CVT Pioneer: 1961 DAF 600

1961-daf-600

Continuously variable transmissions may be commonplace today, but they were unheard of back in the sixties. You have probably never heard of DAF, but they were one of the first companies to employee such a system. They called it a Variomatic, but the concept is the same. This 1961 DAF 600 is fitted with one of these innovative transmissions and although it has been parked for many years, is claimed to run and drive. It is still going to need lots of work, but the quirky nature of the car and the $3,000 asking price make it a tempting proposition. Find it here on eBay in Dolgeville, New York. Thanks goes to Jim S for the tip!

1961-daf-600-interior

With a curb weight of 1,390 and what appears to be a small stature, I think it is safe to call this a micro car. It’s also safe to call it cool! Not only does it have unique styling and an advanced transmission, but the rear wheels are also powered by an air-cooled flat twin engine! Obviously, you won’t be going anywhere fast in this little guy, but I bet the whole experience will still be entertaining. Just spending time trying to figure out how that transmission works would be worth the price of admission alone.

Variomatic-diagram

I’m not going to act like I know how it all works, but from what I have read, it seems that each of the rear wheels is turned independently by a pair of v-belts. Each belt runs around a pulley while a vacuum operated system moves the belt along a cone shaped pulley as engine RPMs fluctuate. Not only does it eliminate the jerks and jars normally associated with shifting, but it also helps with traction by essentially creating a limited slip differential. That probably all sounds confusing, but the system really does seem simple. Now, if only the pending restoration could be so simple.

1961-daf-600-rear

The car may have been in storage for a while, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been messed with it. The paint looks rough as does the interior. The engine is claimed to run and the car can move, but surely it is going to need a lot of help under the hood. Parts wont be easy to find wither, so basically this is going to be a really tough project. Still, there is just something about this cute little Dutch car that makes me want to drag it home. Perhaps it is that CVT transmission or maybe its rally heritage (yes, I said rally heritage). Whatever it is, I hope someone sees what I do and is able to get this one back on the road!

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Comments

  1. stanley stalvey

    I think you might be sick. The doctor’s have pills for that, ya know.? hahaha…

  2. Brian

    This system appears to be open to the elements and the belts appear to just be rubber, glorified fan belts? If this is true, keeping it working must have been a nightmare! Rain, snow, road salt, not to mention heat and cold had to effect the operation of the belts. If it was an exposed system, running over debris on the road must have had the potential to fly up into the belts and leaving you stranded. It’s an interesting design, but I can see why it didn’t catch on back then.

    • John deBruin

      Not to worry it was shielded from road debris. As far as water, ice and snow…no problems for the VARIOMATIC ever.

  3. Dolphin Member

    Had the same thought as Brian. I hope there was a shield covering the works under there. If there was, the sellers would have helped themselves by adding a photo of it and the engine. Looks like a junkyard resto, unfortunately…plenty of bondo and paint runs.

    This would have been OK in Amsterdam or other European cities, but US Interstates would have killed it. Two very different landscapes, and this was made for one but not the other.

    For those who like oddball cars this might be worth taking on. Just bring your magnet in a soft cloth so you know how much bodywork is in your future. Don’t bother with a paint thickness guage. You already know it’s real thick.

    • Vincent C

      I’ve seen this car first hand (I also own a DAF 31 model and 66 model). Trust me. ITS SHOTTY! Im almost certain it won’t run as it sits, bondo and popriveted panels everywhere, and a screwed up electrical system.

      That being said, there is a shield and it covers almost everything from getting in but air. It also works almost all the time flawlessly. The old rubber belts, espeicially now, aren’t that good. But the clubs have reproductions made out of kevlar and steel bands. You can get 100000 miles out of each new belt. Trust me, they’re not everyone’s cup of tea but they’re super reliable vehicles and the transmissions aren’t too hard to learn.

      Vince

      • Mike

        Hi Vince
        Love to chat off line about the DAF if you’ve the interest.
        mike
        I wonder if readers know that the Brabham Formula 3 used this DAF drive with good results.

  4. Dan H

    Cool little car! Has a bit of a Lancia vibe to it for some reason. Brilliantly simple centrifugal drive system identical to a gas powered golf cart….. just don’t try to tow anything with it!!!

  5. cory

    Basically 2 snowmobile clutches welded too a differential. Not sure what the vacuum does, but looks like a pretty simple system.

  6. viking

    In later models Volvo got involved in DAF company, I believed it was called Volvo 10 in Sweden, my friend owned one it had a four cylinder four stroke water cooled engine. We lived near the artic circle where it get real cold but the thick rubber belt drive worked very well, goes as fast in reverse as forward

  7. Sayulero

    Actually…the 1912 Metz had a continuously variable transmission!

  8. bob

    Hello, i am bob from holland. I own a later model car from daf. A daf 55. This car is well equipped for almost all conditions. It is not a rally car but it was quite fast for it’s time. You can get lots of parts for this car. They can be sent. No problem at all. If you want more info you can e-mail me. I don’t sell anything. I just like these cars. It is Very rare is the US. But there is an american daf club.

  9. Pedro the Parrot

    DAF was taken over by Volvo in ’76 I believe; the DAF 66 became the Volvo 66 and it’s successor became the Ghent built Volvo 340. The 340 was available with both Variomatic. Transmission and a rear mounted gearbox until ’79/80.
    As Vince says the Variomatic system was more than adequate for urban use. I believe some modern transmissions use the concept but with articulated steel belts.

    • Maarten

      The 340 was never produced in Gent (Belgium), but was built in Born.

  10. Pedro the Parrot

    Look on YouTube and you’ll find a DAF racing and beating a supercar- backwards!

  11. Albert

    Just like my little red friend.

    Find his story on http://www.daf600.nl.
    And see and listen to the sound while the car is driving around Holland

  12. Grant

    That looks almost exactly like the Comet drive on my kids go kart….

  13. tomos

    Cars from the 40, 50 and Volvo 60 series have a Renault 4 cylinder engine.
    The later Volvo 300 series have also a 4 cylinder renault engine.
    The variomatic was not unique, but it was the first mass produced car with variomatic transmission.
    And because it is a mass produced 4 persons car with a monocoque chassis and it’s own 4 stroke engine, i think it is not really a micro car.
    This same variomatic is evoluted and produced for many car brands like the Toyota Prius.
    I like this little car very much.

    • Vincent C

      Volvo bought DAF. They did not separately come up with their own variomatic. Hence why they could legally call it the variomatic. Also, this model, the 600, has a completely DAF designed and built TWO cylinder boxer style engine. DAF continues to license the CVT to other manufactures to this day. Belts are produced by Borg-Warner I belive,

      Vince

  14. Jesse Staff

    SOLD for $3,000! Not much car there for three grand, but hopefully the next owner can get it humming again.

    • jim s

      seller relisted due to non paying buyer!

  15. Bill M

    While stationed in Europe in the mid 1970s, I remember watching DAF “Backwards auto racing”, where several dozen DAF cars would line up for a race, but all facing backwards, the driver steered with one hand as he looked over his shoulder to drive (no need to shift or use a clutch pedal!) It was quite a sight, all these little cars “wobbling” down the oval course because they were all being steered from what was basically now the rear wheels. Reminded me of a swarm of hornets when their nest is disturbed! To see what I mean, here’s a link to an original 1970s DAF race, and also reverse 1/4 mile drag racing with DAF cars: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4PrKae3s8FY

  16. Jesse Staff

    Looks like the seller accepted an offer. eBay doesn’t show how much it was though.

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