Today is February 7th. A day that for some people revolves around ‘Ballet Day’, but for DAF fans, 7 February is about something completely different. The car factory introduced the clever stick on this day in 1958. Sounds little special, but there is certainly reason to think about it.
A bitch shaker with suspender drive. It is the nickname of the car with the clever stick, which is another nickname of the variomatic. The DAF 600 was introduced in 1958 and was not exactly a car that was seen as a sleek sports car for young people. The opposite is true.
However, the car did contain an interesting innovation within the automotive world, namely the clever gear lever invented by DAF founder Hub van Doorne. Thanks to this lever, you as a driver no longer had to shift gears yourself. You could choose forwards and backwards, that was it. The car became a huge hit at a time when owning a car was not at all obvious. Tens of thousands of DAF 600s were sold in a few years.
The car was not only easy to drive because of that clever stick: there was a lot of luggage space and there was an engine in the front of the car, instead of in the back. That was quite revolutionary for a car of Dutch manufacture. Yet it was a car that was looked at fairly giggly, precisely because of that clever stick. It was seen as an aid for people who could not shift gears and therefore would not drive as sporty.
That is very funny to see, given the current innovations in the automotive industry. More than half of the new cars sold are automatic and that is only increasing. The clever stick is simply a predecessor of it. And to think that in a few years’ time we may no longer have to drive ourselves, let alone need a poker. On the one hand, DAF was very much ahead of its time, but at the same time we probably no longer need that system at all in the future.
Still just the details about that clever stick? It is also called variomatic, an automatic gearbox with belt drive. The system did not receive the nickname ‘smart stick’ from the public, which was invented by the DAF advertising agency in the commercial. Variomatic ensures that the correct deceleration is maintained at the most optimal maximum torque. It does this by adjusting the pulley diameter of the V-belt drive. Nice detail: when DAF moved on Volvo was taken over in 1975, the system was expanded with a parking position and a different gear lever.
Want to know more about this special piece of Dutch car history? Then we recommend this Other Times episode about the clever stick.