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Thread: DAF 55 Marathon

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    DAF 55 Marathon

    DAF (Van Doorne’s Automobiel Fabrieken) in Eindhoven, Holland was a long standing name in truck construction, but in 1958 it launched its first ever passenger car, the DAF 600. The two door sedan was fitted with a front located 600 cc flat aircooled twin, driving the rear wheels, through an independent suspension ( with swing axles) . However it was the very first car fitted with what was then called the Variomatic, and is now known as CVT a constant variable transmission.

    Two belts were placed between two conical pulleys which could be moved along a lateral axis, allowing every possible gear rate, between two extreme points. In practice the DAF made the loud, distinctive aircooled sound when accelerating, but revs levels stayed at more or less the same level.

    The gear knob gave two options: Forward and backward, and in both positions the car could reach the same speed, but of course the steering geometry was conventionally laid out for forward driving, making rearward driving slightly more adventurous. Nevertheless, over time many rearward driving races involving the DAFs haven taken place.

    The 33 model evolved, the engine size increased to 750 cc, it had been renamed 33 and in 1966 the somewhat bland looking model received a larger sister, the 44, designed by Michelotti. The twin now had 850 cc and produced 35 BHP, allowing for a top speed of 125 kph. The big breakthrough came in 1967, when a 45 BHP four cylinder 1100 cc Renault engine finally provided some real power. The model was now called 55, and to prove the reliability of the transmission, a team of 55s participated in the 1968 London Sydney Marathon, whereby one came in 17th overall.

    To celebrate that feat very soon so-called Marathon version became available, which had a 55 BHP engine, tweaked suspensions and alloy wheels. The also presented Coupe version could also be had as a Marathon version, but unofficially also 125 and even 140 BHP Renault Alpine engine turned the Coupe into a real bomb, in spite of the still present swing axles.

    In 1972 the 66 model appeared, which not only had 1300 cc engine option, but also was now fitted with a Dion Axle to replace the old swingers.

    This model was still in production when Volvo took over the DAF factory in 1976 (not the truck division though) and continued as the Volvo 66. The “big” DAF that was already on the drawing board saw life as the Volvo 343, and was the basis for many models to come, many of those still using the Variomatic system.

    Shown here is a 55 Marathon, now arguably the most sought after version of the DAFs which at the time were very much suffering from and “old-lady” image, but are now appreciated for the technological breakthrough the transmission represented.
    Also shown is a 66 Coupe, which participated in last year's Amsterdam-Beijing Rallye.
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