Richard Dredge
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Richard Dredge
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Richard Dredge

Triumph Acclaim by Avon Coachworks

The plan was to make 25 of these reheated Triumph Acclaims each week, but total production was probably in single figures

If ever there was an unlikely candidate for high-performance tuning, it was the Triumph Acclaim. This favourite steed of the blue-rinse brigade was more likely to be seen transporting geriatrics to the bingo than tearing up the Tarmac. That didn't stop Warwick-based Avon Coachwork from working its magic on the Acclaim however.

The Avon Body Company was founded in Warwick in 1919, and in the 1930s it would be contracted by the Standard Motor Company as an official supplier of bodyshells. Standard would become Standard-Triumph which would then morph into Triumph Cars, before being swallowed up by the vast British Leyland Empire in 1968.

Five years later, in 1973, Avon was bought by Ladbroke Bodies, which was owned by Graham Hudson. Initially Avon formed the Special Projects Division of Ladbroke Bodies, to undertake specialist conversions on various Land Rovers and Range Rovers, as well as to slice open Jaguar XJs to turn them into convertibles.

Then in 1982 Hudson decided to rename Ladbroke Bodies' Special Projects Division as Avon Coachwork, and its first job was to come up with a luxury take on the Triumph Acclaim. Predictably, as its first effort, Avon Coachwork didn't hold back, turning the usually relatively austere Acclaim into a miniaturised limousine.

With limited time and budget, Avon's reworking of the Acclaim was initially just a cosmetic exercise, with no major bodystyling changes. In return for £1569.75 the buyer got a compact saloon with two-tone paintwork, chrome trims for the wheels (which were now painted metallic bronze), a vinyl roof and coachlines down the flanks. The radiator grille was given a chrome finish, while the rear panel was painted matt black.

Where Avon really went to town though was inside the Acclaim. The seats were swathed in leather while the dashboard, centre console, B-pillars and door trims were finished in finest 'Caviar PVC', for that glorious natural smell. As if all this wasn't enough, the dashboard was given a slab of burr walnut, and to set things off the tread plates were finished in aluminium.

There could be no denying that Avon's Acclaim was only really a tarted-up saloon, but where the company really went to town was with its soundproofing, which massively reduced noise levels once the car was on the move. Under the thick Wilton carpets there was soundproofing galore, which was also generously applied under the bonnet, in the boot and inside the doors.

Triumph offered HL, HLS and CD variations on the Acclaim theme, which in standard form were priced at £4829, £5138 and £5743. By the time Avon had added its £1569 fee on top, that brought even the cheapest Acclaim to £6398, while the range-topping CD was a hefty £7312, which was more than the £6917 that Ford wanted for a Cortina 2.0 Ghia; the Acclaim was a smaller car with a significantly smaller (1335cc) engine, even if the Ford was rather less special inside.

When the reheated Acclaim was launched at the 1982 Birmingham NEC motor show, Avon banked on selling 10 Acclaims per week initially, before ramping up to 25 per week. It's not known how many Acclaims Avon actually upgraded, but it's unlikely that it ever got into double figures.

A few months after the standard Avon Acclaim was unveiled, an even more costly package was introduced; a turbocharged edition. When unveiled, Avon announced that all Turbos would be based on the Acclaim L for a fixed price of £7600, but by the time the production model was officially revealed in May 1983, the company had moved back to its original position of offering the package for £2600 +VAT (£2990), and this could be applied to any Acclaim derivative.

Developed in conjunction with Turbo Technics, the Avon Turbo Acclaim featured a Garrett AiResearch Type 3 turbocharger to boost the 1335cc engine's power from a standard 70bhp at 5750rpm to a much more healthy 105bhp at 5500rpm. Even better, mid-range torque was significantly improved to 123lb ft where it had previously been just 74lb ft, both at 3500rpm.

With such a small displacement, Turbo Technics had to use a small turbocharger to reduce turbo lag, while there was also an intercooler fitted to ensure that the all-alloy powerplant didn't overheat. The turbocharger was set up to provide 6psi of boost from 1800rpm, with maximum boost developed at 3000rpm; some extra mid-range shove was what the exercise was all about.

When Motor tested an Avon Turbo Acclaim in October 1982, it was impressed with how well it drove in terms of being lag-free and very flexible. The Acclaim's performance was also significantly perkier, with the 0-60mph time slashed from 11.9 seconds to just 9.0, while the top speed leapt from 96mph to a claimed 116mph. Even more impressively, the 50-70mph time in fifth gear was cut from a yawn-worthy 16.8 seconds to a mere 7.5.

The Acclaim's light weight left it open to torque steer even in standard form, so in an attempt to tame this Avon overhauled the steering and suspension, with changes to the castor angle and the ride height while the springs, dampers and anti-roll bars were uprated too. Chuck in 5.5" Lunar Kiwi alloy wheels with 205/60 tyres in place of the standard 4.5" steel rims on 155 rubber, and the Triumph should have had Lotuses scurrying away in fear. Sadly it wasn't quite like that, although this fresh take on what was little more than a rebadged Honda was certainly more accomplished than you might think. How many were made is a mystery, but what is known is that survivors are very few and far between.

 

Vital statistics (Acclaim Turbo)
Engine Front-mounted, 1335cc, 4-cylinder
Transmission 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power 105bhp at 5500rpm
Torque 123lb ft at 3500rpm
Top speed 116mph
0-60mph 9.0 seconds
Price £2990 (conversion)

 

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