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A Grand Monday: DAF 44

Published 30 January 2017

Today, DAF is Britain's biggest-selling truck brand, and the Netherlands' only domestic vehicle manufacturer. Its trucks are conventional, reliable and earn their keep on motorways across Europe, where they're respected as the standard bearer for what a lorry should represent. 

In truck terms, then, a DAF is like a Ford Fiesta. A default choice. Something sensible, functional, capable and ordinary. It's a far cry from the Dutch manufacturer's car making days, where it offered rear-wheel-drive small saloons.

The original DAF Daffodil from 1959 and its successor, the 33, used a 746cc air-cooled engine, while in 1964 the DAF 44 was introduced, powered by an upgraded 844cc engine developing a heady 34bhp. That may not sound a huge amount, but the 44 was astonishingly rapid, in part due to its light weight, but more because of DAF's pioneering belt-driven continuously variable transmission - the first commercially available CVT system. The gearbox consisted of effectively a giant rubber band, providing drive directly through a rear transaxle, and among its more endearing features was its ability to allow the DAF to go just as quickly in reverse as it could going forwards - quite a party trick if you have the courage.

Daf 44 (1)

The tail-happy handling, direct drive transmission and eminent tunability of the air-cooled engine also gave the little DAF a reputation as quite a fun rally car, and it went on to become a regular class winner on the world stage - even today, it's a popular historic rally car choice.

This car, currently for sale on Merseyside, clearly isn't ready for the road, but it's a fabulous project. Supplied new by the garage that's selling it (a former DAF dealer) in 1974 - the penultimate year of 44 production before DAF cars were absorbed into the Volvo empire - it was bought back by the vendor in the mid-1990s and has spent the past 20 years languishing in a garage building. 

As such, it has only covered 50,000 miles from new, and although the Mimosa Yellow paintwork looks a bit flat, there's a good, solid bodyshell beneath it. Obviously it needs a thorough mechanical overhaul, which isn't too onerous a task on one of these, as well as new brakes and tyres - but overall it looks like a relatively straightforward (or straight backward) project. At £950, it's a very sensible price for a car with such provenance, and promises to be a rewarding one to revive.

Daf 44 (3)


Dunfermin    on 30 January 2017

Daf was front engine rear wheel drive with the CVT gear box ahead of the rear axle. NOT a rear engine car.

RicardoB    on 30 January 2017

Ditto. Front engine, rear wheel drive - near equal weight distribution front to back - just like BMW!

The DAF 44 was actually launched in 1967 - 50th anniversary this year.
The shade of yellow on this 44 for sale is not Mimosa yellow - that was on earlier DAFs. It's actually called Neona yellow.

It's a shame that the "old fable" and "joke" of a "giant rubber band" has been brought into this review. The Variomatic transmission was way ahead of its time, the transmission had two drive belts which were reinforced rubber toothed belts.

These mistakes aside, the car looks pretty good and deserves to be saved.

Check out for facts and information, including spares etc.

Colin McNeillie    on 19 July 2020

My Dad had a 44, it was a fun car to drive, shame Volvo bought them, he bought a new Volvo version and had nothing but problems with.

   on 2 December 2021

Only early DAF 600 models were capable of going "as fast backwards as forwards" as supplied from the factory, by the time the 33 and 44 models came along DAF fitted a locked fixed ratio for reverse, although it is a popular modification to remove it for the infamous reverse racing these cars are known for!

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