Rise of the classic Porsche 911 Targa
Born out of necessity, the Targa is an enduring if sometimes unloved model in the 911 range. Its inception was the result of Porsche’s obvious desire to offer an open-topped version of the 911 in the 1960s, though early 911s lacked the structural rigidity to offer a full open top.
Fate would intervene, with proposed US safety legislation effectively killing development of conventional Cabriolets thanks to the anticipated demand for roll-over protection. Given the potential of the US market and as Porsche is not one to shy away from the insurmountable, it took a more unconventional approach to give customers an open-air choice.
The solution was the Targa in 1967, which featured a full rollover hoop, to which a removable panel was fitted. On the earliest, short-wheelbase cars there was also a removable ‘soft’ rear window, which simply unzipped. Somewhat amusingly, Porsche’s safety-orientated open-top car took its name from a famously dangerous road race, the Sicilian Targa Florio.
Coincidentally though, ‘Targa’ in Italian refers to an ancient shield; fitting given the Targa’s safety-derived inception. That US legislation would never materialise, though the Targa would remain Porsche’s only open-topped 911 until the Cabriolet joined the line-up in 1982.
The Targa added little weight over its Coupe relations, the roll hoop adding strength while the lightweight roof counteracted the additional weight of the four strengthened panels. The tooling costs were minimal, too, with most of the sheet metal below the waistline unchanged from the Coupe.
The removable rear window didn’t last long though, Porsche soon replacing it with that evocative curved glass, which was as much a signature of the Targa as that brushed Nirosta stainless steel finished roll-over bar (which later changed to black aluminium).
That formula would remain from its late 1960s introduction through to the 964 series. The arrival of the 993 Targa in 1996 would see it adopt a large glass-opening sunroof, which slid behind the rear window.
This remained the case with the 996 and 997 models, which also benefitted from opening rear glass, creating a hatchback 911 as such. From the 993 onwards though, the Targa was no longer so visually distinct from its Coupe relations.
Only a company with the stubbornness of Porsche would persist in offering more than one open-top model in its range. At times when Porsche offered Speedsters, customers had as many as three ways of opening their 911 to the elements. The Targa could have quietly slipped away following the 993, 996 and 997 iterations.