History of DAF cars

The early beginnings

Brothers Hub and Wim van Doorne started a machine factory in Eindhoven in 1928 under the name Commanditaire Onderneming Hub. van Doorne's Machine Factory. They had previously been employed in that field in their parental home town of Deurne. They manufactured construction work which led to the construction of semi-trailers.
The factory was put into operation in 1930. Initially, they focused on the manufacture of semi-trailers and trailers. In 1934 the name was changed to Van Doorne's Aanhangwagen Fabriek, or D.A.F.. In 1936, the DAF unloader for transferring railway containers was introduced, in addition to the trado construction for military use with which a four-wheeled car could be converted into a six-wheeled variant.

The first trucks were produced in 1949, a number of about 150. Large orders were received from the Dutch army: large series of trucks were built from 1953 onwards. In addition, all kinds of inventions were made, such as the roller drum garbage truck and an extendable engine.

First steps to car manufacturing

During the Second World War, Hub van Doorne had developed a dwarf car, nicknamed the raincoat, in which Hub's ideal image of a small car for the people came to the fore. The car was never put into series production; the only prototype was sold to a circus. Later it ended up in the DAF museum in Eindhoven (Netherlands).


The first models (A-body)

After Hub van Doorne invented the Variomatic (nickname: the smart gear stick), it was decided in 1953 to also build passenger cars in order to actually be able to use the Variomatic. According to the Van Doornes, it had to be a small car. Engineer Van Brugghen was given the technical management of the project, Willem van den Brink took care of the design. In February 1958 DAF showed the world a fully-fledged, beautiful 4 to 5 person car with automatic transmission, the famous Variomatic, and with a self-developed 2-cylinder 4-stroke engine. The Variomatic was a continuously variable transmission with two rubber belts that continuously achieves new gear ratios between two discs. It was the first automotive continuously variable transmission ever to enter production.

The Daf 600 (1959) was the first DAF passenger car. At the time of its presentation at the AutoRAI, the car was not yet fully ready for production, but 4,000 orders had already been placed. The successor to the 600, the Daf 750 from 1961, got a heavier engine because 22 hp was very thin. In addition to the 750, the Daffodil type was presented in 1961. The car was slightly updated in 1963 and 1965; the models were given the type numbers Daf 31 and Daf 32 respectively, but were also called Daffodil upon their introduction. With the Daf 33 33 (1967) this name was abandoned.


Growth in models and volume (B-body)

The need for a larger DAF passenger car grew, so the head office in Eindhoven set to work to broaden the DAF passenger car program. The Italian designer Giovanni Michelotti, who designed several beautiful Triumphs and BMWs, was given the task of designing an entirely new model (the later B-body). His first DAF design was the beautiful and elegant Daf 44 (1966) in the Sedan, Combi and Van variants.

Further expansion followed with the Daf 55 in 1967. The 55 was based on the Daf 44, but was equipped with different external features, different suspension and a more powerful engine. Instead of the 850cc air cooled 2-cylinder boxer engine from our own house, an 1100cc 4-cylinder in-line engine (Renault Cléon Fonte) was housed in the front of the 55.

The 55 first appeared as a sedan, followed in 1968 by the stationcar and coupe body styles. The Coupe differs from the (reduced) windshield and had doors without a mullion.

To emphasize DAF's sporty image and successes in the London-Sydney Marathon, a package was developed for 'the sporty DAF driver': the Marathon tuning set that improved the performance of the 55. At the start this was a (pricey) set that the authorized DAF dealer could assemble, from 1971 the Marathon package was mounted in the factory.

The radically facelifted Daf 55 was launched in 1972 as a new model, the Daf 66. The novelty of the 66 was a de Dion rear axle, which would also be used in the Daf 46, Volvo 66 and Volvo 340. In addition, the Variomatic was heavily modified and the interior was given a new look. The 66 got the same 1100cc Renault engine and appeared as Sedan, Stationcar and Coupe. From 1973 a new Marathon variant came onto the market: the Daf 66 1300 Marathon with more power and some safety features.

A prototype for a light army vehicle was developed from the 44 (44YA), and further developed as the prototype 55YA, but it was not until 1974 that the 'suspender jeep' was released as 66YA after a large order from the Dutch army. In the same year, the Daf 46 (1974) appeared, which succeeded the 44 and became the last real DAF passenger car. The Daf 46 had a single-belt Variomatic and was available as a Sedan and Stationcar.


Takeover by Volvo

In the early 1970s, DAF was struggling as an independent producer of both passenger cars and trucks. Despite the growing volume and number of sales markets for passenger cars, DAF remained relatively small compared to other car brands. DAF was advised to split these branches. In Volvo, DAF found a buyer who bought the passenger car branch in 1975 to expand its model range downwards with the help of the modified Daf 66 model. The truck branch continued under its own name.

Volvo made some external and especially safety-enhancing changes to the Daf 66 and called it Volvo 66. Volvo renamed the Variomatic transmission to CVT ('continuous variable transmission').

A prototype for a larger car, the intended Daf 77, developed in-house under the project name P900, was further developed by Volvo and taken into production as the Volvo 343. This model evolved into the Volvo 340/360 and became a success with 1,139,689 produced copies. Production ceased in 1991; the last example was equipped with a CVT drive. In other words, a passenger car with a Variomatic transmission developed by DAF marked the end of decades of DAF passenger car production.



In the end

Does it end here? Absolutely not! Due to DAF Club Netherlands and many enthusiasts, among others, there is a lot of attention worldwide for DAF passenger cars with Variomatic and Volvos with CVT.

DAF Club Nederland houdt Dafs* rijdend!
Translated: DAF Club Netherlands keeps Dafs driving!

*and Volvo's with CVT