Saucy Seventies Targa

Porsche 911 Targa History: The Convertible In Peril

In the late 1960s, a rumor blew across the Atlantic from the U.S.-even then one of Porsche's largest markets—and it said the convertible was headed for an uncertain future. Proposed future safety regulations being considered by the Department of Transportation suggested convertibles were simply too dangerous to continue building for American roads. Without racing-style rollover equipment, a rolling crash in a convertible often had fatal consequences, especially in a time when many drivers on the road still failed to even wear safety belts.

Though the proposed legislation never came into existence, it posed a serious enough threat that Chevrolet added a "T-top" model with twin roof panels split with a central hard bar to its C2 Corvette lineup in 1968, hedging against the possibility that convertible models could no longer be sold.

But Porsche arrived with its Targa roof a full year ahead of Chevy, for the 1967 model year. Porsche felt roofless cars were essential to American sales and began development in 1964, the year the first 911 coupe was launched. The design was straight from Porsche's motorsports program; a roll bar several inches wide would stretch across the rear of the cabin, providing not just rollover protection but also structural stability for the car's new roofless configuration. Forward of the bar, above the driver's head, was a folding panel framed in metal with a vinyl skin that could be removed, then stashed away inside the trunk.

Behind the bar was a flexible plastic window that could also be removed, leaving behind a traditional-looking convertible with a somewhat chunky, aluminum-wrapped roll-bar. Design. Porsche presented the idea in concept form at the 1965 Frankfurt auto show, the name "Targa" hailing from the Italian open-road race, the Targa Florio. The motorsports naming convention would surely help sales, Porsche figured, and anyway, Targa meant "plate" or "shield" in Italian.

The first fully finished Targa prototype was ready in 1966 based on the 911 S of that year. It was presented to boss-man Ferry Porsche, son of company founder, Dr. Ferdinand Porsche, for evaluation as his daily driver. After getting Ferry's approval, the company added the 911 Targa to the lineup for 1967

The Targa design carried on through the 1970s as Porsche added large, U.S.-mandated 5-mph impact bumpers on the G-series 911. The Targa top also featured on the 1970-76 Porsche 914 as the only body style available, and it continued into the 1980s even as Porsche introduced a production 911 Cabriolet model for the first time in 1983 on the 911 SC. Finally, at the end of the 1994 model year, Porsche's traditional Targa top ended with the 964 series 911.

Source: Automobile Magazine

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