DAF’s Variomatic Drive Transmission

In the recent photographs from Carl Verboom of car rallying in Holland which I have posted on this website, he noted that in a rally he was driving a DAF car with a variomatic transmission.  I did not pay particular attention to that statement, as I thought that it was a typical automatic transmission.  That “variomatic” was merely a manufacturer’s name given to a typical automatic transmission, such as General Motors “Powerglide” transmission.  But then on Tuesday night I was watching Chasing Classic Cars on Velocity TV when the host Wayne Carini mentioned a belt drive transmission in a DAF car.  That mention of a DAF car with a belt drive transmission caught my interest as it reminded me of Carl’s statement.

Carl Verboom 580ROZ20122

1971 DAF 55 Coupe

As a result, I looked through my library to see what I could find out about the transmissions in the DAF cars.  I found some good information about this transmission in “Cars Of The 50s and 60s” by Michael Sedgwick that was written about 30 years in 1983.  The image below was taken from Sedgwick’s book.


DAF’s Variomatic Drive Transmission

In the Variomatic Drive transmission, the driveshaft drives a transverse countershaft (1) with two vee pulleys (2) attached to it.  The power is then delivered to two separate rear drive axles – one for each wheel by two drive belts (3).

Transverse movement of the pulleys alters the effective gearing by changing the diameter of the transverse pulleys.  The movement of the pulleys are controlled by manifold pressure.  Within the car, the transmission is simply a shift that puts the car in either forward or reverse.

The variomatic drive transmission is very much like the drives in some of the snowmobiles that I used to drive many years ago in Canada, except that on those snowmobiles a cable leading to the handlebar controlled the pulley movement which effectively controlled the speed of the machine.

The DAF cars were made in Holland and they first used the Variomatic Drive transmission in 1958.  DAF was eventually taken over by Volvo in 1975.  Volvo produced some smaller car models based on DAF designs for a few years but by 1980 DAF-based cars and the use of their Variomatic Drive transmission disappeared.

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4 Responses to DAF’s Variomatic Drive Transmission

  1. Phil holmes says:

    Hi Steve
    I trained at a Daf garage wayback in 60’s & 70’s when Da\fs were very popular. They are great cars and driven properly very economical indeed. If I remember correctly Daf had a 33 fixed to a test track, and would take any manufacturer on in a race to the bottom of the track and of course back.
    Many a manufacturer was embarassed by losing to a bog standard Daf 33. Of course the daf could hit around 75mph backwards as well as forwards. Fantastic on Dafs part.
    Somewhere around is a film showing a daf out accelorating a 3.2 jaguar from a standing start.
    It’s a pure shame that they went out of business.

    • I once raced a lone guy in a Mercedes W126 500SEC with my standard -72 DAF 5502, carrying 3 passengers. I kept his pace up to 50 km/h, where I let him pass. He was never to be seen again. It’s not the only car I raced at light intersections.

  2. MacBandit says:

    This is a specialized version of a CVT transmission. CVTs typically drive an output shaft like a normal transmission. I can see traction advantages to driving each rear ax individually. CVTs are becoming increasingly common although I don’t know if the modern ones use a belt. I know the older Subarus did however.

  3. Howdy Steve. I’ve been driving DAFs since -88, when inheriting one from my grandfather, which I still have, although in fairly bad condition. My other one is better maintained. Still needs some work.

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