The third stop on my awesome automotive weekend of fun with Oppofreak Jobjoris was the DAF Museum in Eindhoven, The Netherlands. DAF is, of course, Holland’s most famous vehicle manufacturer. They’re best known for their trucks, but they’re best loved for their cars which were quirky and cool even though they introduced the world to the enthusiast’s enemy, the continuously variable transmission. In 1954, company founder Hub van Doorne wondered if he couldn’t power a car with belts like the belt-driven machinery in his lorry factory. Five years later, DAF introduced the 600, the first small car with a true automatic transmission.

This was revelation as the cars popular in Europe at the time usually had tiny engines of less than 1000cc’s that just couldn’t deal with a traditional automatic. And the CVT was a clever innovation. As Wiki explains:

The DAF Variomatic employs engine speed, via centrifugal weights, to shift the transmission and is enhanced by an engine manifold vacuum. It was the only car ever produced which went faster by the simple expedient of gently and gradually releasing the accelerator once top speed had been reached. This increased manifold vacuum which helped the variable pulleys shift to an even higher ratio so even though the engine RPM stays the same, the transmission increases the car’s speed, in the case of the DAF 600, from 60 miles per hour (97 km/h) to nearly 70 mph (110 km/h) given enough time and level road.

The Variomatic also permitted increased engine braking by operating a switch on the dashboard which reversed the action of the vacuum on the pulley’s diaphragm, seeking a lower ratio with increased manifold vacuum.

Neat. DAF stopped making cars in the mid 70's when the automobile division was sold to Volvo, but they definitely left a lasting legacy. And DAF Trucks still builds trucks although the company is not quite the same as the original. So, here are some photos from the surprisingly fascinating DAF Museum. The company really has an incredible history. They built everything from cars to trucks to military vehicles to plane parts to huge diesel engines to race cars and more crazy stuff.

The first DAF. Hub van Doorne designed this in 1943 recognizing that there was going to be a need for cheap transportation when the war was over. It’s called the Mobile Raincoat (I consider all raincoats mobile myself, but whatever) and is powered by a 150cc engine with a torque converter transmission designed in house. Speaking of which, it’s narrow enough to drive through your front door. It was used by a clown troupe for many years, no surprise.
DAF got its start building agricultural trailers.
DAF’s first production vehicle was the 1949 A50 truck chassis with a welded frame. Engines from Hercules or Perkins, Fuller transmissions, Timken axles, Ross steering gear, Hardy-Spicer driving shafts, u-joints and wheels and Bosch electrics.
A concept for an off-roader that looks like a spider. This was built by a customizer, or maybe a dealer, I think, for possible series production, but it never got off the ground.
A DAF bus trailer. After WWII times were tough and it was too expensive and time intensive to design and engineer much needed busses. So, DAF cleverly built these, trailers that could be pulled by semis.
The absolutely splendid Daf Kini. This is a beach car designed by Giovanni Michelotti and gifted to the Dutch Royal Family on the occasion of the birth of Prince (now King) Willem Alexander in 1967.
A Ford inspired 1955 DAF A 117. The model was introduced in 1951 and it’s powered by a 91 horsepower Hercules JXE-3 gasoline engine.
A DAF S.W.A.T. van.
The DAF YP 408 is an 8×6 armored personnel carrier.
DAF even had an aerospace division that made landing gears for the F-16.
A DAF YA-66 civilian version.
A one-off DAF 44 cabrio-coupe with doors that fold down.
This is a DAF 55 with a custom body built by Moretti. Apparently the car’s owner wanted something a little roomier and with 4 doors, but still wanted the convenience of an automatic, so this was the result.
This was my favorite. It’s a 1964 Handywagon. Not only is it cute, but it was purpose built for the Arkansas Louisiana Gas Company. Arkansas America! I had never heard of this thing and it blew me away. The company wanted a cheap, easy to drive small pickup for maintenance workers that they could build themselves. So they designed this little pickup in house and contacted DAF for the mechanicals having heard about their CVT. DAF built them a 2 cylinder, 30 horsepower motor mated to one of their Variomatics and shipped them to Arkansas where 97 of these trucks were manufactured. They were apparently in service for about 10 years and 3 are known to survive. I must find one of the others. There’s got to be a couple out there somewhere.
1968 DAF Siluro, another beautiful Michelotti concept. It was his idea of a “dream coupé.”
This is was probably the most impressive thing there. The DAF Porter, a 4 wheel drive amphibious buggy that looks like it belongs on the set of Space: 1999. Based on the videos of it playing, it could go literally anywhere.
As you can see, it achieved 4 wheel power with friction drive. The small wheel makes the big wheels go.
Adorable DAF pedal car.
This concept was called the BATU which stood for Basic Automotive Transport Unit. It was meant to be an easily assembled all-purpose vehicle for Asian and African markets.
The DAF Pony, the coolest utility vehicle ever produced.
1967 Kalmar DAF. Originally ordered by the Swedish postal service, this one was repurposed for a restaurant. These were based on the DAF 44.
This was a cool little military transport thing where your feet dangle off the front of the vehicle. It was actually designed for the U.S. Army.
DAF Shellette, another beach car designed by Michelotti. This one was owned by Jackie Kennedy Onassis.
1966 DAF O.S.I.-City concept, built in Turin, Italy and designed by Ghia.
DAFs made quite successful rally cars.
1965 Alexis Mk5 Formula 3 with Variomatic.
The Huron 4A track and hillclimb race car. Powered by a 2 liter Cosworth and featuring a big DAF Variomatic.
Variomatic - swing axle combo used in the 600, 750, Daffodils, 33, 44 and 55. No differential. The belts were made by Good Year.
The first DAF car, the 600. It was powered by a 591cc motor.
The 750 had a larger motor and was called the Daffodil.
Daffodil Type 31 sporting some chrome.
DAF 32 van. The 32 was a Daffodil with a Giovanni Michelotti designed facelift. It was the last Daffodil/600 based car and Michelotti’s first venture with DAF.
DAF 33 Pickup
The DAF 44 was an all new car designed by Michelotti and released in ‘66. It had a DAF 844cc motor.
The DAF 66, the last DAF model, introduced in 1972.
After Volvo purchased the company, they kept producing DAF 66s with a Volvo badge.
This is a prototype for a GT Coupe built in 1965 and designed by Michelotti. DAF didn’t think they would sell enough to justify the cost of putting it into production which is a shame because it’s gorgeous.

This was really one of the best single manufacturer museums I’ve ever been in. Not knowing anything really about DAF’s history, I was constantly being surprised.