Joe Miller gets behind the wheel of a Triumph Acclaim, the car that kick-started a new era for British Leyland coupled with a partnership alongside Honda.
By the 1980s, the British Leyland empire was struggling. Industrial action in the 1970s and outrage from the British public in relation to questionable build quality had hounded BL to the point of closure. But thanks to a new found partnership in Honda, its future was secure. The Triumph Acclaim was essentially a car to plug the gap between what we consider as old British Leyland and its new friendship in Honda.
Many will tell you that this stop gap car wasn’t exactly very good. But our Joe Miller thinks otherwise. Firstly, the car underneath was essentially a Honda Ballade, there were some changes British Leyland made, including a twin-carbed version of the 1.3-litre engine.
What you didn’t usually get on a British Leyland car, particularly a base model, was a five-speed gearbox, which meant you could use the extra performance garnered from the twin-carbed engine to your advantage.
You also got a tweaked interior to suit British interest. In Japan, particularly in the 80s and 90s, black plastic was everywhere. It was a simplistic design that did exactly what it said on the tin. The Acclaim? It got a new brown dash that appealed to buyers, chrome inserts in the door handles and more options on seat trims.
British Leyland also tweaked the suspension; in Japan you would find smooth tarmac, in the UK, that wasn’t the case. So instead of the firm ride you’d find in the Honda Ballade, you got softer springs for more compliance.
This was a new chapter for BL. The Triumph Acclaim was a car you could live with, and love, for years. It was a car that held together, started in the morning, and had dials and buttons that actually worked and related to what they were supposed to relate to. While it’s a rebadged Honda, it was exactly what British Leyland needed and this 38 year old example proves that,with some love and care, they can last for almost four decades.