History of DAF Motor Company

The first passenger car, the DAF 600, had a unitary steel construction, with a front mounted, air cooled two cylinder boxer engine driving the rear wheels through a centrifugal clutch and the VariomaticCVT transmission. The way this was constructed eliminated the need for a differential, with the drivebelts taking up the difference of speed in the corners.

This acted as a limited slip differential. The car had independent suspension all round, with MacPherson struts and a transverse leaf spring at the front, and a coil sprung semi trailing arm design at the rear. The first 600s rolled off the production line in the following year. The next model was the 750, featuring a larger 749 cc (45.7 cu in) twin.

Later, DAF produced a more luxurious type called the Daffodil, divided into three models assigned the numbers DAF 30, DAF 31 and DAF 32. The designation 32 was changed to 33 upon the 1966 release of the 44, a larger middle class vehicle designed by Giovanni Michelotti.

The 44 featured a completely new design aesthetically as well as mechanically, but was of the same layout as the "A type's" (the 600, 750, 30, 31, 32 and 33), with the main difference being its 850 cc (52 cu in) two cylinder engine, and its full swingaxle rear axle design as opposed to the A type semi trailing arms.

The 1968 DAF 55 carried a bigger water cooled 1,108 cc (67.6 cu in) OHV four cylinder engine derived from the Renault 8 Cleon engine. Its body design was altered from the 44 by a new front which accommodated the longer engine and radiator, bigger taillights, and a more plush interior. The front suspension was changed from a transverse leaf spring to MacPherson struts with torsion springs and an antiroll bar.

The DAF 66 was introduced as a successor to the 55. It featured new, boxy styling of the front, and a new rear axle design. The two drive belts now powered a differential, and the axle was changed from a swingaxle design to a leaf sprung de Dion axle. It was a major improvement over the (tricky) handling of the swing axles of the earlier 33, 44 and 55 models.

Volvo gained a 33 percent stake in DAF in December 1972, always with the intent of taking a larger interest. They increased their holdings to 75% on 1 January 1975, taking over the company and the NedCar plant. Volvo dropped the 33 and 44 models, and later rebadged the DAF 66 as the Volvo 66, with bigger bumpers and a safety steering wheel.

The DAF 46 was developed with Volvo's assistance, and was basically a 44 with the rear axle of a 66 and a single belt Variomatic (half the 66's transmission). A big weakness of this system is that a failed drive belt would cripple the car. The last DAF design, codenamed P900, initially intended to be the DAF 77, was developed during the transition to Volvo ownership and was ultimately launched as the Volvo 300 series in 1976, firstly as the Volvo 343 three door hatchback with the Variomatic transmission.

After initial slow sales, the range was expanded into the 340/360, with a five door variant and the availability of manual transmission, and the 340/360 range became a sales success, eventually surpassing 1.3 million units by the time production ceased in 1991. The subsequent Volvo 440/460/480 and the first generation S40/V40 models were also made at the NedCar plant, until Volvo sold its interest to Mitsubishi Motors in 2001, marking the end of Volvo's involvement with the former DAF plant after almost thirty years. Today, the plant is now owned by VDL NedCar, and contract manufactures certain MINI models for BMW.

Prototypes and special cars

For a small company, DAF made a huge number of prototypes. Also, famous coach builders like Giovanni Michelotti and OSI made cars based on the DAF technique. For instance, the OSI City Car, which turned into a miniature. There was also Michelotti's "Shellette" beach car, which was later modified to use Fiat 850 underpinnings.

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