Unsung Heroes : Triumph Acclaim

Billed as the car that was totally equipped to Triumph, the Acclaim was really the marque’s last chance saloon.

And in the end, the Acclaim failed to bolster Triumph enough after its launch in 1981 to save it from oblivion. And as Keith Adams explains, it was through no fault of its own.

The end of the line

The Acclaim stacked up well against its rivals. But not well enough...
The Acclaim stacked up well against its rivals. But not well enough…

For those within BL who lived through the dark times of the mid-to-late 1970s, the turn of the new decade must have seemed like the beginning of a bright new future. The slinging out of the old Union guard was high on the agenda, following Derek Robinson’s sacking in 1979, as was Sir Michael Edwardes’ much vaunted ‘Product led recovery’, and making good the groundbreaking joint venture with Honda. And it was the latter, more than anything else, that  led to BL management, sales and servicing people to breathe a huge sigh of relief…

The first manifestation of the ‘Product led recovery’ was the Austin miniMetro, launched in October 1980. It was BL’s first all-new product since the Rover SD1 of 1976, and when it was shown to dealer principals and senior salesmen on a ferry in the middle of the North Sea, it reduced them to tears. Tears of joy. But there was no time to waste, the Metro was destined to sell well, but it could not carry the BL range single-handedly – and there was a three-year gap before the arrival of the LM10/11 range.

And that’s where Honda would come into the fray. Under the codename Bounty, BL and Honda cooked up a plan that involved assembling its Ballade saloon at its under-utilised Cowley factory, helping clean-up the company’s mid-range. The main priority was to get customers back into the showroom, and offer them something genuinely new to look at. And so it came to pass – while the UK assembly lines were being prepared, BL engineers worked on Anglicising the Ballade.

And considering the Anglo-Japanese deal was struck on Boxing Day 1979, with a proposed introduction of the end of 1981, there was little time to do anything with Honda’s new saloon. They played with the damping, developed new front seats, and introduced Austin Morris-generic colours and trims, before finally nailing Triumph badges to the front and rear. Why Triumph? The Morris Ital was to continue, as were the Austin Allegro and Ambassador, leaving only the Dolomite to shuffle off this mortal coil. And the capable little Honda was more than capable of replacing the old Triumph, 1850HL and Sprint notwithstanding.

In true make-d0-and-mend fashion, the end result was actually rather good. In the post-Metro euphoria that BL fans were enjoying, this was clearly another good news story, which was unveiled triumphantly (sorry) at the 1981 Motorfair at Earl’s Court. We all knew it was a rebadged Japanese car, but actually we didn’t mind at all – that meant reliability; that meant quality; that meant dependability. All things that – sorry to say – the Great British buying public felt that BL cars were lacking in.

In short – if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

The Acclaim picked up useful sales during its all-too brief life – 133,625 between 1981 and 1984 – and  despite holding its head high with honour and restoring faith in Triumph brand, it was replaced the a slightly more Anglicised version of the next-generation Honda Ballade wearing, gasp, the Rover badge. It was a marketing decision taken at a time when the brand equity of Rover was probably the strongest within BL, and easily understood. But it did mean the end of Triumph – a great marque that had been around since 1923, responsible for some of Britain’s finest sports cars,  had gone out with a whimper, not a bang.

Being the last Triumph was an epitaph that hung heavily over the Acclaim for many years. It took the Triumph community a long time to come to terms with its existence, and it severely overshadowed all that was good about the compact saloon. For one, the Acclaim was reliable, and had true Swiss watch levels of engineering – Honda’s core values had survived intact their journey to Cowley. And that meant something even more fundamental had been proved by the BL-Honda joint venture: British production line workers were capable of building high quality cars.

From here, the BL-Honda alliance had the potential to go on and create some amazing things…

Whether that actually happened is still open to debate over 30 years on, but the fact that the UK could build high quality cars after years of being in the wars was good news. And that probably led to the arrival of Nissan, and Toyota over the course of the next decade.

But what of the Acclaim itself?

I’ve owned two of them, and my experience has been overwhelmingly positive. You jump in, adjust to the fact you’re crowbarred in to a seven-eighth scale model of a real car, and reset your brain to Japanese ambiance and ergonomics. Once acclimatised, to this, fire it up, and rejoice as the 1335cc high compression engine bursts into life and settles to a near silent idle. It has excellent throttle response, too, and zips up and down the rev range, pleasingly. After the more lugubrious long-stroke fare served up by BL at the time, it must have been a bit of a culture shock.

To drive, the Acclaim’s nothing special – it’s small and light and relatively stiffly sprung and under-damped, so it tends to hop and skip around on typical British roads. But get it onto the motorway, slot it into fifth, and hum along at the national limit at just over 3500rpm. For a 1.3-litre car, it would certainly punch above its weight thanks to its 72bhp Civic S-spec engine, and although o-60mph in 12.7 seconds and a maximum speed of 95mph don’t sound great shakes today, it was more than enough to keep pace with the 1600cc repmobiles that plied our nation’s motorways at the time.

Consequently, the Acclaim has picked up plenty of fans in recent years. It’s easy to service, cheap to run, plays happily on unleaded fuel, and has plenty of classic appeal. And unlike its more successful replacement, the Rover 213, the Acclaim is actually quite resistant to rust and has an excellent survival rate.

My first was bought from Poulton-le-Fylde car auctions in 1991 for £350, and served with honour as my first ever ‘second’ car (to a Maestro Vanden Plas) for well over a year. It never missed a beat and unlike the Maestro, managed to bring a smile to my face whenever I drove it. The only mechanical failure was a single engine mount – and at the time, I didn’t actually notice anything wrong as a consequence for over a week, such was the smoothness of that four-pot. I’d have another today, given the opportunity…

I also have another nagging feeling whenever I get thinking about the Acclaim. Had its replacements been called Triumphs, I have a sneaking feeling that the marque might still be with us today.

But for now, lest we forget, the Acclaim was a cracking car, offered just at the right time, and its significance should never be under-estimated. A real unsung hero…

Keith Adams


  1. It was more of a Triumph in terms of premium interior (in HLS & CD form at least) than a Dolomite replacement with the latter being a class above size wise.

    Still unless you were a Japanese phobic purist, it was no less worthy carrier of the badge than, dare I say it, a Toledo or 1300 Dolomite.

  2. Ahh.. the Triumph Acclaim.

    I remember having a long conversation with a time served mechanic I worked with back in the mid 90`s at the tiny retail dealer I worked with.

    He told me about how the service guys loathed them, owing to the fact that upon a sales PDI, virtually nothing needed doing to them to make them fit for purpose, Simply tune in the wireless, screw on the plates and kick `em next door into sales… they were made that well. Also, the customer KPI levels (key performance indicators) on the subsequent replacement – the Rover 213, were higher than Honda’s own Ballade.

    I still own my corgi Acclaim complete with rubber tyres and steering front wheels – which is the nearest a child of the 70`s or 80`s got to!

    One thing is for sure… had Edwardes failed to get Honda on board, I reckon BL would have sunk like a crab in a workmans welly!

  3. My thought at the time was that it looked too boxy and sensible to be a Triumph. I wished they were able to modify the front end to make it more distinctive like the later Honda/Rover models did very well.

  4. Is that john hurts voice narrating that Triumph advertisment. I know He also voiced lots of adverts in the 80’s from the Ford Cortina mk5 right to the scary AIDS ones.
    But he be remembered more for the elephant man, seen in alien! and Hazel the rabbit.

  5. Perhaps MG should look at this as a lesson in how not to nurture a brand? 1 model 1 engine?! The 1.3 may have been nippy but you only knew this once you drove the thing. No direct replacement for 1850HL or Sprint models either. Many will have seen this car as a retrospective step in car development, remember the Dolomite Sprint was first production car to get 16v and Alloys Wheels as standard. Despite all this the car sold well in its short time and it seems unfair that the replacement car was badged as a Rover, perhaps had BL decided to retain the Triumph name for the midsection of cars rather than Austin-Rover we’d have seen a Triumph badged R8 range?

  6. There’s still a few of these on the road in daily use around the Chester area. Both examples (blue and red metallic) still looking solid.

  7. “Being the last Triumph was an epitaph that hanged heavily over the Acclaim for many years”

    Hanged? I can’t believe that’s what was wrote.

  8. ” remember the Dolomite Sprint was first production car to get 16v”

    It was the first “mass produced” car to have 16v, but there had been plenty of “production” cars before it that had 16 valve engines.

    Personally i never saw the big deal about Triumph cars, the two seat sports cars looked good, but i can’t think of a single Triumph Saloon that didn’t look bland and unimpressive. I mean Rover P6 vs. Triumph 2000 for example, no contest on looks.

  9. Mike, I’ve still got my Corgi Acclaim too!!

    Saw a real one on the road today and another one just a couple of weeks ago.

  10. I still think the Acclaim was the right car for BL as their first joint venture with Honda and at least kept the Triumph name running a little longer. It was a good start point for future colaborations like the R200,400,600,800.

    My friends Dad had an 83 Acclaim HLS which seemed to be trouble free. As I recall, rev counters were standard across the range – unlike other BL products of that era.

    Having said all this, I recall the launch of the Honda Quintet in 1980, perhaps this would have been a better car for BL to build, to compete in the hatchback sector… I guess Honda didn’t want that to happen.

  11. In the late 70’s early 80’s i worked in a local BL dealership, on one occasion i had the pleasure of driving an Acclaim from the dealership in Derbyshire to Greenock in Scotland,The car drove all the way on one tank of fuel. I duly handed the keys over to its new owner in exchange for his Dolomite Sprint,needless to say the Sprint needed a few more stops on the way back. The Acclaim left a lasting impression and had i not been 19 at the time would have bought one, but they were way out of my price range. All in all a great experience

  12. I aggree that this tie up with Honda was a good for BL, also it had things like Rev counter as standard and would be a breath of fresh air compared to other BL cars at the time, and already mentioned that Honda involvement with BL provided a good range of cars for the future,only wished that still be the case Rover may be still going. The Aclaim was more a replacement for Toledo than Dolomite Sprint, shame they didnt have a more sportier version at the time included in the range. The automatic with Honda system was well proven and good. Seen a couple in Woolwich parked up on the drive. Regards Mark

  13. Remember the launch well, father was interested- he owned a Dolomite 1300.

    The acclaim disappointed, it was just too small, he waited and bought an early SD3.
    But the Acclaim did provide AR with a new-product to market until Maestro and Montego came along.
    It appealed to retired people, in fact I don’t know anyone under pension age who bought one new!

  14. A truely significant car when you stop & think about it. As pointed out by Keith it showed that the British could assemble a Japanese design well and so played a big part in the arrival of Nissan, Toyota. Wow!! Has the Acclaim ever been given credit for this? I’ve never been aware of anyone regarding the Acclaim as fundamental in the history of British motor manufacturing.

  15. My Gran had one from 1981-9.

    It was the first car I can remember with a remote release for the boot & fuel filler.

  16. The SD3 wasn’t called a Triumph because Graham Day wanted to tidy up the brands, so BL became Austin Rover. Adding Triumph would have just confused it all and at the end of the day it was just a badge.

    Certainly, sales of the Rover 200 weren’t harmed when it replaced the Acclaim.

  17. The video reminds me of the television series of Hitchhiker’s Guide.

  18. had one about five years ago, it went well but I constantly banged my head getting in and out of the tiny door aperture. I gave it to my daughter as her first car. A job it performed well surviving the little knocks and bangs, it only went because I got her something newer. She still misses it.

  19. Looking at the debate another way:-

    ‘BL management and Honda failed to deliver the Dolomite replacement, a joint venture to be known as the Triumph Acclaim, in 1981, leaving the company to soldier on with the Metro and the life-expired Allegro and Marina/Ital in the heavily-contested small/medium market.’
    How long do you think BL Cars would have lasted?


  20. I had an HLS model of the Acclaim and in the 3 years I owned it , it never missed a beat. I thoroughly enjoyed driving it, a truly fantastic car.

  21. Re the low mileage, I recall reading of a Mk1 Granada that someone picked up a dozen or so years ago with practically no mileage. The owner had driven it home, decided he didn’t like it, and had promptly gone out and bought an SD1 Rover instead. I reckon more than a few of these low-milers have the same reason behind them – embarassment!

  22. My father-in-law had a Y-reg HLS new. I drove a lot of miles in it. It seemed remarkable to me then how smooth and solid it felt.

    The only problem I could see was how little room there was for the size of car.

    Excellent little car!

  23. If the Acclaim hadn’t been launched, then a few of the sales (from BL loyalists) would presumably have gone to the Allegro/Ital instead.

    I don’t recall seeing it here, but was any effort made into turning Allegro into a hatchback, they did it for the Princess despite the Ambassador only lasting 2 years, could the money spent on putting the Acclaim into production have paid for a hatchback Allegro to fill the gap before LM10?

  24. @Hilton D

    BL should have used the Honda Quintet?
    Why yes, but they should’ve imported them to the UK too!


    My uncle had an Acclaim. I remember him saying it was very reliable (though he had to seal up some of the bonnet vents as the rain was getting through onto the engine). I recall the interior being a bit small (though no worse than say a Fiesta) and it struggled to get up some of the steeper hills.
    Had the Corgi model, with the steering via the wing mirrors.

  25. Ah yes, the Acclaim. It was a shame it had a few design flaws – zero rear leg room behind a normal height driver, bland styling that appealed only to pensioners – otherwise it might have been too successful.

    Virtually 100% reliable, the only weak points were items made in the UK – the radiators were prone to leak and HRWs failed. Our dealership was split on whether the Acclaim was “a good thing” or not – sales loved them for the satisfied customers that resulted, service were worried due to the lack of warranty income. Remember these were the days when warranty claims accounted for 60 to 70% of workshop revenue for some dealers.

    And the performance was something else. We had a local fleet manager come in with a factory demo asking us how you could tell a 1.3 from a 1.6. He wouldn’t believe us when we told him they were all 1.3s – he was simply blown away by the performance.

  26. A great car,even to this day,i see one in regular use every day,shame rover didnt stayed aligned with honda.

  27. Acclaim never did it for me, 1) I was too young to afford one, 2) it was a civic, no attempt to disguise this fact was made!!! BL could have used the 1,5L with 85bhp from the civic S, it would have filled up the gap left by the 1850cc.
    The SD3 was not only slightly bigger overall but 6″ longer wheelbase gave much needed extra space in the cabin, a better effort to hide its roots altogether, definitely more Dolomite than Toledo and my first British car.

  28. My parents had a bottom of the range Acclaim L in the late 80s and both hated it, my Mum on account of its dodgy handling in the wet and my Dad because it was (and still is) the only car that broke down and didn’t get him home. It ended up having to be towed about 16 miles by their long suffering Reiant Kitten…

  29. People criticize the Maestro for being out of date at its launch but the Acclaim looked decades out of date by the time it was launched. It did however pave the way for not just a whole raft Rover/Hondas but when you think about it probably helped Nissan make the decision to make the Bluebird in the North East.

  30. Half expected to see knight rider lights flashing along the bonnet in that video. I think the marketing team were influenced by Kit 🙂

    I owned one early 90’s. It was reliable and off the mark was very quick up to 50. A good little car, well made but rather bland.

    Kit: “would’nt you agree Michael”.

  31. I bought an ’84 Acclaim HLS as a classic/second car which was recently featured in Classic Car Weekly. I remember my school friend saying it was old fashioned – when they were new in the early 80’s. Today it is at least surprisingly modern in the way it drives – excellent performance from the SOHC Honda EN4 engine, 5 speed gearbox for relaxed motorway cruising. The only thing that took a bit of getting used to again was the manual choke – but more reliable than an automatic choke I suppose. It’s quite posh inside with the HLS spec, bar the Japanese style dashboard. With 70 bhp (only 10 bhp more than my 2002 1.0 Micra’s 60 bhp) – it feels much more lively. Having joined the Triumph Sports Six Club, the car is at last losing the stigma of not being ‘a proper Triumph’. Yes it is Japanese even in its looks, but this was a good reliable car, unlike some of BL’s other products of the time. My mum had an Austin Metro in the early 90’s and was the worst car she had. The same goes for a Maestro I had. Some have said the Allegro was the worst ever car but it always came to the rescue when my mum’s Metro had broken down – and there was always something wrong with the Metro virtually every time she went out in it. I just wish I’d bought an Acclaim in the 90’s and would have experienced Japanese style reliability a lot earlier than 2003 when myself and my dad bought a Nissan Primera and Sunny.

  32. With hindsight it was a daft decision to kill the Sporty Triumph brand for the unsporty Rover brand. What they should have done was killed off Austin, Morris and yes even MG more quickly and then focused on making Rover’s and Triumphs off one floorpan but then given them a different look. Ultimately it was a lack of volume that killed Rover. With Triumph and Rover making cars the VW way they may both have lived.

  33. I think the idea that if the Acclaim’s replacements had been badged Triumphs, the brand would still be with us today is well thought out and pertinent. Triumph excelled in these sorts of cars and although it didn’t seem like it at the time, the Acclaim was good successor to the Toledo and 1300. The Rover 200’s would have built on this without dragging the Rover brand down to the middle market.
    I remember fondly as a ten year old going to the Acclaim launch party at Armstrong-Massey in Beverley, East Yorkshire. I got a free mug. Happy days.

  34. If nothing else the Acclaim helped maintain BLs new model momentum. Without it there would have been a yawning 3 year gap between the Metro and Maestro. It did everything that was asked of it and was the starting point for Rovers golden years working with Honda. Just a shame all that was thrown away.

  35. for ultimate oap cred they should,ve done a acclaim vp!! no big chrome grille though but leather wood etc!

  36. My uncle had one in the mid 90’s – he replaced his old Mk2 2.3 Granda with it and noticed a big difference. I always think it is a good looking motor – compare the aclaim against an 80’s 3 series and you can see a big similiarity.

    The prob with BL at the time was they had no cash and were fishing for a cheap and effective partner. If the Renault deal had come off, we would have had another unreliable piece of junk! We all wish BL had the cash back in the early 80’s and had used TriumpH & Rover brands, just like VW and Audi, they could have had a different future, but again the lack of British Management skill and vision (BAE) just saw Rover as possible asset to sell and not something they could use to improve their business.

  37. Sorry, although I quite like the Acclaim, there’s no way it’s a good enough replacement for the Dolomite.
    The acclaim looked just as dated, very Japanese, and was slower than the 1850 and Sprint.

  38. “dodgy handling in the wet”

    That would have been down to tyres rather than the car. Even some of the premium brand ones are terrible in the wet but fine in the dry.

    “The acclaim looked just as dated, very Japanese”

    Very Japanese was a good selling point though, it might have been slower than the Dolomite Sprint but it’s a bit like the story of the tortoise and the hare, the Sprint might have been faster, but if you had to put a bet on which one would actually get you to your destination, the “Very Japanese” Acclaim would be the one you put your money on.
    At the time being perceived as Japanese, was much like the later Rover R8’s that get advertised second hand as having “the Honda engine”, or the Rover 75 Diesels with “the BMW engine”.

  39. I thought this was one of the most dreadful cars ever marketed by BL . As others have said, it was , and worse still looked, outdated before it ever started in production . A lemon of the first order

  40. I owned a HLS after my Dolomite 1850 HL. Ok so the engine was tiny but it was way,way more modern than the Dolly(2 star / unleaded petrol, FWD, internal headlight levelling, remote boot and fuel release, ‘ski hatch’ ) very light good handling body and twin carbs. Everything about worked with a precision you just did not get in the Dolly (the choke control clicked in and out and the wiper speed was uniform but on the Dolly the speed seemed to vary with the accelerator!) If you had the CD you even got elec windows and aircon! I went from (c) 30k miles to over 130k when the rust finally became too much. Yes very small inside and the clock was very ‘period japanese’, The boot was poorly trimmed and the metal thin but the reliability was in another league – I loved the Dolly (wood and all) but it was really from a previous decade…

  41. I suppose the Acclaim proved that build quality and reliability has less to do with the blokes that nail it together on the line and far more to do with the way the car is designed for assembly. The Acclaim and SD3 both produced at Cowley where class leading for quality, yet the Maestro and Montego, both raw BL products where – well like every other BL product. Hopeless. The Brits did manage to stamp one bit of their national character on the Acclaim though – the inability to understand how big a car should be for its particular market segment. Like every car produced sine the 1800 in 1964, it sat between segments. BL even marketed it as a Cortina rival when a Fiesta probably had more interior space.

  42. Undeserved of the Triumph name as well as boring but its saving grace was its reliability.
    During the late 80s the small ECU control box that screwed to the bulkhead was the[ only?] problem, very expensive for its time but a pitance compared to modern problems.
    Then of course was the age old problem…rust, especially the front lower valence.
    Best one i drove/sold was a gold CD auto.

  43. I never owned an Acclaim but someone lent me one in the 80’s and I remember it as ‘solid’ , reliable and quite boring. Mind you, what BL needed at that time was ‘boring’ – to get some credibility and money in the coffers.
    I was doing styling sketches throughout the period and had my own line up all sorted:
    Morris – bottom of the range saloons/estates up to 2ltrs.
    Austin – kept for Taxi’s (don’t even go there!)
    Riley – high performance versions of Morris up to 2ltrs
    Wolseley – luxury versions of Morris up to 2ltrs
    Triumph – sporting range of 2/4 seaters
    using Morris floor pan
    MG – entirely individual sports cars up to 3 ltrs
    Rover – saloons/estates over 2ltrs
    Alvis – bigger, plusher versions of Rovers
    All you need is four floor pans, 7 engines, a young Michael Edwards, modern factories, a really enthusiastic workforce and there we are. Job done!
    Bugger! Too late!

  44. Heres one for ya kids….

    The Triumph Acclaim lived on beyond 1984 with the lauch of the Leyland Roadrunner truck.

    The passenger side facia airvents are the same as the ones fitted to the Acclaim along with the Maestro sourced headlamps

  45. Dad got a Nautilus Blue HLS in March 1982 and kept it longer than any other car I remember, it was so lively and reliable. One of his favourite cars, and mine.

  46. My dad had one of these in the early to mid eighties, an HL in Sage Green, X reg which I think means 1982?

    He bought it to replace a Dolomite SE (one of the ones tarted up to look like a Sprint but without the mechanicals).

    My dad was never really a car man and the Acclaim to be honest was one of the best he had. I remember thinking it was quite small even then but dad remembers it as nippy and I always thought them good looking little cars. I liked it much more than the gawky Ford Orion dad bought to replace it.

    I remember the Acclaim fondly for personal reasons but it’s good to read that people also consider it a historically significant car. I live overseas but would like to buy one as a collector’s piece when i get back to the UK.

  47. We had an ’82 X Reg Acclaim CD in Silver Leaf. Like most people on here my dad to this day says it’s one of the best cars he ever owned.

    I was (as a boy) obsessed with the headlight washers and still to this day am a sucker for a ‘Winter Pack’ that has this feature 🙂

    We had previously had a Dolly 1500 and this was light years ahead of the Dolly, in every respect.

    The funny thing is that when it came to having my first car I test drive an Acclaim (this was now 1995) and I thought it was a great car. Sadly though the allure of an Inca Yellow 1980 Dolomite 1300 swayed me!

    My dad now owns a TR7 DHC as his classic fun car. The Acclaim and TR7 were similar generation cars. However build quality and materials wise they are decades apart. There really is something about Japanese engineering.

  48. The day BL announced that an underpowered, gussied-up Honda Civic was the next Triumph was the day I lost my last dregs of faith in the lunatics running the asylum. Platform sharing is one thing: the mechanicals were solid, if gutless (Honda kept the 1.5 for their Japanese-market Civic), but the styling, size and interior of the Acclaim had nothing about it that said Triumph. Any two-bit marketing drone knows that the Triumph name was not “just a badge”. This particular member of the Triumph community will never forget the squandering of brand equity that this car represents to us. The Marina can rest/rust in peace: where’s a piano when you really need one?

  49. @27 Will M – yep, I remember the Quintet being badged as a Rover in OZ. As you mention, pity Rover didn’t import a few (hundred / thousand?) to bolster UK sales. A better prospect than the CityRover was.

  50. I tried an Acclaim when I was due to replace my ageing Dolomite 1500HL in the late 1980s. I had no problems with the car …. except that I could not get my knees under the wheel. Basically, my long legged frame appears to be the opposite of homo-Japan in terms of proportions. I.e. it was just too small for me inside.

    I always felt that it was more akin to a Herald replacement than a Dolomite. The Dolly was much bigger (and certainly nicer inside). In the end I opted for a Vauxhall Nova, which would at least fit four normal UK sized people in it. And that was the end of my BL journey.

    @52 CJP: totally agree with your sentiments. My dad had a Marina but I could never get the piano high enough.

  51. Coincidence! I just saw one today, very tidy in red with an elderly gentleman driver on the A56 near Helsby, Cheshire!!! First one I have seen in ages.

  52. Probably the worst car ever produced in the entire BMC/ BL/ ARG history . Fit only for the scrap heap as it left the factory

  53. I know purists moaned about the Japanese input, but this was a do or die moment for British Leyland whose light medium cars of the time were ancient and fading away. The Acclaim at least proved British Leyland could make a reliable, decent cars that people wanted.
    At the time, compared with an Escort 1.3, the Acclaim was a far more refined, nicer trimmed, more reliable and pleasanter car to drive. Also the four door saloon proved popular with the large number of motorists who couldn’t warm to hatchbacks. Hundreds survived locally here well into the nineties.

  54. It seemed in 1982, with the Metro the best seller in its class, the Acclaim notching up big sales and being completely reliable, and the Jaguar revival, that British Leyland seemed to be on the up and market share had inched up from 16% pre Metro the 20% in 1982. Had the Maestro and Montego been as reliable as the Acclaim, then sales could have hit the magic 25% and really given Ford a run for its money.
    Around 1982 I found the Ford range, barring the Mark Two Granada and Capri Injection, nowhere near as interest as Austin Rover and Jaguar. The Cortina was mechanicallying as old hat as the Ital, if a bit better to drive, the Mark 3 Escort was vile, and the Mark 1 Fiesta was vile in smaller engined form. As for the Sierra, really just a Cortina in new clothes and I’d have chosen an Ambassador any day.

  55. My dad had a couple of high spec Acclaims in HLS trim;and luckily enough came with standard aircon, a sort of one off special edition model with more equipment. The aircon made the best of the variable heatvent system with freshly cooled air on warm summer days and rapidly warmed air in winter with heater/ventilation system on maximum(no cool face level a/c air with heater setting on max, but it DID flow cooler with a/c on at half heat setting). Very comfortable too.

  56. I worked for a small BL retail dealer from 1980 until 2006,although we lost our Rover franchise in 1996. We took on Rover and Triumph in October 1981 having been Austin and Morris retailers since the mid 1920’s and the Acclaim was launched at the same time. We found them quite popular and sold a total of 39 new up to our last in April 1984. Buyers were mainly retired, elderly couples and the two most popular variants we sold were the HL and HLS. Compared to many other BL products they were unusual at the time in having 12 valve engines, breakerless ignition, two star 91 octane petrol, five speed gearboxes and no oil leaks from the power unit! Reliability was legendary and the chief gripes with the car were always the lack of room inside the cabin and the small boot. Many of the Acclaims we sold new were later on traded back in against new Rover 200’s. I seem to recall that fitting aftermarket sunroofs to Acclaims was tricky too due to the relatively thin roof panel distorting easily if the wrong type sun hatch was installed. Another strange servicing requirement alien to BL dealers at the time was renewal of the wheel bearing grease every 45000 miles. All in all a good car but sadly as time went on not able to withstand the ravages of the dreaded rust bug! Were they still around I’d definitely buy one now that the kids have grown up and there are only the two of us for most journeys. There is a You Tube clip featuring a 1981 TV advert for the Acclaim, just search under ‘Totally equipped to Triumph’ to view.

  57. Thanks for the specs, from the time my Gran had one I remember it didn’t use 4 star, but seemed to think it was 3 star, a grade of petrol which was getting rare in the 1980s & some owners used to have to mix 2 & 4 star when filling up.

    On another site a couple of days ago there was a thread on old school filling stations, & the different star grades came up.

  58. The Acclaim probably appealed to people who liked small saloons and couldn’t get their heads around these new fangled hatchabcks. Also since it was Honda powered, there wouldn’t be the reliability woirries that deterred people from buying from British Leyland. In short the Acclaim was a masterstroke, a conservative small saloon that was reliable and well equipped for the money and had a broad appeal. The driving experience was pretty good, too, a smooth revving Honda engine mated to a five speed gearbox which made long journeys relaxing and aided fuel economy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.