The Ultimate Triumph

"Ultimate, (u-ltimet), a and sub. [ad. Late L. ultimat-us, pa. pple. of ultimare, to be at the end, f. ultimus last, final]
A. adj. 1. Of ends, designs, etc. : Lying beyond all others; forming the final aim or object."

When was the Acclaim introduced, and when was it discontinued?
The Acclaim was launched in October, 1981, and production is believed to have ceased in June, 1984, although plenty of cars were still unsold at that time, and a car first registered on 31st December, 1984, is known. To the best of my knowledge, there were no 1985-registered cars. In the autumn of 1984, the Rover 200 series was launched as the replacement for the Acclaim.

How many Acclaims were made in total?
133,626 (or possibly 133,646 - see the VIN question and answer below)

How were BL salesmen prepared for awkward questions about the Acclaim?
Interesting question - and it has an even more interesting answer. Click here for a copy of the internal publication, "The Triumph Acclaim, a Booklet for employees".

What were sales like?
The Acclaim was the second-best selling Triumph of all time, after the Herald 1200 (which was in production for three times as long). Estimated annual sales figures are as follows:

1981 - 23,000 (Wild guess)

1982 - 42,000 (Quoted in Triumph World article)

1983 - 38,000 (Quoted in Triumph World article)

1984 - 33,000 (Wild guess)

How was the Acclaim marketed?
The original slogan for the Acclaim was "Totally Equipped to Triumph," and the concept behind this was to sell heavily on the advanced gadgetry that came with the car: remotely-operated door mirrors, headlight washers, driver-operated headlight angle adjustment, electric windows, and so on. Care was taken to avoid perhaps more-obvious selling points, such as the Japanese engineering behind the car. Nowhere in any sales literature or in any advertising were the words "Japan" or "Honda" mentioned. Click here to see the television advertisement that launched the Acclaim on a waiting world. (Note: RealPlayer required.)

By the end of the production life of the car, the marketeers had settled on the description, "... the complete quality compact sports saloon..." This was - and is - a reasonably accurate description, although a more-powerful engine, and an even-stiffer suspension, would have made the "sports" element of the claim a little more credible. The 70bhp, 1335cc, engine, giving a top speed of 92 mph and a 0-60 of 12.7 seconds, barely justified labelling the Acclaim as a "sports saloon", even in 1981. However, it was noticeably more "sporty" than a bottom-of-the-range Chevette or Escort, for example, and its performance figures were clearly superior to those of the Triumph 1500TC, launched only eight years before: a "true" Triumph in every way, and undeniably a "compact sports saloon".

Is it true that the Acclaim was a spectacular failure in Germany because "Triumph Acclaim" translated as the old NSDAP slogan, "Sieg Heil"?
No. The Acclaim was never marketed as such in Germany, although it was sold in Holland. "Triumph Acclaim" could, however, be translated as "Sieg Heil" in German.

What body shapes were available?
All Acclaims were four-door saloons. There were no Estate, Hatchback, Coupé or Convertible versions. Rumours persist, however, of the existence of a customised Acclaim pick-up!

What do L, HL, HLS and CD stand for?
No-one seems to be entirely sure. Best guesses are "Luxury", "High Line", "High Line Superior" and "Corps Diplomatique".

What originally came in the tool kit?
The tool kit was extremely basic: a jack and jacking handle plus a large black plastic wallet containing a short-handled, L-shaped, wheelbrace and nothing else. The wheelbrace was designed to be used by standing on it...

Is there a "Collectors' and Restorers' Guide" for these cars yet?

Is there an Acclaim Register?
Both Club Triumph and the Triumph Sports Six Club run an Acclaim Register.

Where is the best place in UK to get spares for Acclaims?
Those who are used to the ease of obtaining NOS or remanufactured parts for Spitfires or Heralds will have a shock when they first try to source parts for Acclaims. Even if you can find an MG Rover main dealer still trading, you will learn that Acclaim parts are all NLA. Honda main dealers struggle to obtain parts common to the Civic S and Ballade because all of their records are computerised, and keyed to Honda VIN numbers. Few of the specialist Classic Triumph suppliers carry much in the way of Acclaim parts, and even fewer advertise the fact. See Andy Ellis's website for details of some suppliers who can help - but be aware that you might end up scouring scrapyards for certain items. At present, perhaps the easiest and cheapest sources of parts are donor cars - entire Acclaims can sell for as little as £50 on eBay, so if you need a new door, for example, or a bonnet, just buy a whole car!

What do I do if I need a new rotor arm?
A somewhat obscure question, you may think, but having found myself in this situation recently, it seemed sensible to share my experiences. Firstly, don't bother with generic aftermarket items. All of these appear to be completely useless (all including a leaf spring which, for some reason, doesn't do its job, and allows the rotor arm to rotate by up to 15 degrees on the shaft - hardly desirable!). The only rotor arm that I have been able to find that actually fits snugly on the shaft is that supplied by Honda under part number H30103-PE9-006. Honda describe this as an " SD6G02 Head, Rotor" and it is only available on special order via Honda main dealers. Obviously, when fitting a new rotor arm, it is sensible to fit a new distributor cap as well. Aftermarket distributor caps are fine: I fitted a CI product, part number XD127, described by CI as "Distributor Cap INTR.45550".

Are there any workshop manuals available?
There are at least five, to my knowledge: details of any others would be warmly welcomed.

Note: The Club Triumph library holds copies of the two Austin Rover Manuals (AKM-4967 and AKM-4967/1). Club Triumph members can borrow them for free for a month (1 a month thereafter) for just the cost of postage.

In addition to the above manuals, and to the owner's manual that came with the car, there is also a very-useful little data book, "intended as a ready-reference for skilled service operatives": "Acclaim Data," (Publication Ref. AKM 4968, No ISBN; privately published by BL Cars-Service, 1981). This includes all the things that you might expect (torque wrench settings, recommended lubricants, and so on), as well as things you might not, including a ready-reference for replacement lightbulbs and fuses. Well worth picking up, if you can find one.

What can the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) tell me about my car?
Example: SAXXDELX3BM233647 on the last production Acclaim (my grateful thanks go to Stephen Laing, the Curator of the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust at the Heritage Motor Centre, Gaydon, for this information).

S: Europe


X: MG Rover

XD: "Model Range". In fact, the "X" seems to have no significance (always X for all MG Rover cars?) and the "D" is the unique identifier meaning "Acclaim"

E: "Class". "E"=CD. The other codes were: Acclaim L - P; Acclaim HL - H; Acclaim HLS - F.

L: "Body". All Acclaims were four-door saloons, and had the "L" in this position.

X: Supposed to be the series of the car, according to the ISO standard, but MG Rover claimed to use this code position for "Engine" - although I suspect that that is a lie. All Acclaims had the same engine, and all Acclaims have "X" in this position, so, ultimately, whether it really signifies "1335cc OHC twin-carb Honda 'Fireball' engine," or "Not Used," is academic.

3: "Steering/Transmission". "3"=RHD Triomatic. RHD 5-speed manual gearbox is denoted by a "7" in this position.

B: Supposed to be the year of manufacture, according to the ISO standard, but MG Rover used this position to denote "Model Year/Change". Most Acclaims seem to have B here, regardless of when they were first registered. 1981 cars will probably have "A" in this position, as the 1982 introduction of the Acclaim L, and the related amendment to the specifications of HL, HLS and CD models, would presumably have been treated as a model year change.

M: "Assembly Plant". All Acclaims were built at Cowley, but I cannot find anything to confirm that "M"=Cowley.

233647 is a serial number, but herein lies a problem. Several sources report that 133,626 Acclaims were made. Logically, if the reported production figures are correct, the series must have started at 100021 - which would be, shall we say, counter-intuitive. It seems more likely that the series started at 100001 and that 133,646 Acclaim serial numbers were issued (twenty numbers could, for example, have been reserved for - or actually used on - development prototypes, or other such in-house oddities).

What were the technical specifications, features, and options available for the Acclaim?
Click here for the "Features" page from the launch brochure for HL, HLS and CD

Click here for the "Technical Specifications" page from the launch brochure for HL, HLS, and CD (includes optional extras and upgrades)

Click here for the "Technical Specifications" page from the 1984 brochure for L, HL, HLS and CD (includes features, optional extras and upgrades)

Click here for details of exterior paint colours, interior trim, and Avon customisation options

What accessories were available for the Acclaim?
Click here for the "Studio Editions" accessories page from the launch brochure. Includes "HI-TECH" "RALLY" "TOURING" and "TOWING" packs.

Click here to see the complete Unipart Accessories catalogue for the Triumph Acclaim.

What is the temperature gauge telling me?
The manual says that the needle should normally rest midway between C and H. The line about a third of the way between C and H denotes that the engine has reached normal operating temperature and the thermostat should open at approximately this point. The line just short of the H line denotes that you had really better stop the car before it boils over.

What's that strange bit of plastic over the end of the fuel gauge scale?

On my car at least, there is a small slotted insert pasted over the "E" end of the scale. Without taking the dash apart and prying this insert off, I cannot be sure of the significance, but I suspect the original design included a "reserve" reading, which was decided against at a late stage in the pre-production process.

What's that whistling noise?
Occasionally one can hear a faint and intermittent "wind whistling in the trees" noise. A former Honda employee writes of the identical car sold in the United States as the Honda Civic: "The 'singing' you're talking about is probably from the tires. A very light car, with Mac Pherson struts all around, & the square chunk tire patterns that were popular back then made tire rotation every 3K a necessity. Similar vintage Honda Accords & Preludes shared the problem."

Why doesn't every Triumph fan love these cars?
They are, to my mind, exactly what the team who designed the Herald would have designed if they had done it twenty years later: family saloons with power, handling, refinement, and the odd bit of quirkiness to keep us amused. OK, they don't seem to leak oil very much, and they don't break down often enough, and since they don't have Lucas electrics, one of the major talking points of earlier Triumphs is missing, but these are still great cars! The problem is not that the Acclaim was designed overseas (so, after all, were the Herald, Vitesse, Spitfire, TR6 and so on), or that it was badge-engineered (so, after all, were all so-called Triumphs sold after the 1944 buy-out by the Standard Motor Company) but that it was badge-engineered from a car designed in Japan. In 1981, the Japanese had only been manufacturing cars for a couple of decades: there was none of the history or heritage of British, or Italian, or German automotive engineering in Japan. Nowadays we tend to think of Japanese cars as leading the way in engineering design, in build-quality, reliability and refinement. In 1981, although these qualities were already present in abundance, most Britons still saw Japanese engineering in terms of cheap tin-plate or plastic toys, and a great deal of bitter resentment about the treatment of Allied Prisoners of War by the Japanese during World War Two also remained. (Don't forget that many former prisoners of the Japanese had not even reached retirement age in 1981: an eighteen-year-old captured in 1944 would only have been fifty-five when the Acclaim was launched.) The perceived insult to the great name of Triumph was enough to make the Acclaim "not a real Triumph" in the eyes of many, and this stigma survives, albeit to a lesser extent, even today. However, the words of a former British Leyland sales manager at the recent Triumph World Picnic place the Triumph Acclaim in its true context: "The Acclaim was the only car a BL salesman could sell with his head held high." When you consider that the early-eighties BL range that included the Acclaim also included the Morris Ital and the Austin Allegro, you can see what he meant. And in considering the old, old rivalry between Triumph and MG, I think even the most biased commentator would have to agree that, given a choice between a Triumph Acclaim and its contemporary, the MG Maestro (probably the ugliest, and certainly - thanks to the "voice synthesiser" - the most annoying, sports saloon ever built), you would be insane to pick the Maestro, despite its more-impressive performance figures!

Where can I get more information about the Triumph Acclaim?

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