1988 TVR 390SE


Produced in conjunction with the legendary Andy Rouse, the TVR 390SE was limited to just 103 examples throughout its production run between 1983 and 1989, making it one or the rarer TVR ‘wedges’ available for enthusiasts.

Based largely on the visually similar 350i, TVR commissioned Rouse to work his magic on the venerable Rover V8 engine to transform its performance. The result was a block that was bored out to 3905cc (4.0-litres of displacement) and boasted a higher compression ratio, lightweight Cosworth pistons, high-lift cams, a lighter flywheel and a free-flowing exhaust unit, with peak figures sitting at 275bhp and 270 lb-ft of torque.

Naturally, to cope with this boost in power, other modifications were made by TVR. These included a limited-slip differential to help put the power to the road, a stronger clutch and wider rear tyres to help keep things under control.

Visually, the 390 also received a deeper front ‘lip’ and air dam, along with an underbody aerofoil at the rear to aid with downforce.

Later production vehicles - such as this example, being number 64 according to its engine - also benefitted from revised ‘A-frame’ rear suspension, providing improved handling, and making these late vehicles all the more desirable.

The Vehicle

If you’re having a sudden turn of Deja Vu or if this wedge-shaped wonder looks familiar to you, that’ll be because we’ve previously sold this exact car here on The Market, to its current owner, no less, and now - after some pampering and continued improvements - it’s once again back and in need of a new, enthusiastic home.

Purchased by the current owner from us in June 2021, the custodian of this TVR has built upon the already excellent foundations put in place by the previous registered keeper when the car came to us the first time.

For reference, a full run-down of previous works carried out to the vehicle prior to 2021 can be found here: https://themarket.bonhams.com/en/listings/tvr/390se/ae3ade60-61c1-4191-bd6a-b6fc63d63b2b

However, for those looking for a quick summary of works prior to its current ownership please see below:

- Full compression test (170-190psi) fuel pressure test (40psi) ECU repair and ignition adjustment in October 2020

- Oil change and filter change with Heritage 20w50 oil in June 2020

- A light recommissioning in 2014 following the vehicle’s return from the Channel Islands, including new tyres, work to the electrical system, clutch system bleed/flush and a rear light replacement.

This 390SE also enjoyed extremely fastidious ownership throughout the majority of its lifetime, with various owners documenting every singe expenditure on an expansive spreadsheet, most notably between 1995 and 2002, and again between 2007 and 2011.

Whilst in the care of our vendor, this exceedingly rare TVR has continued to be fettled and pampered, and now comes to us for sale in outstanding mechanical condition, with the following items having been addressed:

- Fitment of a full ACT Performance stainless-steel exhaust system (including manifolds, ARP bolts and Nordlock washers) in 2021 at a cost of £1,585

- A new alloy radiator, Racetech low temperature thermostat, V-belts and extensive cooling system overhaul / refresh in 2021

- Complete set of ACT coolant hoses and a new fan switch

- Standard oil / filter and fluid change

- Stripping and re-conditioning of the rear brake callipers

In addition to the above, the chassis was scraped, inspected and re-protected in Waxoyl during March 2022, with no concerns found. The vehicle also received a new fuel tank sender unit, ignition timing adjustment, a full road test and a brake system bleed at a cost of over £1,200.

It should also be noted that this example retains its original 4.0-litre engine (serial number NCK 064) and its original 15” split-rim OZ wheels.

As a result of the above works and its continued cherished ownership, the vendor reports that this 390SE is reliable, enjoyable and goes like stink - everything you could possibly want from a TVR, and with an excellent soundtrack to boot!

On the Outside

With its 80s styling, wedge-shaped profile and exaggerated proportions, this 390 SE is every inch the British muscle car, and is all the better for it.

The exterior does show some signs of use, such as stone chips, wear to the graphics along the coach lines, wear around the lower front air dam and other commensurate wear-and-tear, in keeping with the vehicle’s age and mileage.

However, as far as we could see, there were no signs of any accident damage, large impacts or heavy scuffing to the bodywork, suggesting that whilst the vehicle has been well-used, it’s lived a relatively careful life.

There were few small areas of spidering in the bodywork, but these look minor and have been documented in the gallery below, along with any visible imperfections. The area around the leading edge of the folding soft-top would also benefit from some attention, as this wear is visible when folded, just behind the aperture for both doors.

Speaking of the soft top, the roof itself looks to be in decent shape and the mechanisms for both the folding rear section and the detachable centre panel work without a hitch, but the plastic rear window has seen better days, and would benefit from replacement in our view.

All four wheels present well, but not perfectly, and we did notice what looked to be a very small flat spot / mis-shape on the offside front wheel rim, though it does not appear to hinder the wheel’s ability to form a seal against the tyre.

Finally, the pop-up headlights are in full working order, with no delay, labouring or ‘lazy’ actuation noted during our photo shoot.

On the Inside

Inside, the driver-focused interior presents well, but as per the bodywork, offers plenty of room for improvement, refinement and finessing, something that the next owner can get stuck in to, knowing that underneath sits a mechanically sound, proven and considerately upgraded chassis and drivetrain.

Both seats are in good shape, though there are some signs of ageing and heavier wear noted, in particular on the driver’s seat.

In a similar vein, the door cards are useable as they sit with no damage, though the wooden strips are showing their age and the high-traffic areas such as the door pulls, arm rests and lower halves wear a commensurate patina. We also noted that the plastic surround trim for the driver’s door trigger requires re-attaching to the door panel, as it had a tendency to fall off during our photo shoot.

Elsewhere, the wood veneer dashboard is in good shape, though some of the buttons and toggles are showing their age now, along with the steering wheel, shifter and handbrake.

Up above, the inner lining of the removable roof centre section shows some light abrasions but gives us no cause for concern, whilst the rear folding section would perhaps benefit from a steam-clean or valet to bring it back to its best.

As far as we could tell, all systems work as they should, though the fuel gauge ‘bounces’ around, though does settle for short periods of time on the correct reading.


Driving this 390SE, it is clear to see where both the current and previous owner’s money has been spent, as out on the road it feels impressively tight, behaves without issue and seems reliable to the Nth degree.

During our photo shoot, the car started with ease (with a little gentle accelerator application, as per all large-displacement Rover V8 engines) and idled happily when hot or cold. Whilst driving, we noticed no untoward behaviours from the engine, transmission or drivetrain, and no unwanted noises.

Looking under the bonnet, the 4.0-litre Rover V8 unit presents well, and there are plenty of signs of recent works and upgrades. As far as we could see, there were no heavy oil or fluid leaks, and no causes for concern.

Underneath, the chassis is in excellent shape having recently been stripped, inspected and re-coated in Waxoyl, and with no untoward issues making themselves known during our inspection.

The most recent MoT exam - dated 07 March 2022, shows a first-time pass with advisories for the front lower suspension arm ball joints, an exhaust clearance issue and adjustment needed to the brake balance system.

History Highlights

Included with the vehicle is the V5 registered keepers document showing 5 former owners, two sets of keys, old MoT certificates, service manuals and handbooks, an extensive history stretching back to the 1980s, and recent invoices and documentation from the current and previous owner’s upgrades, adjustments and maintenance on the vehicle.

As always, all of the paperwork we’ve received with the vehicle has been photographed, and this is available to view at the end of the gallery below.

What We Think

Mechanically excellent, considerately fettled and ready to enjoy for summer, this is a useable, sound and healthy example of the rare 390SE, which has proven itself to be a reliable and enjoyable sports car, yet offers plenty of potential for aesthetic improvements, safe in the knowledge the oily bits are in excellent health and condition, following significant recent expenditure over the last few years.

Offered for sale with an estimate of £10,000 to £15,000 this is an excellent chance for one lucky bidder to obtain a V8-powered British brute just in time to enjoy throughout the summer months, and with plenty of fettling opportunity for the winter months ahead.

Viewing is always encouraged. This particular car is located with us at The Market HQ near Abingdon; we are open weekdays between 9am-5pm, to arrange an appointment please use the Contact Seller button at the top of the listing. Feel free to ask any questions or make observations in the comments section below, or try our ‘Frequently Asked Questions’.

If needed, Footman James classic car insurance and Classic Concierge offer storage options plus we have a list of contacts who can help with transport and shipping.  

BORING, but IMPORTANT: Please note that whilst we at The Market always aim to offer the most descriptive and transparent auction listings available, we cannot claim they are perfect analyses of any of the vehicles for sale. We offer far greater opportunity for bidders to view, or arrange inspections for each vehicle thoroughly prior to bidding than traditional auctions, and we never stop encouraging bidders to take advantage of this. We do take a good look at those vehicles which are delivered to our premises for sale, but this only results in our unbiased personal observations, not those of a qualified inspector or other professional, or the result of a long test drive.

Also, localised paint repairs are common with collectable and classic cars and if they have been professionally carried out then they may be impossible to detect, even if we see the car in person. So, unless we state otherwise, please assume that any vehicle could have had remedial bodywork at some point in its life.

Additionally, please note that most of the videos on our site have been recorded using simple cameras which often result in 'average' sound quality; in particular, engines and exhausts notes can sound a little different to how they are in reality.

Please note that this is sold as seen and that, as is normal for used goods bought at auction, return policy does not apply. See our FAQs for more info, and feel free to inspect any vehicle as much as you wish.

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  • Location: The Market HQ Abingdon, United Kingdom
  • Seller Type: Private
  • Odometer Reading: 56950
  • Chassis Number: SA9DH35P0JB019170
  • Engine: 3905cc
  • Gearbox: manual
  • Steering position: RHD
  • Colour: Red
  • Interior: Grey leather
  • Estimated Price: £10,000 - £15,000

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