1981 TRIUMPH ACCLAIM: THE LAST EVER TRIUMPH CAR WAS MADE BY HONDA

1981 TRIUMPH ACCLAIM: THE LAST EVER TRIUMPH CAR WAS MADE BY HONDA

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In the 1980’s we saw the demise of Austin and the Triumph car brand, but before the Montego they created an interesting car by joining up with Honda. Today I’m going to tell you about this British-Japanese joint effort, so get your crumpet and your sword, sit back and join me on this intercontinental adventure.

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HISTORY

In 1978 British Leyland had a little bit of an issue on its hands, in that they needed a replacement for the aging Triump Dolomite, but more so that they were looking to replace the Austin Maxi and Allegro. The latter two cars needed to replaced, not only because of aging but because of serious issues with reputation for poor build quality and reliability.

The company had an issue though, their newest developments which would become the Austin Maestro and Montego, wouldn’t be ready to launch until 83 or 84, so they needed a small family saloon which would be good enough to fill the roll of all three in the interim. In 1978 British Leyland began talks on what would become the first fundamentally Japanese car to be assembled in Europe, which seems so normal these days, and on 26 December 1979 Chief Executive of British Leyland, Michael Edwardes, signed the agreement.


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    The car, based on the Honda Ballade of Japan, went into production just 18 months later and would be such a success for British Leyland that they commissioned Honda based Rovers throughout the 80’s and 90’s. The car was built at Pressed Steel Company in Oxford, taking over from the Austin Maxi production line. It was the last car to crown the Triump logo.

    THE LOOKS

    The car was based on the Japanese Honda Ballade but modified to be more British in terms of styling. One of the biggest changes, which seems so small, was the moving of the badge from the right side of the grill where it would have been placed on the Japanese Honda, to the centre of the grill which is a much more European style. The wing mirrors were also placed on the front pillars, which is normal in Europe, but they would have been on the front fenders at the time in Japan.

    The suspension was changed to MacPherson strut design which was more modern at the time than the original car for a better ride and the front brakes were switched to disc brakes instead of drum, although the rear retained drums. The interior was given a more upmarket feel with the seats coming from the Morris Ital, so fancy.

    The usual L,HL,HLS trim levels of the old British Leyland days were available, but if you were lucky enough to be flogging White Gold at the time, you could get a CD model with all the kit. It sported front and rear electric windows, chrome bumpers, bigger tyres, plastic wheel trim and Velour Upholstery with seat pockets. The height of luxury, it even had had lamp washers, your move Volvo.

    THE ENGINE

    All models were fitted with a 1,335 cc EN 4 cylinder Honda Engine which was tailored for the Triumph Acclaim, featuring twin Keihin carburettors instead of the one that the original Ballade had. The engine was the same engine that was in the Civic of the time, so it was incredibly reliable, British Leyland wanted to hide this though and replaced the cast alloy rocker cover which had the Honda name with a plain black pressed steel one, so that no one would uncover why this car was so reliable.

    The car came in either a standard five speed manual or the very fancy Trio-Matic, three speed manually selected automatic gearbox, known as HondaMatic in Japan. I never understood the point of those semi-automatic gearboxes. All this added up to incredible performance figures that would blast you from 0-60 in only 12.5 seconds and continue on all the way to a top speed of 96 mph.

    FINAL WORD

    The car ended its life in the Summer of 1984, the year not the book, after selling 133,625 primarily in the UK. These weren’t bad figures considering the Triumph Dolomite only sold 200,000 in a 9 year run compared to this cars short 3 year stint. It was replaced by the Rover 200 and it went out as the last ever Triumph at the same time that the Austin name was given over to the graveyard of history.

    LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS, WHAT CLASSIC CAR YOU’D LIKE TO SEE NEXT?