Historic Truck Brands


On 1 April 1928, Dutch engineer Hub van Doorne started a small construction workshop in the city of Eindhoven, the Netherlands. Initial work included welding and forging for the city and local companies like lamp and radio manufacturer Philips. 

The Great Depression inspired Hub van Doorne and his brother Wim to expand services. The workshop evolved into a trailer manufacturing business in 1932 and the company name was changed into Van Doorne’s Aanhangwagen Fabriek (Van Doorne’s semi-trailer factory), abbreviated to DAF. 

Thanks to their lightweight, welded chassis, the trailers and semi-trailers that left the small factory had better payloads than their competitors.

Another invention was the DAF container trailer of 1936 that was designed to load and unload containers from a railway carriage.

In 1949, the first DAF truck entered production and the company name became Van Doorne’s Automobiel Fabriek. A year later a dedicated truck factory was built and production started with three-, five- and six-tonne truck chassis.

Early DAFs had body-builder-made cabs, but in 1951 DAF introduced its own cab, with round corners and a slanted front grille for better aerodynamics. Driver comfort was enhanced by the introduction of a suspended seat.

DAF initially installed Hercules and Perkins petrol and diesel engines, but in 1957 the Eindhoven company designed and began manufacturing the first DAF-branded engines.

Two years later, DAF improved the DD575 diesel engine by adding a turbocharger.

In the 1960s, DAF further enhanced driver comfort with the first European cab designed for international (TIR) transport. The DAF 2600 offered two beds and windows all around, with power brakes and power steering.

In 1969, DAF was one of the earliest manufacturers to introduce a tilting mechanism on the cab-over engine model.

In 1972, DAF’s finances were in dire straits and US-based International Harvester acquired one-third of DAF’s shares. Two years later a further one-quarter of shares were acquired by Dutch State Mines. 

DAF introduced turbo-intercooling as an industry-first in 1973. The technology was initially developed to meet the demand for higher engine outputs and lower fuel consumption, but also proved to be indispensable in realising cleaner exhaust emissions.

In the 1980s DAF launched Advanced Turbo Intercooling (ATi), which provided power and efficiency gains through a further refinement of injection technology and an optimised shape of the combustion chamber.

DAFs sold in small numbers in Australia in the 1980s, but struggled against better-specified and better resourced products from Mercedes-Benz, Volvo and Scania. Also, there was no high-horsepower engine available for the burgeoning B-Double market.

In 1983, Western Star Australia was formed and this company gave DAF an unlikely leg-up when it sought to enter the cab-over-engine market and, eventually, replace the previous White Road Commander with a Western Star COE that could compete with Kenworth’s dominant K100.

However when the COE Western Star did break cover in 1992, with North American engines and drivelines, it wasn’t a success.

The 1064 Series was based on the DAF 95 platform, using its frame and cab. Detroit Diesel, Cumins and Caterpillar engines were offered, with Eaton Roadranger boxes and Rockwell diffs. The specification was right, but the costing was too high and both DAF and Western Star had financial difficulties at the time. (Interestingly, when better times returned in 1997, Western Star Australia had another crack at producing a COE, using the British ERF cab and frame as a base, but with a set-forward front axle.)

In 1987, DAF merged with the Leyland Trucks division of Rover Group, and in June 1989 was floated on the Dutch and London Stock Exchanges as DAF NV. The new company traded as Leyland DAF in the United Kingdom, and as DAF elsewhere. DAF Bus was split off in 1990 to become a part of United Bus. 

The new Dutch-British arrangement didn’t work well and DAF NV was placed in administration in February 1993 and the Dutch operations were sold in a management buyout with the business branded DAF Trucks.

In October 1996 Paccar acquired DAF Trucks. DAF Trucks and Leyland Trucks were rejoined in June 1998, when Paccar also acquired Leyland Trucks.

DAF launched the new LF, CF and XF series in 2001 and 2002, the award-winning XF105 model in 2005, and the Euro 4 and 5 program in 2006. A full range of new, ultra-clean Euro Six models entered production in 2013.

In 2019 Paccar introduced Australian assembly of DAF Trucks.

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