When BL launched the Triumph Acclaim to the press early in September, the senior management were in buoyant, optimistic mood, for here was the second car in their five year product-oriented recovery plan, and bang on time at that.
A few weeks later, when some representatives of the motoring press went to Cowley to view the manufacturing facility, an unofficial stoppage in the assembly plant cut our tour short. Senior management present on that occasion were still buoyant, if tight lipped, explaining that the stoppage in the assembly plant was over a claim for lay-off money, which BL refused to pay on principle, since it is a term of employment that workers are not paid for time they are laid off. The lay-off, for an afternoon, had been caused by a stoppage in the body plant when the workers in that plant returned from the annual week’s shutdown to find that some external contractors had done some work which they claimed they should have done, but the body shop workers had quickly resolved their dispute and were back at work…
The assembly plant stoppage lasted for nine days, during which time, of course, the body shop workers had themselves been laid off. Thus a hiccup to the smooth introduction to the British market of the first car to be bush in the UK using Japanese technology — and this launch has been further overshadowed at the time of writing, by Sir Michael Edwardes’ ultimatum, effectively threatening to close up the whole of the British Leyland group if the car workers proceed with their threat to strike at the begining of November over their pay claim . . . and Sir Michael is not renowned for making idle threats. I wonder how senior management are feeling now?
So that is the climate in which the Triumph Acclaim has been introduced to the British public. Luckily, the pre-launch production target of over 6.000 units had been comfortably exceeded before the stoppage, so there are plenty of Acclaims in showrooms up and down the country, and very worthy successors to the small Triumph saloons of recent years they are too.
When BL started their product recovery campaign, they planned on one new car a year for five years. The Metro was already in the pipeline, and plans were in hand for a mid-range car, but these could not be advanced quickly enough to come a year after Metro. So what to do? The answer was to buy the technology and development from elsewhere and elsewhere turned out to be Honda, who themselves make especially well turned out small cars. The Marriage seems to have been a happy one, with both sides of the deal being pleased with the outcome.
Based on a Honda model which is not available in the UK, the Acclaim is built at Cowley on a completely revised, revamped and modernised production line which will give BL considerably improved flexibility in the years to come. The body pressings are to Japanese design, but made from British Steel steel on British presses at Cowley. Mechanical components such as engine, transmission and suspension come from Japan, as does the instrument panel, but interior trim is British designed and manufactured and of course the car is put together at Cowley. As outside suppliers increase their capacity, more of the components will he of British manufacture. BL, knowing their reputation for poor quality work and realising the importance of proving this reputation ill-founded, have gone to extreme lengths to ensure that components for the Acclaim come up to standard and that they are assembled correctly. More than £ 1 million has been spent on a testing rig at the end of the production line to check that the major components are correctly aligned and that all the mechanical and electrical functions work correctly.
So what is this new small car from Triumph? It has a four cylinder 1,335 c.c. engine mounted transversely and driving the front wheels through either a five-speed manual gearbox or a three speed semi-automatic gearbox with torque-converter. It has coil and strut independent suspension all round, located with transverse links and with trailing arms at the rear and an anti-roll bar at the front. The braking system is a conventional servo-assisted disc drum arrangement with twin hydraulic systems split diagonally and equipped with pressure limiting devices tor the rear circuits. The body is a conventional four-door saloon with boot and is finished with a very comprehensive level ot equipment. even in the basic HL version. The middle range HLS has superior interior trim. halogen headlamps and remote controlled door mirrors and, to distinguish it from the HL, a body side rubbing strip. The top of the range CD version has a positively luxurious interior. electrical windows. headlamp washers and low profile tyres. All share the same mechanical specification.
On the road, the performance is nothing to shout about, although the little engine (only a whisker larger than the Metro’s unit) is very willing, pulling smoothly up to its maximum of 6,000 r.p.m. in the gears. Using the gears sensibly, there is a useful amount of power available for overtaking where the Acclaim compares favourably with many 1600 or larger engined cars, but is does seem to struggle somewhat on steep hills. It is very happy cruising at the legal limit, and seems to have a top speed of about 95 m.p.h. There is plenty of room inside, although all drivers may wish to move the seat back beyond the normal limits of adiustment. Rear seat passengers have adequate leg room, but again, the tall may feel slightly cramped. The controls are pleasantly light to operate and the instrumentation clear and easy to read. Ride is excellent, with little roll, and she handling complements the engine performance perfectly. The brakes work well, but repeated moderate applications during a thrash around Dartmoor warmed them up to such an extent that they were smelling noticeably when we stopped for coffee. The gear change is excellent on the manual box, although care has to be taken to get a smooth take off from rest as the transmission jolts if one is not gentle. This jolt is also noticeable when litting-off after hard driving or when suddenly increasing pressure on the accelerator. Noise is apparent, both from the road, if the surface is anything other than perfect, and from the engine which has to work hard in anything other than gentle cruising conditions. Wind noise is remarkable by its absence.
One of the most important points which BL claim for the car is its economy — both in terms of actual fuel consumed and in terms of cost ot ownership. Current service requirements are for a minor check every 7.500 miles and a more comprehensive service at twice that distance, but work is going ahead to bring the Acclaim into line with the Metro’s 12,000 mile intervals. Fuel economy is outstanding, the official figures being 32.8 m.p.g. for the urban cycle. 48.8 at steady 56 m.p.h. and 34.0 m.p.g. at 75 m.p.h. which should give the typical owner some 40 m.p.g. overall. Much better figures can be obtained, as was recently shown in the Mobil Economy Run, where Messrs: Lowrey and Surguy achieved an incredible 74.9 m.p.g. to produce the best economy figure of the run.
The HL, in manual form costs £4.688 and prices rise to £5.874 for the automatic CD. If BL salesmen can persuade customers to try the car and BL can combine the undoubted charm of this small car with the quality of the Japanese built products which are flowing into the country, they are on to a winner. — P.H.J.W.