DAF Kini by Michelotti

Perhaps the only thing stranger than learning there's a Dutch Royal Family—the Monarchy of the Netherlands—is that the small northern European nation made a beach car.

But before we talk cars, we'll talk royals. 

First in the Dutch royal line was William the Silent, otherwise known as William of Orange—now the Netherlands World Cup jerseys make more sense, right?—who inherited a lot of property from his childless cousin when he was 11.

Life in those days seems much more frenetic—by the time he was assassinated in 1584, William of Orange had time to become a wealthy nobleman, find favour in the Spanish monarchy, be appointed ruler of the Spanish Netherlands, turn against Spain and join a Dutch uprising, fight alongside Dutch rebels, and to sign the Union of Utrecht—a de facto constitution that united a collection of Dutch provinces until a formal union was completed in 1797.

He was involved in all that, and even though he died at 51, William of Orange still managed to find time for four spouses and 16 children. Before he was assassinated by a Frenchman named Balthasar Gérard—on a reward of 25,000 crowns—Philip II, the Catholic King of Spain had called the Protestant William of Orange a "pest on the whole of Christianity and the enemy of the human race." And I thought Internet commenters could be rough.

I'm sure Philip II meant well and everything, but without William of Orange we wouldn't have the Monarchy of the Netherlands—and so also wouldn't have today's #bcotd, the 1966 DAF "Kini" Beach Car.

Sources online differ regarding the year and the chassis of the car, but it's pretty straightforward—I'm going with what the official DAF museum says! It was designed in 1966 by the Italian Giovanni Michelotti, shown in exhibitions as the DAF Kini, and gifted to the Dutch Royals in 1967 upon the birth of Willem-Alexander—now king!—of the Netherlands. 

(He rules alongside Queen Máxima—but they probably don't know what "4DSC" stands for.)

The first birth in a modern royal family typically makes people go ape with excitement, and so the only Dutch automaker gifting the family a concept car for their residence in the extremely small seaside Italian town of Porto Ercole is not all that surprising. The son of Queen Beatrix and Prince Claus, Willem-Alexander's name was placed on the front fenders of the car.

Its original name, Kini, came from the two-piece bathing suit style called "bikini," itself named after an atoll in the Pacific that hosted the first peacetime nuclear weapons test in 1946.

Underneath, the Kini was just a DAF 32, known popularly as the Daffodil. The world's first car with a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), it was a popular rear-drive family sedan. Powered by a 746-cc flat 2-cylinder engine, it was slow but relatively inexpensive to buy and very economical.

Its drivetrain had a number of quirks—real engineering quirks that make what reviewers complain about these days pale in comparison. So-called "enthusiasts" generally love to hate on CVTs, but these people are silly. CVTs are merely an engineering solution to the problem of city driving conditions (commuting), fuel economy standards, and packaging. Those aren't things "enthusiasts" have any business complaining about.

Called Variomatic, I won't get into its system of centrifugal weights, manifold vacuum, pulleys, and belts. Putting the system into reverse actually reversed the entire drive system—and that's awesome.

As with the Fiat 500 "Jolly" beach cars, the Kini was fitted with a full wicker interior, with a shiny metallic blue body that has headlights at the base of the windshield. Where's the Kini now? In the DAF Museum, in the Dutch city of Eindhoven.

Thanks to press photos and early publicity for the Kini—with the future king shown driven around by his parents in the car—DAF later built the Michelotti-styled, and limited production Shelette—itself a favourite beach car for members of the Kennedy and Onassis families.

As a bonus, the DAF Kini won the captivating "DAF vs. FAF" challenge on Jalopnik waaaaaay back in 2006 between now-Motor Trend-er Jonny Lieberman and now-Car and Driver-er Davey G. Johnson

Who says writing about cars on the Internet never pays off? ;)

 


Sources / Recommended reading