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Daf Variomatic – a Daf (t) idea?
In all the kooky ideas of sixties automotive culture, the DAF Variomatic transmission system is surely one of the most sedate and strangely agreeable.
Using system of pulleys and belts, the variomatic fitted to Daf’s little family runabouts was an early automatic system marketed squarely at the family. In an age of convenience, gear shifting was seen to be surplus to requirements: enter the Variomatic.
Daf’s system was the first continuously variable transmission (CVT). This whirring, whizzing system produces, in theory, optimum torque throughout the revs. It also produces the strangely appealing notion that you can drive as fast in reverse as you can in ‘drive’.
Having celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the launch of the system last year, those crazy Dutch people put on the ‘backwards driving championships’. Perfect for a country of such low elevation.
Though in production cars the idea proved a bit of a dead end, there were some experiments in Motorsport, notably with the Williams team. An evolution of the sytem, however can be seen all over the streets: powering the cogless scooters that have proved so popular this century.
Check out the Variomatic’s star appearance in what must be one of the most civilised chase sequences in screen history in cult spy series The Avengers. Hold your breath until the Mk2 Jag appears.
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