Back in the Sixties’, Dutch Manufacturer DAF used motorsport and particularly, rallyes and trials to promote its own design and revolutionary “Variomatic” transmission.
The DAF Variomatic transmission or more commonly known as the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) was developed by DAF founder Hub van Doorne. The system consisted of two pulleys with moveable conical drums connected by a belt. The competition version as featured and developed in road events as well as on a Tecno F3 1000cc consisted of the same system but featuring two sets of pulleys and belts in order to simulate the effect of a differential on a conventional gearbox. The engine vacuum in the inlet manifold as well as engine RPM continuously controlled the diameter of and the distance between the drums and accordingly the “belt ratio” providing the optimum torque and therefore traction characteristics at any time.
The whole effort was put together for the 1972 season and Belgian racer, Jean-Louis Haxhe was the man behind it as he decided to ask DAF for a purpose-built sports racer. He previously campaigned a DAF 555 all-wheel drive prototype so yes, he had good and well established links with the company. DAF decided to support it through its Belgian and of course Dutch subsidiaries as well as the Reynolds Tobacco company hence the very nice Camel livery sported by the car.
The cars, yes, there were two, were actually brought directly by Reynolds Tobacco as a consequence of the Canadian owned but London based Huron company folding during the 1971 season. As a sponsor that same year, the two cars were repossessed by the tobacco firm after the BOAC 1000 at Brands Hatch and here they headed to the DAF effort.
The Huron 4As were designed by Swiss engineer Jo Marquart and it sported the same basic principles of the period such as a monocoque tub with front and rear subframe as well as independent suspension at the four corners. The cooling was quite different compared to its rivals of the day such as the Chevron B19 or Lola T212 as it sported one radiator on each side of the monocoque on top of it and right behind the front wheels with the air being ducted in through the top of the nose and exiting through holes in the doors side.
The two cars arrived at DAF fitted with Cosworth FVC and Hewland FT200 powertrain, only one car was actually prepared as the other one would come later in the year. The engine was replaced by a Cosworth BDA and the Formula 3 spec Variomatic transmission. Completed in time for the Brussels Auto Salon in January 1972, the car was presented there and then campaigned in the national hill climb championship where it proved successful winning its category at the Bomeree hill climb as well as the championship that year ! The first proper result for the system but the program was then caned and the cars sold, one fitted with the Variomatic system and the other as originally raced in 1971…
The two car were bought and raced in historics by Lee Chapman and Simon Hadfield who campaigned the cars in their FVC and FT200 configuration. In 2009, the period Variomatic equipped car was bought by the DAF Company through an effort of the President Paul van Doorne and his son Paul to gather a museum of the important DAF vehicles. The Huron was to be part of it and the car was returned to its Variomatic configuration by Hadfield himself. Sourcing period parts and putting a big effort into it, it was brought back to life in early 2010 and seen at the Goodwood FOS that same year before being featured in the DAF museum.
The other car was also sold but this time to Jean Guikas of GTC Guikas in Monaco where it sits waiting for someone to race it. And below, a little video showcasing the system at speed.
Pictures/Sources courtesy of :