A few years back, on a drive-out with a selection of other sports cars, someone remarked that seeing the 390SE coming up behind was rather like watching a shark coming to get him! It's a fair analogy, judging by the above photo... :D

I reversed the TVR into one of those big fibreglass bins you find on garage forecourts. I wish I'd seen it before I'd reversed into it, but you know what those postage-stamp sized mirrors are like.

Anyway, the damage comprised one smashed rear lamp unit, a 'dent' in the rear wing corner, the rear bumper cracked in several places and some stress-cracking to the side of the offside rear wing. The good news is that the cracking was confined to the paint, there's nothing crunchy in the area and no evident broken fibres etc. on the inner surface of the wing.

Even so, the bumper was going to need work. I unbolted it and cleared the workshop to allow me to make a mess! :O) It was immediately evident that the bumper mountings were shot. They're simple fabrications in mild steel, glassed-in to the bumper. Over the years the water had got in and the resultant laminations of rust had caused two swollen areas that were visible from behind the car.

I wasn't about to spend time repairing the fractured GRP and put the bumper back on with knackered mountings so out came the Wizard (Black & Decker's answer to Dremel) and the old mounts were cut out.

I guesstimated the dimensions and welded up some new mountings (using stainless steel bolts):

which were duly glassed back in. I then ground the areas that would receive new reinforcement:

and liberally applied mat and resin to restore the bumper's shape and rigidity:

There wasn't much I could do about the swollen areas in the GRP where the old mounts had been rusting but I filled the cracks from the bin incident and repaired a few other odd holes where screws had been used to secure the bumper to the bottom edge of the wing (from inside the boot). I primed the bumper and filled a few more small defects that showed up in the primer. Then it was time for paint! And that was where the fun started. I knew the car had been resprayed at least a couple of times in its life and was no longer the 'factory' silver. The present colour has a much stronger metallic effect with black speckles and a hint of gold in certain lighting!

I paid a call to Glen at (sadly now defunct) Cleveland Bikespray and he obligingly produced a swathe of colour chips from which we narrowed down a batch of three shades that looked pretty close. As luck would have it I'd called in at late afternoon on a bright day so almost every panel was lit slightly differently. There was only one chip that almost disappeared into the bodywork from any angle and we wrote down the code from it. I asked him what car it would have been from. You've got to be kidding, was his first response. His second response was to present me with a huge, telephone directory-sized book, cross-referencing colours to cars. The slight problem was that it only worked one way: it could tell me what colours had been used on a given car but it couldn't work in reverse. After all, if you take your car to a paintshop you know what the car is, you just need the colour match! The only way to do it was to work through the book, looking for any car that had used paint with the code from the chosen colour chip. I took the book home, made a brew and sat down. So, where to start. I could have begun at page 1 and worked my way through. Tedious! OK then, how about starting with the big names: Ford, Vauxhall, Mercedes, Rover, Fiat. That took an hour, no luck. Right: Nissan, Toyota, Renault, Volkswagen, Porsche. Another hour. Another brew. OK, let's rule out all the small-volume makers like Ferrari, Lotus, Lamborghini, Lancia... there it is! The Lancia Y10. Surely one of the most obscure cars in the UK and my TVR is wearing its paint. Fantastic.

Meanwhile, Glen had ordered a litre of our selected colour and I duly collected it along with some thinners. I even blagged an old spraygun from him! It was time to clear the workshop again...

The Lancia colour proved to be a near-perfect match. With another lamp unit sourced via a helpful chap on an internet forum, the bulk of the damage remained on the rear wing. I wasn't too concerned about the stress cracks along the side but the 'egg-shelled' area just above the light needed something doing. The Wizard was employed again to chase out all the loose fragments and I laid-up mat and resin on the inside of the wing to maintain rigidity. As a temporary fix I merely filled the outside with a dollop of resin to prevent rain getting in and delaminating the GRP but one of these days I really must crack on and finish the repair...

One of the most obvious distinguishing features of the TVR 390SE is the rear 'underwing' that hangs below the boot floor. Allegedly fitted to help high-speed stability, its main purpose appears to be catching road muck and becoming stained by the exhaust gases! Whilst my major overhaul of the suspension and drivetrain was in progress I decided to remove the underwing in order to have better access to the chassis tubes for cleaning and repainting. It also meant that I could de-rust and paint the wing's mounting brackets. I did try to remove the brackets from the wing with a view to sandblasting them, but the captive fixings crunched and splintered ominously so I opted to leave the brackets where they were and used a stripping disc on them instead... not as good but it'll do for now. This is the wing as seen from above (although you don't see this when it's on the car) - TVR clearly intended to use a dual-exit exhaust at some point...

View of the lower surface; the cutaway area in the middle is to fit around the spare wheel well:

Just to show there was some serious aerodynamic intent, the aerofoil cross-section is clear here. Note that bracket fits where it touches!

Mounting bracket is more elegant than you might expect (rust aside...); wing is made from GRP and weighs 9.7Kg.

Seat Mechanism Cover

The seats fitted to the TVR Wedges were made by now-defunct Callow & Maddox Bros. of Coventry. Cambro, as they were known, also made seats for various other British car builders with the result that the TVR seats look as though they were lifted from another car. They weren't, but they do bear some similarities as Cambro used their standard range of parts to assemble them. The seat back recliner mechanism is mounted to the outer side of the seat back and to hide the tension spring and associated parts a moulded plastic cover was fitted. It's not a very robust item and is easily broken, e.g. due to over-tightening the one screw that holds it in place (there's also a peg which pushes into an alignment hole). This cover on my driver's seat was cracked and the boss for the mounting screw was also hanging on by a thread...

so I tried to find a replacement but failed (you can see this one has already been replaced as it has a sticker on from Christopher Neil sportscars). Then I thought, this would be an ideal candidate for the modern technology of '3D printing'! All I needed then was a 3D printer and a design for the part. And that's where the fun started. I reckon whoever drew that cover had just got a set of French curves for his birthday. There isn't a straight line on the bloody thing. So I experimented for a while until I had a passable outline of it in AutoCAD, then I extruded it to get the depth, added thickness to the wall, radiused the edges and put in various internal webs and a boss for the mounting screw... and emailed it to my son-in-law, who has a loft full of 3D printers :D Just to test proof of concept he rattled one off in 'draft' mode (which, just like an ink printer, gives reduced quality) and hey presto...

The major difference between this replica and the original is that the outer, flat face of the genuine article has a 'leatherette' texture where the copy is smooth (or it would be in full quality, this one has a ribbed pattern from the extruding head). But the main thing is: it fits! If you compare the two there are tiny differences in some of the curves but hell, I effectively drew it freehand so it's not bad for a first go.

Back to back (replica is on the left):

Back to links Back to Home