Triumph Avon Acclaim Turbo

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Rebadging is evil.

Rebadging is evil.

Rebadging is evil.

Keep telling yourself that, and, well, maybe it'll become true. Maybe every rebadged vehicle—ever—is terrible and should be derided as a lazy attempt for profit.

Like the incumbents in North America rebadging Asian cars—Plymouth Sapporo, anyone—it happened everywhere there were carmakers who had a niche to fill.

One of my favourite rebadged vehicles is the Honda Crossroad. There are two Crossroads; the second, a Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) crossover that was about the size of a Subaru Forester sold for two years from 1998.

The first, though, was a rebadged Land Rover Discovery—I shit you not. Imagine Honda owners, used to reliability, taking their Land Rovers in for service…

The Triumph Acclaim production line

The Triumph Acclaim production line

Today's car is based on another badge-engineered Honda, this time it's a Honda badged as a Triumph. Additionally, the Acclaim is not only the last "Triumph" ever sold but one of the first turbocharged Hondas ever made.

Triumph was in its final years, and on Boxing Day in 1979 the chairman of British Leyland, Michael Edwardes, signed a deal in Japan to produce under license the Honda Ballade. This came after an absolutely exhaustive search for a new partner, with Chrysler Europe and others in the early running.

The Ballade is pretty much just a more luxurious version of the Civic, if you were unaware.

(Honda loved its music-themed names back then: Prelude, Concerto, Ballade, Accord…)

By 1981 the Triumph Acclaim was on sale, manufactured in the same plant at Cowley Oxford that once produced the Austin Maxi. Apparently, the car still holds the distinction as having the fewest warranty claims of any British Leyland car. 

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For you trivia nuts, the Acclaim was even offered with a rebadged Hondamatic transmission, the Trio-matic!

The version we're interested in was made by Avon, a coachbuilder of sorts who are best-known for their beautiful wagon conversions to the Jaguar XJ6. 

Wanting to move a little bit downmarket, Avon owner Graham Hudson decided to take a look at the Acclaim. Giving it a chrome grille, vinyl roof, two-tone paint, Connolly leather seats with contrasting piping, burr-walnut veneer trim—and lots of soundproofing.

At a price of £1365, the conversion swayed few, especially at nearly 35 per cent more than the base Triumph Acclaim at £4688.

Even though there were few takers for the conversion, the company decided to take the Avon Acclaim and add performance modifications…to compete against luxury cars from Saab, Volvo, and BMW with the Avon Acclaim Turbo.

Alloy wheels, improved suspension, suede interior, Nardi steering wheel, boost gauge, front spoiler, Turbo decals—what more could you want? Fully-loaded, it left Avon with a sticker of £8,688…nearly twice the cost of a standard Acclaim.

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Described by a road tester in period as "a pleasant maiden aunt suddenly appearing on roller skates," the Turbo had 30 more horsepower than stock, for a grand total of 105. Top speed was pegged at 193 km/h (125 mph)—and the all-important 0-60 run was done in just 8.8 seconds.

Did I mention they fitted the Garrett T3 turbo to a twin-carb EN1 1,335 cc Honda engine? This was in 1982, the debut of the first production turbocharged Honda, the City Turbo. 

Autocar said the conversion was impressive, with better acceleration than a Renault 5 Gordini Turbo. 

Sadly, only about 200 Turbos were made…and only three exist today. Even though the Acclaim would be the last-ever Triumph, it definitely wasn't the most interesting badge-engineered vehicle. But that's a story for another day.

Sources / Recommended reading