MODERN NOT CLASSIC TRIUMPH ACCLAIM
It was the first Japanese car to be built in Europe. It was the last Triumph car to be built. But was the Acclaim worthy of its name? #Triumph-Acclaim
The Triumph Acclaim proved that us Brits could certainly build a reliable car.
The Acclaim, based on the Ballade, was the first fruit of a 1979 deal struck with Honda by British Leyland boss Sir Michael Edwardes. BL achieved a double-whammy: an easy, development-cost-free insertion into the model range, and a sidestep of the Japanese import restriction.
The Acclaim's rounded-of square headlamps paid accidental homage to the old Herald, while the swerve of its bonnet over the headlamps gave a nod to the 13/60. The engine was a light alloy, 1335cc, twin Keihin-carbed SOHC transverse four driving the front wheels. It made 70bhp at 5750rpm and 74lb ft of torque at 3500rpm. The standard transmission was a five-speed overdrive unit. If you enjoyed the occasional nap behind the wheel, you could order your Acclaim with a two-speed Hondamatic auto, daintily renamed the Triomatic. The cabin was a sickly mélange of Caramac plastic and beige velour, but at least there was no shortage of equipment.
An Autocar vox pop revealed that 55% of us didn’t regard the Acclaim as British, but it wasn’t an issue: UK motorists were ready to embrace something that promised reliable ongoing movement. Housewife of Middlewich was well informed, pointing out that her Cortina came from Germany, 'so what’s the difference?' Quite so.
In 1981 Autocar’s Michael Scarlett had a pre-test squirt in the top-spec Acclaim CD. He liked the zesty feel and sound of the 1300 engine, though he did point out that a low-speed flat spot in his car occasionally grew into a full-blown cutout when tackling steep hills in a high gear. That was more of an indication the Acclaim was very much Japanese and a bit short on the torquey chuggability expected of a British car.
Overall, Autocar rated the Acclaim as 'fast, comfortable, economical and a good replacement for the Dolomite'. It also predicted good reliability, which turned out to be correct. The Acclaim’s title of ‘fewest warranty claims for a BL car’ was perhaps only slightly more impressive than ‘least embarrassing reality TV show personality’.
The magazine's only qualm was the Acclaim's ability to weather the storm of imports when the import restriction was lifted. That turned out to be a fair shout – the Acclaim sank in 1984 after three years, taking the Triumph name with it.
The model to hunt down is the rare Avon Turbo. It featured special duotone paint, a vinyl roof, colour-coded wheels, Turbo written in big letters down the side and about four acres of stuck-on black plastic.
Frankly it was a mess, and the suspension mods didn’t really work either. But the Turbo Technics unit did boost power to a lag-free 105bhp, bringing the 0-60 time down from 12.9sec to 9.6sec. Unfortunately, the conversion cost £2990, so few were built. In 2010, the 001 press car (VWK 689X) was put on sale. It was advertised at offers over £10k, to much guffawing from Triumph Owners’ Club members. It made it, too… The last laugh wasn’t theirs, though, or even Honda’s: it was the British motor industry’s, reborn on a new foundation of trust established by the Acclaim.