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.
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.