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Triumph Acclaim

Published: 22nd Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Triumph Acclaim
Triumph Acclaim
Triumph Acclaim
Triumph Acclaim
Triumph Acclaim

Model In Depth...

Triumph Acclaim
Triumph Acclaim
Triumph Acclaim
Triumph Acclaim
Triumph Acclaim

Buyer Beware

  • Dirt can collect around the petrol filler neck, which will eventually rot out the inner wheelarch by the strut top leading to a difficult repair. The rear seatbelt anchorages are also part of the rear wheelarches and need checking for rot – lift out the rear seat for a proper inspection.
  • The Acclaim was the first British car to be made using complete side pressings, so the sill was always an integral part of the side panel. Honda sold complete sides for £300, with cover sills costing £11-15 when you could get them. Fortunately, the profile is relatively simple and any fabricator with a long enough folder should be able to make an acceptable repair panel.
  • The closing panel at the rear of the boot can also suffer from rust if the drainage hole is blocked and moisture has been allowed to sit behind the ingenious plastic storage bins located in the boot just ahead of the rear lights: move the bins and check for newspaper and rot.
  • The front of an Acclaim is designed to crumple on impact. Most cars that have been in a shunt will have been scrapped rather than repaired, but it is worth checking the first two feet of a car’s structure for signs of previous damage just in case. Also check the front valence, as these can rust badly.
  • Front wheelarches are protected by liners and last well. If the rear arches are rusted then the best cure is to buy a brand new front wing from Rimmer Bros for £25 and cut a repair section for the rear arch out of your old front wing.
  • Are the front carpets wet? If so, check the front bulkhead from inside the engine bay. This can crack by the wiper motor, letting water into the cabin if things are left to decay.
  • Pull off the rocker cover. If it’s full of black gunge underneath, then expect the cam to be worn. A clacking noise that gets faster as engine revs rise also signifies this. Camshafts are getting more difficult to track down, but can be found for £100 second-hand or around £200 brand new.
  • Rear trailing arms are made of pressed steel, and this eventually rusts through. It should be picked up at MoT time well before it fails, but if the bolt securing it to the inner sill has corroded, you will have to cut it out and re fabricate the sill.
  • Acclaims came with two sidedraught carburettors. These are excellent when on song, but if they’re playing up it’s usually nothing more than a blocked idle jet – this sits underneath the main jet and many people miss it when cleaning out the carbs.
  • The vacuum advance/retard mechanism on the distributor is a common failure. The simple cure is to block off the feed and advance the timing by a couple of degrees.
  • Back brakes can seize because the rubber boot by the handbrake mechanism often leaks. Wheel cylinders are starting to get harder to track down, but you should still find them for around £5.
  • Interiors are generally very hardwearing, although cars below the CD had a cheaper fabric on the seats which is prone to sun damage.

Fast Facts

  • Driving: 3/5

    Pleasing but a bit dull. Super easy to drive – autos quite nice

  • Usability: 4/5

    Honda build and integrity make them cheap, useable daily drivers

  • Maintaining: 3/5

    A mix of good and bad. Easy DIY but support isn’t too hot

  • Owning: 3/5

    Quite painless really but is the Acclaim a real Triumph?

  • Value: 4/5

    Good value and some good ‘uns about but won’t appreciate

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A growing band of enthusiasts reckon it’s time to look at the Acclaim with fresh eyes. Do that, and you might find yourself hankering after the last car to carry the Triumph name

It may have been a facelifted Honda Ballade, but Triumph’s Acclaim was just about British enough to wear the badge – and it turns out that it’s a much-misunderstood animal. British Leyland made a whole host of changes to the Japanese underpinnings including a tweaked the front end, completely reworked interior and positive modifications to the suspension. In fact, 80 per cent of the car’s components were sourced in the UK, which helps to justify the Triumph badge. It’s also fair to say that the workers at Cowley made a decent job of bolting said parts together. Perhaps that’s why the traditionalists were so outraged: here was a car that was well engineered and didn’t leak oil and or fail to start – so the TR7 wasn’t the only Triumph to come up against a barrage of criticism from those who favoured tradition over progress. The Acclaim was targeted firmly at an older and slightly upmarket clientele. As a result, many examples enjoyed a low-mileage retirement along with their owners and good cars turn up surprisingly regularly. And with prices yet to reflect what a good and usable classic the Acclaim can be, this is a great time to take the plunge and put some of those prejudices and misconceptions to rest.

Which model to buy?

As per usual, aim to buy the best car you can get for your particular budget. Only if you are lucky enough to have a choice of vehicles should you start getting picky about specification. The most basic Acclaim was badged as the L, and it is indeed a very basic model. The L had the same engine as all the other models and came fitted with a five-speed gearbox, but it had no clock, no headlamp adjuster, no ski hatch for the boot, only one speaker for the radio and so on. On the plus side, this does make the L a real lightweight and sprightly on the road. Next up is the HL, which had such extras as a clock and adjustable headlamps. The HLS got slightly better trim – including a bit of carpet tacked to the door – but, more significantly, the option of a Triomatic gearbox too. Not a fully automatic option, the Tiomatic ’box was effectively a three-speed clutchless manual. Top of the tree is the CD, fitted with such luxuries as chrome bumpers, electric windows, headlamp washers and deep pile carpet. All this comes at a price though, and CDs are slower than their more sparsely equipped siblings with weightier controls. Condition rather than specification is the driving force behind prices, but even then they can be hit and miss and £100 can buy you either a very tidy car or a rotbox. Spend around £300 and you can get a reliable car with MoT, while £500-700 should net you a tidy example. Shop within the £1000-1500 bracket and you can start to demand an immaculate model, while pushing the boat out to a couple of grand will get you a car with fewer than 10,000 miles on the clock that looks and drives like new.

Behind the wheel?

No reason why an Acclaim can’t be a fun, quirky daily driver!

The Acclaim is big enough to feel comfortable, but light enough to wring good performance from the 1335cc overhead-cam engine. 0 60mph is dispatched in a respectable sub-13 seconds, and while the official top speed is 96mph, all Acclaims will do the ton quite comfortably. More importantly, they happily cruise as high as 85mph where legislation permits, thanks to a set of ratios that has fourth already acting as an overdrive and fifth simply chipping in as a lazy high-speed touring ratio. That is for the five-speed manuals, of course. The three-speed semi-automatic Triomatics err slightly more on the relaxed side of sporting. No Acclaims were fitted with power steering at the factory, but at 3.3 turns from lock to lock, lower spec models are relatively low-geared and light. Clutches are easy on the left foot too, and the gearchange is effected by rods rather than cables so it retains a pleasant action. Cabins are pure 1980s with plenty of velour and plastic. Space is limited but the Cortina-derived seats used for the Acclaim free up a little more legroom. Acclaims are very light and airy when compared to newer cars though, and underneath it all you still have such modern essentials as proper seatbelt anchorages, a servo-assisted dual circuit braking system and, of course, that all-synchro five-speed gearbox.

Ease of Ownership?

Acclaim is a great marriage of classic and modern

It is fair to say that you will not have specialists queuing up to supply you with brand new Acclaim spares. Japanese manufacturers tended not to support their cars for as long as European ones and Honda dealers will have Ballade catalogues by now. If the chap behind the counter is a willing helper, he should still be able to track down a part number for you and armed with this, you will be told either that it is coming over from Belgium –in which case you should have it in a couple of days – or that it is on back order which means that you should start investigating the alternatives. It can be very hit and miss, but fortunately a handful of experts such as Barry McGrath, have squirreled away a large stock of good second-hand spares to keep you mobile. Not that an Acclaim is difficult to keep running – service items such as balljoints and gaiters are all freely available brand new, there are no grease nipples to be found and even an oil and filter change can be accomplished without crawling underneath the car – how civilised is that? Engines are as durable as you would expect from a Japanese motor – they’re good for 120-150,000 miles with regular oil changes. The cambelt needs changing every 40,000 miles, but this is such a cheap and easy job that you should really do it on purchase. If the worst happens and the belt snaps then you’ll simply glide to a halt and no lasting damage will be done.

The Daily Option?

There’s no reason why an Acclaim can’t be a fun, reliable and quirky daily driver. Perhaps the biggest obstacle is making the mental leap that it is worth investing money in a car that, on paper at least, is so low rent. As a rule of thumb, you should reckon on spending around £200-300 each year to get a tatty example through its MoT. The car itself may only be worth that much, but put that thought out of your mind and look on the annual running costs as being cheaper than a service on a modern car – and you’re avoiding depreciation, too. Get past that hurdle and you will find the Acclaim is a great marriage of classic and modern. It has a leanburn engine that delivers 70bhp and up to 40mpg, but no electronic trickery to catch out the home mechanic. On the road it has such modern niceties as remote control mirrors, remote opening bootlid, heated rear screen and more yet you can still get cheap classic insurance if your driving habits fit their requirements.



BL had been looking for a partner for some time to help develop a mediumsized family car to replace its spent Dolomite range. After flirting with the French, formal talks were started with Japanese Honda in the neutral venue of San Francisco.


BL representatives are shown a prototype of the new Ballade in Japan. This is simply a booted version of the second generation Civic, and the car that Honda proposed to licence to British Leyland. An agreement was officially signed on Boxing Day.


Tweaked and re-branded as the Triumph Acclaim and built at BL’s Cowley site, the new car is officially launched in October. Built in HL, HLS and CD specification, the Acclaim effectively replaces the not just Dolomite, but also the Ital and Allegro in one fell swoop.


The Acclaim enjoys its best year for sales in its short production life, carving out a highly respectable 2.71 per cent share of the UK market. Although it was really a regroomed Honda, the traditional Triumph buyers didn’t mind one bit.


Complementing a range which also includes a hot turbo, a low-spec L model is added to the mix, contributing to the total sales of 133,625 before production ends and the Triumph name dies. – the facelifted Ballade is sold as the Rover 213.

We Reckon...

The Triumph Acclaim really is an ideal starter classic. It’s cheap to buy and Noddy-simple to work on, but still packs plenty of character. Best of all, with decent build quality and rock-solid mechanicals, it is a classic that you can use as often as you want.

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