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DAF 55. Dutch glory.

Dutch glory. The DAF 55.
ER Classics Desktop 2022

During the final agreement of 1967, DAF introduced its first passenger car with a water-cooled four-cylinder engine. A year earlier, the DAF 44 was launched, with a new carriage designed by Michelotti. The bodywork also became the base for the new 55, which saw the light of day in December 1967.

The DAF 44 was the cosmetic starting point for the 55. Naturally, the new DAF also received the unsurpassed Variomatic transmission. Still, the 55 was technically a different car compared to the smaller brother. For example, the DAF 55 was fitted with a separate brake circuit and - at the front - disc brakes. The 55 also received a modified chassis and the engine compartment was enlarged. DAF decided to mount the water-cooled 1108 cc Cleon Fonte engine from Renault in the front. This created the need to mount a radiator. Because of its placement, the people of Eindhoven also constructed extra openings at the front, of course for cooling.


Appointments with Renault

DAF was also given the right to build the power source - for which the Eindhoven group concluded a supply contract of 40.000 units with Renault - under its own management. The choice for the Renault engine had underlying reasons. The engine had been tested, the DAF program was in full development and the construction of the factory in Born received a lot of attention during the development of the DAF 55.

The coupe and the combi

The 55 also distinguished itself at the rear. DAF installed elongated taillights there. The high-quality interior adorned, among other things, a set of instruments consisting of two clocks. The DAF 55 debuted as a sedan, and not much later was allowed to welcome the beautifully stylized coupé as a family member. The sedan and the coupé version did not differ from a technical point of view, but the two model variants could not be denied their own character. In addition, the coupé had a slightly more luxurious equipment level. After the arrival of the coupé, the DAF 55 Combi followed, which added added value to the DAF range in practical terms and was praised for its attractive lines.

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London-Sydney

Meanwhile, DAF's competition division had appreciated the 55's potential as a rally and marketing tool, not least because of the variomatic's barrier effect. The fresh 55 was entered for the London-Sydney Marathon. The DAF rally division – led by Rob Koch – professionally (with air support!) dispatched two teams for the 16.500 kilometer long monster rally. The Slotemaker-Janssen duo achieved 17th place in the final ranking. That was the highest ranking in the under 1600 cc class. The duo David van Lennep (brother of living legend Gijs)/Peter Hissink also completed the race, taking 56th place.

From rally racing kit to top version: the Marathon is coming

The DAF 55 had proven itself to be rally-worthy, and to reinforce its success, DAF developed a special Marathon kit for the 55. This consisted of special STIL rims, a modified engine and chassis tuning, a tachometer and a special exhaust. The DAF 55 got more power in this outfit. Furthermore, the racing kits eventually inspired the Eindhoven marketers to add the "Marathon" version to the delivery range in 1971.

Stronger engine

The new top version of the DAF 55 was fitted with the BR 110 high-compression engine (10:1) and thus delivered 55 DIN HP compared to the 44 DIN HP produced by the usual versions. Outwardly, the centrally placed sports exhaust, the striping on the sides, the Marathon badges and the black wheel covers in combination with 13″ wheels stood out. Inside, the finish (including beautiful carpet) was excellent and the front passengers took place in sporty profiled seats. The Marathon also received power brakes.

More rally successes

In the meantime, the DAF 55 had stood its ground in several tough rallies. The Coupe des Alpes and the East African Safari rally were just a few of these trials. And in the 1970 Monte Carlo Rally, DAF even managed to take the first two places in the 1150 cc class, a major achievement. Especially the duo Laurent/Marché was loyal to the DAF during rallies and it was regularly successful. Worth mentioning is the DAF 555, which was developed on the basis of the 55 coupé and received heavier Renault engines and an F3 transmission.

Minor changes

The regular DAF 55 models were slightly modified during the production period, which lasted from 1967 to 1972. The 55 received its second generation in 1969, but the differences were limited to the level of detail. The grille and logos were changed, among other things. In addition, the coupé got window frames at the door windows in 1971.

Beauty. The Siluro

An exclusive variant of the DAF 55 was the Siluro. The prototype designed by Giovanni Michelotti on the basis of the coupé was produced only once. The Siluro had its baptism of fire at the Geneva Salon of 1968. It was one of the first cars with a wedge shape and above all: extraordinarily beautifully designed. Today it can be admired in the DAF museum in Eindhoven.

Dutch ingenuity. Dutch versatile

The 1972 lasted until 55. After a total of 153.263 units built, it was replaced by the DAF 66. It was refinished at the latest. Especially in terms of construction, the 66 marked a step forward. Nevertheless, the DAF 55 – certainly thanks to its many impressive racing performances – can be seen as a valuable exponent of Dutch automobile construction. Because in all circumstances, the 55 showed how ingenuity and reliability could lead to appealing results.

Also read:
- More articles about DAF

12 Comments

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  1. I had reversed what Jeroen wrote: a green 2CV, as I understand it in a shade that Citroën but was delivered quite shortly, at the end of the 70s. (I had initials DY on the license plate) and I gave up on that, the bottom was in pretty bad shape.

    I own a 55 coupe in the color like the sedan in the top promotional photo.
    Bought for a ridiculously low amount a few years ago from a dealer who mainly sold small Japanese. Just in time, by the way, because the man was about to have the car picked up by a dismantling company.
    The car therefore required quite a bit of attention; The ghost of rust was visible on all sides.
    That has been addressed in the meantime, now the phasing out is still….

  2. Ford bda engines were used
    For Jan the roof was raised so that the car
    The bump was called

    For more info read the book heart of sand

  3. Thank you for this beautiful story. DAF (Dutch passenger cars and trucks) refer to a time when the Netherlands was solid, technical people who knew what they were doing and a south axis that did not yet exist. Introducing a clever vending machine for the common people. Maximum torque driving. A solid technique and beautiful Italian lines. Sporty thing for the good family father and mother.
    DAF had a vision that gave peoples confidence in the future with practical cars, views of flying cars and spaceship-like freight transport in beautiful posters and to dream away as a young lad.

    I once briefly had a Daf46, green with an open sunroof. Very nice car, however: the suspension comfort was so poor compared to my 2CV that I quickly resold it.
    Sorry, apologies and pardon, if only I had kept/stored it and preserved it for our cultural heritage. A Daf is great, if only I had one, I didn't know any better.

  4. Jan de Rooy's rallycross Daf coupé was 4-wheel drive; I think he designed it himself. The front-rear connection was where the passenger seat had been and the engine was not a Renault. He always won with it on the Valkenswaard circuit, even if he let the rest of the field leave 10 seconds earlier!

    • Yes, that Jan de Rooij knew how to get a Daf to the top of its game. What a talent. His son knows that too, by the way, even though he drives with Iveco.

    • I think the motor was transverse to the passenger seat and the variomatic perpendicular to Jan's seat. The chair therefore had to be higher and hence the bulge in the roof.
      One drive shaft of the variomatic (the left one) went forward, which then drove the front wheels via a differential.
      The other drive shaft of the variomatic (the right one) went to the rear axle.
      A sublime and smart system!!

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