History and histories

The Targa that binds Florio and Porsche

Photo credit: Porsche Newsroom

Among the many things that racing teaches manufacturers, not everything is technical, and Porsche has long understood the advantages of adopting names like Carrera and Targa for its specific versions. The Targa definition, in particular, has even gone so far as to identify not only a model, but even a body configuration regardless of the brand.

But how did this name come about and, more importantly, why?

The 718 Sport at the 1963 Targa Florio with the small roll-bar tube that went on to inspire the famous arch of the future Targa models

The Targa was a brilliant reaction of Porsche to a dispute that was raging in the early 1960s on the American market, which was vital to the fledgling manufacturer. Between Detroit and Dallas, convertible cars were suddenly considered dangerous as they were said to provide insufficient protection for occupants in the event of an accident. Not wanting to lose its U.S. customers and driven by the sales department that insisted on an open-top variant of the 911, Porsche came up with a revolutionary way to interpret the concept of driving en plein air and it was motorsport, with its powerful means of communication, that provided the inspiration. Those were the years that roll-bars were being mounted on open top racing cars to avoid tragic consequences following a rollover. Why not be inspired by those? However, the initial designs weren’t all that promising. 911 designer Ferdinand Alexander “Butzi” Porsche ruled out the use of a large tubular construction but reinterpreted the idea by giving the safety device an agreeable shape and a stainless steel finish for a sporty yet elegant look. The idea was to replace the tube with a full, roll hoop, also useful for body stiffness, and then attach a removable roof panel to it.

Like a Columbus’ egg: the “Targa” idea means a removable roof panel that turns a coupe into a spider

The new Targa was unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 1965, and just like the legendary term “Carrera”, which referred to Porsche’s early successes in the famous Carrera Panamericana in Mexico, the name of the new 911 with a roll-bar was also intended to evoke sporting connotations. The Stuttgart Manufacturer had just won the Targa Florio for the fourth time in five years. ”911 Flori” was briefly on the table before national sales manager Harald Wagner asked, “Why don’t we just call it “Targa?” Brilliant. A name that from that day would have identified a new category of cars with removable roof panels, such as the Ferrari GTS or the Corvette Stingray, even if only Porsche models could use this name.

The original solution for the back part that included a fold-down rear screen, was not successful for noise and visibility problems

Delivery of production models began in early 1967. Behind the roll bar Porsche originally used a canvas-mounted rear window that was fixed with a zip, a solution that created numerous problems, among which the annoying rustle of air. Therefore, after only a few months, a rigid wrap around window with the advantages of heated glass was also made available to reduce noise levels, improve visibility and reduce the risk of theft. In mid-1969, the soft top was abandoned and remained available on request. However, only a few were ordered.

Soon the rear would abandon the soft-top and switch to a large fixed glass panel

In 1994, with the release of the 964, it seemed that the legend of the Targa had gone forever: on the 993, the central arch disappeared in favour of with a panoramic glass roof running all the way down to the decklid which, at the touch of a button, could slide back, effectively creating a giant sunroof. This solution, which made the 911 a little too similar to its coupe sister, was carried over to the 996 and 997 series. In 2014, however, Porsche introduced a welcome “return” and on the 991 series, reintroduced the iconic  anti-roll hoop, also available on the latest generation, the 992, unveiled a just few days ago by the Stuttgart Manufacturer. Nostalgia for the “Targa” prevailed.

In 2014 the 991 revisited the “Targa” concept with the contemporary comfort of an automatic opening and closing system. The current 992 also uses this principle