970
DAF 44
1971
DAF 66 L
1972
DAF 66 1.1
1972
DAF 66
1972
DAF 44
1972
DAF 66 1.3
1973
DAF 66
1973
DAF 66
1974
DAF 46
1974
DAF 66
1975
DAF 46
1975
DAF 46
1976


DAF
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