The DAF Museum in Eindhoven provides a good overview of the complete history of the Dutch brand. From Blacksmiths to trailers, from trucks to buses, from production passenger cars to cars that never made it to that stage. In the latter category, we found a specimen in the City of Light that was more than appealing. Project 400, the DAF sports Coupé (GT). He made it to the prototype stage, but this beautiful coupé was remembered by the general public.
DAF was in the mid-sixties busy with a change. The original DAF passenger cars - you know it - suffered from a poor image because of the wrong marketing choices. In the meantime they had been working on the competitive sport in Eindhoven, within which Eindhoven did not perform without merit. And: DAF had hired Michelotti to work on an upgrade of the styling of the models and on the design of a new model generation. The DAF 31 (1963) and the upcoming DAF 44 were the concrete production fruits of that work. But Michelotti could do more, much more. As befits a good Italian designer.
At the instigation of Michelotti
DAF thought about a sporty design car, which would fit in with the trend that provided for the need for smaller, sporty coupes. Michelotti, as I was busy working for DAF, suggested designing a coupe in Turin. Martien van Doorn became convinced and, on behalf of the Eindhoven manufacturer, commissioned Michelotti to design the DAF sport Coupé. The first scale models were ready within a year, and DAF took advantage of the opportunity to play an important role in the small sports car segment with the coupé.
The 1 on 1 model was also made. When it was finished, the harbinger of the street version was presented in a striking orange color. The engine was still missing. It would later turn out that the 844 cc engine destined for the DAF 44- was also intended for Project P400: the DAF sport Coupé (GT). He would never reach the production stage. DAF wanted to compete with MG, Triumph and the smaller sporty Italians. That is why the case had to remain affordable, so volume had to be generated. DAF was not convinced of the success and canceled the project. Moreover, it already had investments in the Formula 3 and the typically Dutch adage thriftiness won over the courage to launch a stimulating coupé model in the market. A market that simply wasn't big enough for DAF to ensure success. Moreover, the historians argue, this new model would disrupt the production process of the existing models.
It remained with the prototype from 1965, a very modernly constructed car for that time. Anyone who has seen the car up close knows that there was indeed potential. The styling of this coupe is simply beautiful. The line play appeals more than. The striking air vents on the side fit in with it, they bear witness to daring. The interior has nice furniture and an instrument cluster with sporty round clocks, which are hidden behind a fine wooden sports steering wheel with three spokes. And of course: here the Variomatic could have been the distinguishing power in the small but emerging market of attractive sports cars.
Project too risky for DAF
It should not be that way. Where the Italian body houses, for example, built a thousand and one creations based on models from the large and rich Fiat, DAF made a pass at that location. It did not opt for the risk of a small and expensive edition. Instead, the Dutch manufacturer prevailed for continuity for the passenger car division. And that was guaranteed by successful rally participations and the four-cylinder DAF passenger cars, things that still lifted the image to a higher level. Moreover, three years after the no to the Coupé sport, a sporty design DAF was introduced. That was the 55 Coupé, which in 1972 was succeeded by the 66 with the same body variant. That too was a nice sports model. But of the most beautiful coupé there is only one. And it is in the DAF Museum in Eindhoven. It is the sport Coupé (GT) that we would like to see at classic events today. It should not be that way.