R.A-S.H: The DAF 66


Stepping solidly aside from the idea of the Tall Car, or the Tough American Car For All Seasons, we find ourselves in Holland looking at a very small one of only average height and with next to no off-road capability.

DAF buses and trucks are all over the place across Europe, but for most folk of Below A Certain Age, the DAF name will have virtually no bearing on the world of the car. This is a shame as Van Doorne’s Automobiel Fabriek should be recognised and revered for the tenacity with which they stuck to their ideas.

Tonight we look at the DAF 66.


“Latest expression of a brilliantly simple concept.”

The DAF 66 arrived in 1972, taking the mantle from the DAF 55, which itself took over from the DAF 44 (spot the trend in nomenclature yet?), the DAF 33 and the ultra-manly Daffodil.

“A compact luxury car”

Well, certainly it was compact. And it wasn’t ultra cheap, and was pretty well nailed together so maybe it could have been called luxury. Let’s not quibble, that’s what they wanted to call it. Luxury it is.

“With distinguished good looks that subtly say “this is a quality car”.

We get it, it’s Q.u.a.l.i.t.y. And L.u.x.u.r.y.


“With performance that will frankly surprise you.”

I’d like to test that claim. No, I really would, because these little DAFs have fascinated me for a long time, which is probably how I came to possess a copy of this extremely cool ’73 brochure. and the main reason I find the DAF fascinating is that famous transmission. Not just any old box o’ cogs, this unique system was an:

“….even more advanced version of the worlds smoothest, simplest, fully automatic drive. With DAF there are no jerking gear changes. DAF drivers enjoy a smoothness quite unknown to owners of any other make, regardless of price.”

Yep, the good old Variomatic, great grandfather of all the worlds Continuously Variable Transmission systems, using a belt, cone and pulley system with ratios changing much as it does using a bicycle derailleur system, only, you know, continuously variable.


I’ve driven a lot of CVT boxes. Many of the Mercedes A and B-Class I find myself in have the Benz interpretation fitted, or Autotronic in Stuttgartese. These systems theoretically ensure that the engine output is always at peak torque. Sounds cool, but in practice it doesn’t always mean spellbinding performance. Not in the A or B-Class Mercedes, anyway, but that may be because of the paucity of power (except the 200 Turbo, which was mental). Still, it does bring about the strange phenomenon of holding the exact same engine note from 5mph to 60.

Modern systems aren’t as pure, though as Variomatic. Autotronic has five preset “gear” ratios as well to allow more responsive kickdown acceleration. However, it doesn’t working in exactly the same way in reverse as it did going forwards. Yes, with the DAF system, if you were really brave, really determined and / or really stupid, you could go as fast in reverse as going forward.

“Above all, ease of control is the outstanding DAF safety feature. With the simple automatic shift lever. Just forward to go forward. Back to go back. It’s as simple as that! You’re always free to concentrate 100% on the road”

Useful when you’re going 80mph in reverse.


“Roadholding, too, has always been good with DAF. But in the new DAF 66 there is an entirely new De Dion rear suspension system.”

This is cool, too, and something I had forgotten about until I re-read the brochure. The 66 finally abandoned the somewhat treacherous prior swing-axle configuration and adopted the same basic arrangement as one found under the rear end of an Alfa GTV6 or Ferrari 375. I mean, that didn’t mean that it handled brilliantly, but it was benign and predictable compared to the twitchiness of old.

“One of todays most quietly impressive cars…… it is a very advanced car indeed”

I’m prepared to believe that. I’d be quite interested to see where DAF would fit into the market these days. I know that their car-building activities were absorbed by Volvo in ’76, so it’s fair to make the DAF / Volvo association. But, you know, there was a cheeky underlying crazy Dutchman-ness about DAF that the Svenka Posse could never equal.

And, you know, how cool are the couple in this picture?


The 66 metamorphosed into the Volvo 66, and pretty soon the DAF name would stop appearing on cars altogether. The final vehicle that DAF would develop (under the code-name DAF 77, natch) would be the Volvo 300-series, which inherited the variomatic gearbox but was deathly, tragically, cataclysmically dull.

(Disclaimer:- All photos were taken by the author and are of genuine original manufacturer publicity material. All copyright rights remain in the possession of the manufacturer, who make Trucks now. And Buses. But not cars. Bring back the Dafodil!)

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27 responses to “R.A-S.H: The DAF 66”

  1. Devin Avatar

    I live fairly close to work, though I have to drive it anyway given the nature of my job.
    If I had a DAF, I'd totally try driving to work entirely in reverse.

  2. dukeisduke Avatar

    I could totally rock one of those, especially if it came with the chick in the last picture. But then again, she's probably around 65 now.

  3. HSA Avatar

    Had the DAF brand been kept alive, we could have seen some interesting little cousins of the larger Volvos. Volvo 480 with Variomatic. Volvo C30 with some oddball technology under the hood and less Volvo-like design.

    1. julkinen Avatar

      Would the 480 have been called the DAF 88? It would've easily done without the underbumper Volvo grille…

      1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

        Keep an eye out for a 480 appearing in this series soon…..

          1. Dean Bigglesworth Avatar
            Dean Bigglesworth

            Coincidentally, I'm stuck at 88p. Completely off-topic now, but are you by any chance going to American Car Show or Air & Motor Show Live this spring?
            Last year I was accidentally given admin rights when I posted pics from ACS because one of our Supreme Leaders thought I was you… There can't be two persons from Finland here can there?

          2. TurboBrick Avatar

            Any more and we might as well apply for a .fi domain name.

          3. julkinen Avatar

            I haven't made any plans to go to ACS, but it's a possibility. Will be at the Classic Motorshow, surely.

          4. Dean Bigglesworth Avatar
            Dean Bigglesworth

            Damn, I had forgotten about Classic Motorshow.. Oh well i still have time to make sure I'm able to go. PM me on the forum or something if you're going to ACS, we can have an official Hooniverse Finland meeting and enjoy some stale and overprized frosty beverages.

  4. Sjalabais Avatar

    Very interesting. The DAF 66 doesn't really have a following outside of the Netherlands, and is a very cheap entry into the classic car market (except for the Marathon Coupe).

    1. duurtlang_ Avatar

      This Marathon Coupe doesn't seem to be overly expensive though. Current bid is €1340. This is the time to start your DAF collection! What's holding you back?
      <img src="http://i.marktplaats.com/00/s/NzY4WDEwMjQ=/$T2eC16JHJGIE9nnWpiFJBRSidFRW0g~~60_85.JPG&quot; width="600"> http://link.marktplaats.nl/652875045
      And another, arguably rough, one.
      <img src="http://i.marktplaats.com/00/s/NTMyWDgwMQ==/$T2eC16RHJHIE9nyseIKbBRQwYhyz!Q~~60_85.JPG&quot; width="600"> http://link.marktplaats.nl/655644217
      I'd go for this, a 55 coupe. It certainly looks better.
      <img src="http://fotos.marktplaats.com/kopen/3/02/rfheot ClWLnZkfB3hEFaQ==.jpg" width="600">

      1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

        Of course, they changed the name Marathon to Snickers.

  5. Vavon Avatar

    A few years ago a friend let me drive his DAF 33 2-cylinder for a couple of days when my car was in the shop.
    Although it looked really cute it was extremely lethargic and the brakes were down right appaling.
    He also had a DAF 55 Marathon Coupé, that was a whole lot faster and very cool looking too.
    <img src="http://carcatalog2.free.fr/simi59f3.jpg"><img src="http://leroux.andre.free.fr/simi46bb.jpg"&gt;
    He also had one of those Volvo 340 Variomatics. I've driven that car for more than 2000 kilometers.
    I can safely say it was one of the most dreadfull cars I've ever driven.

    1. Dean Bigglesworth Avatar
      Dean Bigglesworth

      Would you agree that dreadful is preferable to boring? A dreadful car at least evokes some kind of emotion.
      When i read the comments to the "worst manual trans" post all i could think was "this is fascinating, i want to drive a car with a really shitty manual".

  6. mdharrell Avatar

    "I’ve driven a lot of CVT boxes."
    I've driven one:
    <img src="http://carsinpedia.com/editorimg/DSC_0310.JPG&quot; width="500">
    The other one's a little too swoopy to call a box:
    <img src="http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5133/5512867456_cfc3733b03.jpg&quot; width="500">

  7. JayP2112 Avatar

    The pic of the trunk full of luggage…
    So that's how Tetris was born.

  8. 1slowvw Avatar

    CVT's get such a bad rap, but I grew up around snowmobiles. Sometimes these machines can have several hundred hp and due to their low weight their cvt set up means that no shifting is required and allows them to absolutely fly. I'm talking 0-60 times that are faster then modern sport bikes with the equivalent hp all be it with usually limited top speed (I've never been much over 110-115mph on a sled).
    I know that weight has a lot to do with it, but I think a electric motor mated with a cvt in a light commuter car could be very interesting.
    But I digress…this DAF66 looks awesome and I'd rock one in a heartbeat.

    1. TDI_FTW Avatar

      I really enjoyed driving an Audi A4 2.5TDI with Audi's version of the CVT (Multitronic) and the CVT in combination with the torquey diesel engine was quite entertaining. Seeing the rpm's drop while acceleration from 60 to 75 mph is an interesting sensation.

  9. Kris_01 Avatar

    No one says a word about the Hofmeister Kink and Neue Klasse-ish greenhouse. Look again and squint (the second pic shows it well) and you'll see some 2002 in that design.

    1. duurtlang_ Avatar

      Good eye. The 66 and 2002 were designed by the same guy, Giovanni Michelotti

  10. BЯдΖǐL-ЯЄРΘЯΤЄЯ Avatar

    "next to no off-road capability" ? What about the London Sydney rally?
    <img src="http://img339.imageshack.us/img339/8481/img0122bv3.jpg&quot; width="600">

  11. OA5599 Avatar

    I had a DAF 5599.

  12. Rover 1 Avatar
    Rover 1

    Oh for the days when there was a difference between quality and luxury,when you could choose to buy quality without luxury like a euro model Mercedes Benz or Volvo or Saab or luxury without quality like a Cimmaron or a Ghia badged Ford or anything with a vinyl roof.
    Or maybe it's better now when ,thanks to the Japanese everything is quality and we can add luxury touches.

  13. TDI_FTW Avatar

    I'm surprised a video of the races they did driving backwards wasn't posted yet.
    [youtube S7ipFApsFec http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7ipFApsFec youtube]
    This video contains another interesting racing discipline which is racing with caravans attached.

    1. SamPieter Avatar

      ah you beat me to it!
      "Yes, with the DAF system, if you were really brave, really determined and / or really stupid, you could go as fast in reverse as going forward." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7ipFApsFec

      1. TDI_FTW Avatar

        One of my nightmares is actually driving really fast in reverse and not being able to stop……. watching that video is probably going to ruin my night tonight 🙂

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