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Back in the day, Gullwings, DB5’s and Miura’s where the stuff of dreams. Today, nothing has changed. For the vast majority of us enthusiasts, the only relation we have with these stunning classics is exactly that: Through our dreams. The real relations we have with our automotive hobby, are with the common and ordinary everyday heroes which roamed our streets back in a time when everything was better.

I’ve always had an appreciation for this, but attending Hagerty’s Festival of the Unexceptional last weekend really rammed home the point. These are the cars with which we have experiences, memories and feelings. And for the past week, I have been somewhat obsessed with finding the prime of the unexceptional. But the thing is, that despite mass-production, these everyday cars of the sixties, seventies and even eighties have become largely extinct now. Yet, with a bit of dedication and stubbornness, some real gems can still be found out there in the wild sea of classifieds…

One such gem could be easily be one of the funky little DAF saloons which were manufactured in the Netherlands up through the sixties and seventies until they were absorbed by Volvo. Their claim to fame is of course the bizarre Variomatic gearbox – which in simple terms is a stepless fully automatic gearbox consisting of a belt drive running on two conical pulleys. It certainly contributes to a rather unique driving experience, and these are highly charming little budget saloons, even if they’ll never win on outright performance – uhmmm… unless of course it’s all done in reverse where the Variomatic gearbox enables the DAF to drive as fast backwards as it can forwards.

Fittingly, I came across a beautifully presented example in… yup, their home country, the Netherlands. This is a reasonably rare DAF 46 – a slightly improved version of the much more common DAF 44. The 44 entered production in 1966, where it was quite a step upmarket from its predecessor – the Daffodil. They used a rugged little 844cc 2-cylinder engine pushing out 34hp, giving it, shall we say, leisurely performance. But the signature Variomatic transmission was where the innovation was to found, and build quality was fairly high compared to its competitors. The little Dutch company managed to sell almost 168,000 examples of the 44 before the model was phased out in 1974.

This is where the rare 46 comes into play. The interior was more luxurious with full carpeting among other improvements, and while the Variomatic transmission was obviously retained, it now linked up with a conventional differential to the rear wheels and not least a new De Dion rear axle. Luckily, they didn’t touch the design of the car, and the 46 has the same front design as both the 44 and the more powerful 55 – a much more characterful and elegant design than the square-cut front of the DAF 66. However, with Volvo taking over DAF, the 46 came to the end of its production life already in 1976 with a mere 32,000 examples produced.

The DAF 46 we’ve come across here is a late car, which wasn’t registered until 1977 despite production ending the year before. Judging by the pictures, the little 46 seems to be in superb condition and highly original too. The green tone of the paintwork simply screams mid-seventies and also contrasts brilliantly with the light and airy tan interior. It’s for sale with a dealer who annoyingly doesn’t give us much, other than stating that mileage is only 53,000 km (33,000 miles) and that the car is indeed in great condition. A bit more information would have been nice…
But if nothing else, at least enjoy the pictures which a much better than what is often the case:

If this DAF is indeed as good as those pictures suggest, it does seem rather good value at a modest Euro 3,495, which currently equates to approximately £ 3,100. Does the DAF bring back nostalgic memories for you? Do you see yourself arriving in this at next year’s Festival of the Unexceptional? If so, you’ll need this link to the full advert: 1977 DAF 46 Deluxe

 

With our Saturday instalment of Prime Find of the Week, we’re offering our services to the classic car community, by passing on our favourite classic car for sale from the week that passed. This top-tip might help a first-time-buyer to own his first classic, or it could even be the perfect motivation for a multiple-classic-car-owner to expand his garage with something different. We’ll let us inspire by anything from a cheap project to a stunning concours exotic, and hope that you will do the same.
Just remember – Any Classic is Better than No Classic! We obviously invite our readers to help prospective buyers with your views and maybe even experiences of any given model we feature. Further to that, if you stumble across a classic which you feel we ought to feature as Prime Find of the Week, then please send us a link to primefindoftheweek@viaretro.co.uk

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3 Responses

  1. Claus Ebberfeld
    This made me chuckle, Anders: “The interior was more luxurious with full carpeting”…we’ve come a long way, haven’t we?

    Regarding the Variomatic: Long before I got my driver’s license my mother had a Volvo 66 with that transmission. I always wondered about it, and it was many years later before I actually tried it myself: I drove a 66 Coupé – and still wondered somewhat. It is indeed a strange feeling when the engine revs remain constant during acceleration.

    The basic idea is rather ingenius, though, and its mechanical principle is if anything more sound than traditional automatics.

    Today I’ve got used to it: Last year we acquired an automatic Fiat Punto, and it turned out that the “Selecta”-gearbox was Fiat’s take on the Variomatic. Works perfectly and makes for a more nippy driving experience than a traditional “slushbox”. A few years more and the Punto will be a candidate at the Unexceptional :-)

    Reply
  2. Anders Bilidt
    Granted Claus, I have thus far only been a passanger in a DAF. I would love to try on that Variomatic gearbox for myself though. I’m not entirely convinced that it’s actually all that fantastic, but if nothing else it at least serves as a different and thereby somewhat funky driving experience.

    For me personally, the ultimate DAF would have to be a more powerful 4-cylinder DAF 55 Marathon Coupé. Preferably in mustard yellow. But then the question presents itself, would that be sufficiently unexceptional for the Festival? Arguably this stock 44 saloon suits the bill much better…

    Reply

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