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.
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.