Cowley’s Japanese Boy

In this fourth part of our look at the Triumph Acclaim, we dwell on what at times seemed to be a bitter-sweet truth for BL; everyone knew the latest car from Cowley had a heart made in Tokyo.

Duran+Duran+1981
Ah, 1981, wasn’t it so … androgynous! It’s Duran Duran, for those too young or old to remember or care.

“We shouldn’t call this car British. When BL took over the standard of their cars went down. There’s no pride left in their work, only pride in opening their pay packets”; a quote in an article in Autocar from its survey of 200 members of the British public at the time of the launch of the Acclaim.

The best known and remembered aspect of the Triumph Acclaim was that it was originally designed, engineered and manufactured by Honda as the Ballade. Indeed practically every written reference to the Acclaim that can be researched from that time makes early, direct reference to the fact, for example: Continue reading “Cowley’s Japanese Boy”

Critical Acclaim?

In this third chapter, we find out more about the fruit of the Bounty, and review some of the prose written by esteemed journalists on the cuckoo Triumph.

1972_cars_triumph_dolomite_sprint
What came before – a very nice example of a 1972 Dolomite

“The Triumph Acclaim is a good replacement for the aging Dolomite.  It is fast, comfortable, economical, and should be very reliable. Providing that the self-imposed restrictions of Japanese imports remain, the car should produce a handsome return for BL, but if cars like the excellent four door Accord become readily available, will people be prepared to accept less Honda for about the same price?” AutoTEST, Autocar, w/e 24 October 1981 (BC – Before Cropley!).

A review of technical specifications reveals that there is little that is remarkable about the three box, four door, saloon that was launched as the Triumph Acclaim on the 7th of October 1981. It had a modern, 1,335cc, four cylinder engine with eight valves and a single overhead camshaft, driving the front wheels via a 5 speed all synchromesh gearbox. The chassis was a steel monocoque, with a suspension system of coil springs over independent MacPherson struts and an anti-roll bar at the front.

A few aspects and features did give brochure-drafters and motoring journalists something to Continue reading “Critical Acclaim?”

Waiting For the Miracle

Today we posit something of a counterfactual. What if Maestro had preceded Metro?

Madge and Maestro – Downing Street 1983. Image credit: (c) BBC

Picking over the bones of long dead car companies is one of the more futile pastimes one can engage in, but in the case of British Leyland, it’s irresistible. So many factors contributed to the British car giant’s demise however, that to single out one area is to grossly over-simplify the larger, more nuanced, and far more depressing picture.

A former Jaguar engineering director once told me that BL’s senior management were in his words, ‘not of the first order’ and given their respective track records, both during the latter stages of the BMH period, in the years leading up to BLMC’s collapse in 1974, and during the post-Ryder era, it’s difficult to Continue reading “Waiting For the Miracle”

Mutiny About The Bounty

In the first of a series of articles about a car already surprisingly well (or not so well) referenced in Driven to Write, S.V. Robinson discusses the political and industrial shenanigans that presaged the Triumph Acclaim, sired by Project Bounty.

Acclaim CD
A Taste of Paradise?

“Would the Government be prepared to throw away this pioneering agreement between a British and a Japanese motor company, which might encourage wider moves to transplant the benefit of Japanese technology and efficiency to Britain?” Sir Michael Edwardes, ‘Back from the Brink’.

As a car, the Triumph Acclaim can claim little of note that is ground breaking. It is a car that, infamously, was not conceived as a Triumph. More subtly, by the time Acclaim came to be, Triumph itself was a brand without a range of cars, just a single model, built in Morris’s Cowley factory to design, engineering and production specifications developed in Tokyo.

Were it not for BL’s product planners’ persistent and ultimately futile attempt to Continue reading “Mutiny About The Bounty”

DTW’s Top Twenty Three Great European Cars – Part 4

We continue this tour of the greatest European cars at number ten. The competition gets fiercer as we near the top.

1968 BMW 1600 GT: classicvirus.com

In this section Opel, Maserati, BMW and Austin do battle. And one other marque… Read on to find out how the great European cars of the late 20th century were rated.

I don’t think one can resist the urge to Continue reading “DTW’s Top Twenty Three Great European Cars – Part 4”

Put Forth The Fifth

In a post-script to today’s reprint of Archie Vicar’s review of the 1981 Triumph Acclaim, I present a few notes on Car magazine’s impressions of the 1980 Honda Ballade.

1980 Honda Ballade: source

Were it not for the Honda-BL deal, the introduction of the Honda Ballade would have passed almost unnoticed in Japan,” wrote Hattori Yoshi. “The Ballade is an unexceptional car: it offers nothing new to jaded Japanese motornoters who are used to new models being introduced just about as often as someone, somewhere is complaining about unfair Japanese imports”. 

Hattori explained that the Ballade differed from previous Hondas in that it was a product they felt customers wanted rather than needed; it also joined the lone vehicle in their then-new Verno dealer network – set up to sell the Prelude. Apparently cars in the Verno network were supposed to be a bit more upmarket than those in the Honda chain. Continue reading “Put Forth The Fifth”

Impossible Princess – Vanden Plas 1800

Robertas Parazitas reports on one of the stars of this year’s NEC Classic Motor show.

Source: C&SC

Grim commerce and ‘investment car’ mania now dominate the annual NEC Classic Motor show, but search hard, seek the wisdom of the crowds, and strangeness and delight is there to be found. In Hall 4, a Restoration Theatre had been setup. I sat for a while, hoping for a performance of one of Congreve or Wycherley’s lighter works, but all that was on offer was a video of two elderly men in a dingy workshop explaining the intricacies of panel beating in what I imagined to be a satire on Puritanism. Continue reading “Impossible Princess – Vanden Plas 1800”

Something Rebadged in Denmark

A 1977 Wolseley 18-22. As named, this car had a mayfly-brief production run. Why is it labelled a 1977 though?

1975 Wolseley 18-22 (registeded in 1977): source
1975 Wolseley 18-22 (registered in 1977): source

Something quite like it could be purchased until 1982 (sold as an Austin Princess and Austin Princess 2 until 1981). And something quite like that appeared in showrooms from 1982 to 1984, the Austin Ambassador. They re-tooled the body and engineered a hatchback for 24 months of sales. That’s another story, British Leyland has plenty of those. Continue reading “Something Rebadged in Denmark”

Theme: Materials – Triplex 10-20 Glassback

Not by any account the first all-glass hatch, the 1978 Triplex 10-20 Glassback however brought glazing technology into the modern era. 

1978 Ogle-Triplex 10-20 Glassback concept. Image: banovsky.com
1978 Ogle-Triplex 10-20 Glassback concept. Image: banovsky.com

BLMC’s AD071 Princess cleaved faithfully not only to Harris Mann’s original concept, but also to Donald Stokes’ vision for advanced engineering and ‘durable‘ styling in addition to time-worn BL tropes of skewed commercial ambition. Hailed (initially at least) as a visual success, the Wedge as it became known, never gained sufficient traction with the buying public; its styling proving divisive and with reliability woes poleaxing its reputation. Continue reading “Theme: Materials – Triplex 10-20 Glassback”

Theme: Special – 1988 MG Maestro Turbo

“Special” might not be a term that many would use in its positive sense to describe a Maestro of any kind, but I think this one deserves a mention as part of this month’s thematic celebration.

1989 MG Maestro: source
1989 MG Maestro: source

I like to think that this was a car marketed with a twinkle in the eye of those involved. It was as if they knew that the public and journalists in particular would scoff at the very notion of it, and so they just added a little wry smile to the way that it was presented to the market. Continue reading “Theme: Special – 1988 MG Maestro Turbo”

A photo for Sunday: 1971-1979 Morris Marina 1.3 Super Coupe

Most of these photos for Sunday are taken outside my front door, somewhere along my street.

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It’s not that I don’t go anywhere else. I do but I seldom, if ever, see an unusual or interesting car to photograph. I even stop into look at old garages to see if there are rusting treasures hidden from plain view. There aren’t. All the interesting cars in Denmark are either on my street or in a suburb of Copenhagen. This specimen appeared last week. The car is a Morris Marina 1.3 coupe.
Continue reading “A photo for Sunday: 1971-1979 Morris Marina 1.3 Super Coupe”

Spyshots 1978: How the New Mini Emerged Into Daylight

“New Leyland small car spied”, writes Archie Vicar, in the 1978 edition of Contemporary Driving News Magazine. This transcript of what appears to be a commentary on the much-discussed new ‘Mini’ shows Vicar’s analytical journalism at its best.

1978 LC8 spyshot
1978 LC8 spyshot

“Spy photographers have caught the replacement for the much-loved but geriatric, cramped and unreliable Mini on test. The planned car is an advance on the very modern ADO88 design which the engineers at Leyland have been working on since the early 70s. The wheelbase is now longer than ADO88 in response to developments in the market since the project’s inception just after the second World War. Continue reading “Spyshots 1978: How the New Mini Emerged Into Daylight”

1969 Austin Maxi: Road Test

Something old, something new! Archibald Vicar, Dip. Eng. tries the latest sensation from BMC, the Austin “Maxi.”

1969 Austin Maxi
Austin Maxi

From “Today’s Driver” February 1969. Photography by Patrick Lamperay. Due to the poor quality of the original source, stock photos have been used.

There it was, an Austin Maxi, Leyland’s latest motor car. And we were in Dublin, Eire, to test it. It was eight o’clock in the morning and photographer, Lamperey, and I were at British Leyland’s small factory in the middle of what was once the Empire’s second city. While I ought to have been taking in the generalities of the Maxi’s technicalities I was more cognisant of my rather delicate physical state, that of a rotten hangover.

Said hangover was largely as a result of my failed attempt to anaesthetise myself during the festival of mal de mer that was the ferry from Holyhead to Dublin. The duty-free Guinness was at least remarkably cheap so the experience was merely disagreeable and not costly. I was also able to Continue reading “1969 Austin Maxi: Road Test”