Road Test: 1972 Daf 66

This is what looks like another transcript from the archives of influential motoring writer, Archie Vicar. In this item he welcomes the new DAF 66, an article entitled originally “Everyone’s favourite Dutch marque”.

1972 Daf 66; source
1972 Daf 66, a challenge to Volvo, Ford and Autobianchi?: source

This article first appeared in the Ryton-on-Dunsmore Evening Echo, July 1972. Photographs by Edward Land-Windermere. Due to the poor quality of the photos stock images have been used.

The Daf 66 is here, at long last. As Dutch as a daffodil soaked in Bols, the Daf 66 carries on the traditions of car building for which the people of Holland have been quite well-known since 1959. Simply put, the Daf 66 is a 55 with a new suspension layout, one which opens the possibilities of more powerful models. This will keep Daf “up to speed” in these increasingly competitive times.

In order to 1972 Daf 66 brochureinspect the new car, we took ourselves to Eindhoven in the Netherlands, home of DAF. For anyone not familiar with the little land across the Channel, it will surprise you to know it all looks very familiar. For a while I thought I was back in Kent but the staggering number of cyclists indicated that this was not, in fact, the case. Many foreign makes of cars lined the roads too: Peugeot, Renault, Lancia, BMW, Audi and even a fair few Panhards and Autobianchis. So, in this context, it is not so strange to find another foreign car like DAF’s whereas in the United Kingdom, DAF cars are very much a minority taste.

Jan der van der Doorne, DAF´s communications chief, explained the car to us over a special Dutch breakfast of “appeltaart” and pancakes, “bitterballen” “rookwurst”, “stroopwafels”, herring and very milky coffee. Luckily there was also plenty of “Jenever” to wash away the taste of the herring and coffee. Mr der van der Doorne explained that the Daf 66 continues to use the 1108 cc engine of Renault design: it has a wet-liner. The 66 is not much bigger and not any more powerful than the 55. It also looks very similar though the eagle eyed-will spot a revised grille and different headlamps along with a new dashboard that puts many Hillman and Austin cars to shame.

1972 Daf 66: source.
1972 Daf 66: source.

What is new about the car is under the vehicle. DAF have taken a leaf from Rover’s book and have applied the de Dion suspension principle in place of the much-loved swing axles used heretofore. In principle, the de Dion suspension allows better handling at high speeds, for which DAF cars are not perhaps renowned. The new suspension will make for more secure driving thanks to the clever strategy of locating the transverse tube using two single-leaf semi-elliptic springs. At each end the tubes are hand-welded to an impressive bracket which is secured by bolts to the leaf spring. But what about excessive wind-up during heavy braking? A trailing arm which is secured to the right bracket prevents this effectively. DAF have considered everything (except that there is no way to reinforce the springs laterally). Continuously variable transmission is supplied as standard.

Enough engineering. After an alarming amount of gouda and some more boiled sausages we set off to test the cars. We chose a test route comprised of the famous Jenever cities which, as every nursery child knows, are Hasselt in Belgium, and Groningen, Delft, Schiedam, Amsterdam and back to Delft in the Netherlands. In each town we would try the local versions of Jenever to see how they compared.

They are all very nice and stronger than you might think on first acquaintance. Jenever is not unlike gin, I supppose but less harsh.

I can conclude after that whistle-stop tour and all those samples of Jenever that the Daf 66 is a safe car. As we got back to Groeningen having tried a variety of roads and road conditions and plenty of Jenever, the Daf managed to wrestle free of my control and I landed in a fine bed of spring flowers. I emerged from the car unharmed and can vouch for the higher road-holding capabilities of the Daf. The 66 lost grip at a much higher speed than the 55, so the engineers’ improvement has been demonstrated.

With this new car on the market, the path is now open for DAF to divest its burdensome truck-making enterprise and expand its vehicle range. Who knows, perhaps a Daf 76 and 86 can be added to their range, throwing the gauntlet to makers like Volvo who have rested on their laurels a bit too long!

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

44 thoughts on “Road Test: 1972 Daf 66”

  1. I see Archie resisted the temptation to suggest it was Dutch courage that got him around the “whistle stop tour” of Dutch cities.

    1. I did once experience Dutch liqueur drinking in Archie’s company. It was in an Amsterdam bar that filled the glasses so that the top of the meniscus was above the level of the rim of the glass. Either you had a steady hand, or you bent down to the bar in an undignified way to take your first sip. Archie tried both techniques and I can report that he had both a surprisingly steady hand and a remarkably flexible tongue. Netherlands culture is often stranger than you think.

  2. Mick: the Dutch aren’t big on drinks, are they? I can find three makers of advocaat (Bols) and a vodka maker called Nolet. I’d always thought that nearly all the untouched bottles behind a bar were Dutch specialties. It turns out none of them are.
    Getting back to the archive, Vicar’s expenses probably show a lot of wine and whiskey on a typical car launch.

    1. Oranjeboom are a commodity brand now, sadly. They’ve been bought up by the likes of InBev (what a chilling name) and their brewery closed twice.

  3. Returning to Daf, a neighbour of ours had one of these back in the 1980’s – an estate version. I drove it once. It was, I seem to recall, a rather charmless device.

    1. Returning to the liquor, how is it that a seafaring nation like Holland didn’t develop more drink?

      My cousin had a Volvo 66 and it had orange paint. The year might have been 1983. Since then I’ve seen one in the wild.

  4. I have memories of a student in my school getting a lift each morning in a purple Daf 33 in the mid eighties. Rumour has it that it was pushed off the west pier in Dun Laoghaire after it broke down once too often.
    It is surprising that there aren’t more varieties of alcohol emanating from the low countries, especially considering they do enjoy booze.
    Richard: In a previous life as a barman I always found the three top dust gatherers were Fernet Branca, Slivovice and Midleton Whiskey.

    1. And there’s the one with gold flakes in it. Though as a chrome man (I was going to suggest chromophile, but I find that has already been taken for another meaning) you might approve of that Richard.

    2. Noilly Prat is a vermouth and therefore an essential component of martinis, hence its ubiquitous presence in bars and on the shelves of liquor stores. It’s also quite nice on its own in the summer – on the rocks with just a twist of lemon.

  5. Laurent: I was disappointed with Noilly Prat. It had a sweeter taste than I wanted. There’s a new Vermouth from Ferdinand which I might try. It’s available in rose and white.

    1. I have a soft spot for St Raphael, which you never see in the UK and doesn’t seem that popular in France any more. Possibly my attitude is coloured by a childhood when mention of “San Raph” as a destination, perhaps enlivened by a glimpse of La Bardot, seemed the height of sophistication.

    2. I’ve never driven a Daf. I wish I had though, again reverting to my youth, back then we enthusiasts thoughtlessly dismissed them as ‘rubber band cars’.

    3. I don’t remember Noilly Prat being particularly sweet, but then again I haven’t had it for a while and like I said, worth trying with ice and lemon.

      Meanwhile Fernet Branca was made popular again in the last decade in some London circles by chef Fergus Henderson, of St John’s fame, who mixed it with… creme de menthe:

      http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/dec/28/make-your-own-fernet-branca-hangover-cure

      Now we know that Sean is definitely a hipster.

  6. Sean: the website Master of Malt has bottled of St Raphael from the 1950 selling for a few hundred pounds. It is still in production. There are quite a few of these types of drinks out there but are not widely distributed. How about this one: http://www.lillet.com/intl-en/.
    I have been to St Raphael. I can say it´s an agreeable little corner of the world. I am not sure how many stars go there now. That probably doesn´t matter too much.

    1. I did indeed go through St Raphael last year and I bought some St Raphael. I’ve just looked up the Wikipedia entry and it claims that, although not so popular in France, it’s big in Quebec.

    2. Lillet is probably the nicest fortified wine I’ve tasted, although they are all a little sweet for my taste. Having worked in a bar in Bordeaux I can safely say the bottle never gathered much dust. Probably only behind pastis 51 in popularity among older customers in this corner of France. I used to be surprised to see older men ordering a Lillet on ice-I’m guessing that Archie was probably more of a Pastis kind of man?

    3. St Raphael went out of fashion a very long time ago but it was big at some point judging by how often ads for the drink feature in pictures taken at sports events in the 1950s.

  7. Mick: that´s a good guess about Pastis. In all likelihood he chose whatever was most appropriate to the circumstances.
    St Raphael has new owners. It has been given a refresh and will probably go into the boutique end of the market now.
    I´d be interested to try Lillet at some point. Is it more or less sweet than Noilly Prat or Martini? That German one might be intriguing. They sell it at a wineshop near me but the price is eye-wateringly high for a drink no one else in my household will touch. I have an unopened botte of Marsala sitting about and my sherry experiments have ground to a halt.

    1. It just occurred to me that there is more than one type of Noilly Prat, and the white (original dry) is the one you should try if you haven’t already (it’s definitely not sweet.

      And I couldn’t comment on Lillet which I have never tried. In fact I wasn’t even aware of its existence until maybe 2 years ago. I suspect it must have been re-vamped and/or re-launched nation/world-wide, just like Aperol.

    2. Definitely! Lillet was THE drink of choice the last two summers, at least in Germany and Switzerland where I’m aware of. Aperol was it a few years before. I already wonder what they come up with this year.

      (I’ll mostly stick with single malts, grappe and IPAs anyway)

    1. Meanwhile it seems to be the most common here in the UK.

  8. Simon: my beer consumption has fallen off a cliff. Similarly whiskey after I discovered there was a lot of meaningless diversity in the market. Grappa doesn’t appear so much around here but I like sip when I’m in the southern Black Forest.
    I’ll take this opportunity to recommend fino sherry: bone dry and crisp.

    1. Only Manzanilla gets served at our place – there’s always a bottle of La Gitana on the go. Is there much difference?

  9. I do like Grappa, particularly the coloured aged ones. Again, not easy to find in the UK, though a mention for Gerry’s in London’s Soho, still standing among the hip bars, who will aim to get hold of anything for you, though I don’t know if they can source the Chinese lizard wine I bought in Andorra a couple of years ago.

  10. Laurent: only sherry anoraks can detect a difference between a fino and a manzanilla. There’s a bigger difference within the groups than between them. You must have a convivial living arrangement so as to have a bottle of Gitana on the go. That’s the way to do it. Alas, I’m the only fan of the stuff in my domestic circle.

    Sean: the darker grappas provide a lot of enjoyment. They are often what cognac would like to be and whiskey seldom is. It’s seems to be easy to make: there are a lot of little producers and many wineries where I go to in southern Germany have a line of grappa to go with the wine. The nicest I tried came from nearby Alsace, a grappa made from Burgunder grapes. It looks like it’s been discontinued though. There must be lots more out there.

    1. The charming thing about grappa is that it’s made of the leftovers of winemaking. So every winery has the material at hand for free. What I wonder: are they even allowed to call it grappa in Germany and France? I thought this designation was reserved for Italy and the Italian speaking parts of Switzerland.

      If anyone is looking for a very nice dark grappa, I can recommend “Diciotto Lune”. I like it very much although I usually prefer the clear ones.

      Richard: “bone dry and crisp” sounds a lot like my kind of drink. I’ve never really tried sherry, and I mainly know it as a bottle somwhere in the dark regions of a cupboard that is eventually used to spice up a boring bouillon. Otherwise it’s also known as an elderly ladies’ drink around here.

  11. Simon: they call grappa “marc” in France as in marc d’Alsace. In Germany it is properly called braende, I believe. However, it looks like the Italian name has become dominant.
    The sherry old ladies go for is syrupy, super-sweet, labelled PX for Pedro Ximinez grapes. The version I am proselytizing for is made with palomino grapes and looks identical to white wine; the giveway is the alcohol content which is 15%. That’s fino or manzanilla, depending on the district. The other two non-sweet sherries are amontillado and oloroso. Avoid anything labelled “cream” or “medium” as it has been sweetened with PX: granny bait.

    1. I was already suspecting that “fino” is a very different stuff than The Bottle In The Cupboard. It’s probably a bit like if I talk about single malts, and someone says: “Yeah, I like Jack Daniel’s, too”.

      Good to know that while PX is enjoyable in a Vespa, it should be avoided in a sherry.

      Marc is also the designatipn for grappa that is used in our region of Switzerland. A “Brand” is the German word for every distilled beverage, regardless of its ingredients. A grappa/marc is more exactly a “Tresterbrand”.

  12. Laurent: correction. I mixed Noilly Prat with orange juice and some ice. I quite liked that. I want to correct the impression it’s unpalatable. It’s better than Martini too.

    1. Indeed that’s how NP made it into our house – through the kitchen door.

  13. Having arrived in Eindhoven about midnight in Sept 1971 from Amsterdam in a new 1972 VW bus, we expected to get its first oil change the next morning. So we camped on some waste ground overnight. At a quarter to seven, two large policemen arrived and pointed out that camping in the park was not allowed and that we had 15 minutes to leave due to many complaints. Sure enough, houses had sprouted up all around us overnight! Had the good burghers all turned their lights completely off the night before? Or was it that funny stuff we tried in Amsterdam that confused us? I had a Shell Book Map of Europe after all, and it still glares balefully from the bookshelf opposite as I type, our European trip crudely traced in Biro upon its pages.

    So we got to the VW dealer before opening, but nowhere near a restaurant. Feeling dehydrated and starving, we stopped a travelling milk float passing by, and its smartly dressed pilot recommended the strawberry “Drinking” yoghurt. Within a few seconds, so did I, never having run across such a glorious thick brekkie in a carton before, or sadly, ever since.

    Following in our footsteps so to speak, a mere six months later, I now read with some regret that Archie missed out on a true local liquid treat that transcended the charms of a bumbling DAF66.

  14. Summer drinks: I chased down Lillet in Germany and it tasted distinctly better (less sweet than Noilly Prat). As well as Leonard which is German, the Swiss have a vermouth made by Oliver Matter. Frustratingly, the wine shop in which I saw this was closed.

  15. I’ve finally found a source of St Raphael aperatif. It’s the gold variant. Oddly, it’s not unlike a sweetish marsala with citrus notes. So far I’ve only tried it neat. Getting soda water is nigh on impossible in Jutland; reports hint it’s also less common in Dublin.
    Aperol – I can see why Italians are going for this. Best mixed with sparkling wine of the cheaper kind.

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