Small-Car Topics



Small-Car Topics

A Section Devoted When Deemed Necessary to Cars the Engine Capacity of which does not exceed 1,o0o c.c. THE DAS. DAFFODIL AT BLACK13I.1$11E AIRPORT, where three young ladies, aged, respectively, 13, 15 and 16, and a lady who does not hold a driving licence, found no difficulty at all in driving this two-pedal, beltdriven small car from Holland;


THE D.A.F. with its ingenious and effective belt-and-pulley two-pedal ” Variomatie ” automatic transmission, built by Van Doorne’s Automobielfabriek N.V. at Eindhoven in Holland, has been in production for a number of years and is becoming well known in England as an amusing, fascinating and foolproof-to-drive small car.

I spent a long week-end last month in this Modern ” cyclecar ” —what else can I call a car with a 746-c.c.. flat-twin air-cooled engine, no gearbox and belt transmission ?—and found it great fun. Sports-car drivers will regard the D.A.F. as a joke but it is a very good joke, and indispensable to those ladies and other drivers who are shy of gear-changing and crave something simple in which to pass their Driving Test.

The car I tried was the Daffodil version, with the latest 85.5 x 65 nun. engine and more de luxe equipment than the normal model. Trying not to see the word ” Daffodil ” on the body sides and the flower motif on the steering wheel—I should feel the same about a Skoda Snowdrop or Pontiac Pansy, I suppose! —I took stock of the D.A.F.’s simple interior, upholstered in two-tone plastic.

On the floor—two pedals, one for go, one for stop. A hefty central handbrake. Two control stalks, that on the left selecting headlamps full beam or flashing these in daylight, that on the right sounding the horn and operating manually-cancelled flashers. Before the driver, an 8o-m.p.h. Vdo arc-type speedometer with total distance recorder (sans decimals), incorporated in which, from 1. to r., are oil, low-fuel, full-beam and ignition warning lights, each with an illustrated symbol (oil can, petrol pump, lamp and lightning zag, respectively!). These lights are, respectively, red, amber, blue and red. On a horizontal sill before the speedometer, reached through the steering wheel, are four pressbuttons, also with International symbols. From 1. to r. these selected wipers, sidelamps and headlamps, that on the extreme left being spare, for a Spot-lamp, etc. With a flasher working two green flashing arrows are illuminated. There is a Useful rear-view mirror, a rear parcels’ shelf and a very bright interior lamp on the off-side door pillar, with courtesy action.

On the driver’s side of the slim transmission tunnel is a small white lever that pushes forward to select forward-drive and is pulled back to reverse. There is a neutral position in the centre hut this is used only when servicing operations require the engine to be speeded. tip, when its use Stops the automatic transmission creeping—it isn’t needed on the road. After mastering these simple controls the owner of a D.A.F. is ready to go motoring.

Before doing so he, or more likely She, will have observed the superior finial of the little car, both inside and out. The facia has deep, soft crash-padding along its upper edge, and it carries a quadrant lever controlling the heater, a swinging lever below it directing warm air either on to the screen via a semi-circular outlet, or into the car. There is a drawer-type ash-tray and a cubby-hole with press-button lid. The window-winders call for 31 turns to fully drop the glass and have quarter-lights with raingutters.. The ignition-key starts the engine and locks the off-side door. Both doors have elastic-topped pockets, and there are twin safety-type sun-vizors. The separate front seats have adjustable squabs, which lift up to give easy access to the back seats; they arc rather small and have somewhat hard cushions.

Forward vision is excellent, the two wings being in full view and the brief dropped bonnet invisible. Sideways vision is impeded by the thick screen pillars. The bonnet has to be propped open but the boot-lid, after being released by a ” secret ” toggle on the near-side edge of the rear

seat ‘cushion, props autornatitally: The spare wheel is carried in it, vertically, leaving most of the floor clear. Two lamps illuminate the back number-plate.

Those are the main ” static ” features of this unconventional but essentially practical Dutchman, which has i.f.s. by transverse leaf-spring, i.r.s. by coil-springs and swing axles, rack-andpinion steering, 6-volt electrics with an Ava battery, and a brakelining area of 68 sq. in. The wheelbase is 6 ft. 9 in., the tyres are 5.20 x 12 Michelins, and a self-locking differential is incorporated in the automatic transmission, which gives infinitely-variable ratios ranging from 16.4 to i to 3.9 to 1.

The flat-twin engine, of fractionally greater capacity than a pre-1939 Austin Seven, has vertical o.h. valves and a 7.1-to-1 c.r., so is not a high-output power unit. It contrives, however, to develop 30 b.h.p. at 4,000 r.p.m., and thrives on cheap petrol. As the Daffodil has a kerb weight of under 13 cwt. this suffices for cruising at an easy 60, or even at a speedometer 7o m.p.h., accelerating quickly from rest (away from traffic stops a D.A.F., with its absence of cog-swapping, can outwit a Mini), and a true maximum of 65 M.p.h.

So much has been written about the D.A.F. Variomatic belt drive that I do not propose to go over it all again. Suffice it to say that it provides extremely smooth automatic transmission of an entirely foolproof nature. The take-off from rest is positive but free from jerk, and the driver can either accelerate hard, equivalent to “kick-down ” on gremlin-inspired automatic transmissions, to the accompaniment of what sounds like belt-slip but isn’t, or get going more gently. Having attained the desired cruising speed the accelerator can be backed off, causing the drive-ratio to rise automatically, when engine noise falls and you belt along in noteworthy quietness. The fan-cooled flat-twin only just conveys the impression that it has but two cylinders (when idling, which it does very slowly, it is almost inaudible), there is only a faint rumbling front below, and road noise is below average for a tiny car.

After its simple two-pedal control, I rate the low noise level of the D.A.F. Daffodil one of its outstanding characteristics. The steering (2* turns, lock-tp-lock). is as light and smooth as any I have experienced since I ceased reluctantly to be a VW driver, and -free from kick-back; there is mild but helpful castor return action. The brakes need a fairly high pedal pressure but are just about adequate (there is a reverse suction control on the facia to give engine braking down steep hills but it has no effect), and the suspension is lively but comfortable. Road-holding and cornering need not be discussed in detail, for this is a utility car— they do not inspire ,corifidence when speed rises above 50 m.p.h.

The Variomatic transmission is great fun, because so much control can be maintained over it by varying the throttle opening. Novices will revel in it, especially as smooth starts are possible on hills and it disengages reassuringly just before the car comes to rest, while walking-pace running is possible without snatch. There is a normal choke knob on the facia and a third facia knob works the powerful screen-washers.

Pottering about locally in this ingenious and likeable little D.A.F. I found the Cibie headlamps excellent, and very effective when dipped. The rear lamps are Hello. The fuel light came on 175 miles after the tank had been filled with Esso Mixture but the absolute range proved to be 216 miles. The engine commenced easily after a night in the open in very low temperatures. To test its simplicity of control I was able, by courtesy of the Manager of Blackbtishe Airport (which is owned by Air ViceMarshal Bennett, manufacturer of Fairthorpe cars), to let three girls under driving-licence -age and a lady who has never held anything but provisional licences, try the D.A.F. They drove with complete confidence and were ” sold ” on the little saloon in next to no time. A D.A.F. is its own best salesman, at all event amongst the fair-sex!

To convince myself that the dual belts have no snags, I took the car over the route of the 1929 M.C.C. London-Exeter Run, using an original route card kindly loaned by ” Jackie ” Masters. The previous good impressions were now somewhat modified for a foolproof town and main-road car does not necessarily make a trials champion. Although the D.A.F. ascended gradients of I in 6 with ease, and got up Devenish Pit observed-section non-stop and took Middledown and later long, steep Peak Hill near Sidmouth (neither were observed in 1929) at a gallop, it came to rest high up Higher Rill with belt-slip, suffered wheelspin on the grassy surface Of Harcombe (but successfully climbed the old Harcombe of the 1928″ Exeter ‘) and finally, as dusk closed in, disliked the snow on Meerhay and only got as far as the Halter Path railings up winding, rutted Ibberton.

Perhaps such treatment was unfair to our Daffodil, for long before 1929 people had given up trying to get belt-driven cyclecars through the ” Exeter.” Reverting to its road-behaviour, it returned 35 m.p.g. of mixture fuel cruising flat-out down the fast A 30 road but the trials-work dropped this to 32.3 m.p.g. But commercial grade was satisfactory. After 575 miles 1 pt. of oil was needed. No trouble of any kind developed, apart from an intermittent ” short ” in the lamps-flasher. The belts seemed no worse for the slipping they had been subjected to. In normal conditions D.A.F. claim a belt life of 25,000 miles and no chassis greasing is required.

The Daffodil now costs £698 195. 7d. complete with purchase tax, the least-expensive version £99 175. I id. Many extras, such as a sun-roof, Philips radio; whitewall tyres, reversing lamps, etc., are available. The concessionaires for this unique and useful little vehicle are Intercontinental Cats Ltd., New Zealand Road, Val ton-on-Thames, Surrey.—W. 13.