What Is a Targa Top?

A targa top is a semi-convertible car body design featuring a removable roof part and a full-width roll bar at the back of the seats. In most Targa models, the rear window is permanent. However, in select models, it is a removable plastic foldable window accessory, allowing it to be used as a convertible. Targa bands, targa bars, and wrap-over bands describe a piece of generally fixed metal or trim that rises from one side, crosses the roof, and descends to the other side of the building.

For comparison, T-tops (or T-bars) have a solid, nonremovable bar running between the top of the windscreen and the rear roll bar. In contrast, targa tops typically have two separate roof panels above the seats to fit the window and a central t-bar. Targa tops are usually available in two different colors: black or white.

The history of targa tops

2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata sports car roadster with a targa top
2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images via Getty Images

The term “Targa” was first used for the 1965 Porsche 911 Targa, although it was not the first vehicle to feature a removable roof panel mechanism. The system debuted in 1957 on the limited-production Vignale Fiat 1200 Wonderful, designed by Giovanni Michelotti. The later Triumph TR4 from 1961, another Michelotti design, also had a similar arrangement, which Triumph referred to as a surrey top. Before the 1967 Porsche 911 Targa, the 1964 SAAB Catherina prototype and the 1965 Toyota Sports 800 employed comparable technologies.

According to Motor Trend, the targa-style roof opening grew famous throughout the world in the 1960s and 1970s, when there were concerns that the Department of Transportation (DOT) in the United States might outlaw convertibles due to safety concerns about occupants in the event of a car flip. As a result, automakers began to use targa or T-tops. Because Porsche was instrumental in popularizing this body type, they registered a trademark for the Targa name, and manufacturers sought alternative names for their retractable tops. Porsche derived the name “Targa” from the Targa Florio, a road race in Sicily in which Porsche had great success. Targa is an Italian word that means “plate” (or “placard”).

Targa and T-top sales have gradually declined as manufacturers phased them out in favor of full convertibles with retractable hardtops and folding metal roofs, such as the Mercedes-Benz SLK. They also have better structural engineering, such as pop-up rollover bars behind the seats and a front rollover bar integrated into the front windscreen.

Fearing that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) would prohibit convertibles with completely retractable soft tops, Porsche created the first 911 Targa out of necessity rather than innovation. The first Targa was introduced for the 1967 model year, and it had the same rollover bar “hoop” directly behind the driver’s head. Still, instead of the permanent back glass, it had a flexible transparent plastic window portion that could be added or detached.

From 1968 to 1969, Porsche sold both a fixed-window and a soft-window Targa, with the latter being generally phased out after the 1969 model year. According to ZigWheels, these so-called soft-window 911 Targas resembled a full-bore cabriolet with an ungainly roll bar protruding from the cabin’s center. The back window was a unique idea, but purchasers found it challenging to install and remove, and it wasn’t always totally watertight. However, those in the know could order the soft-window option through the 1971 model year, though few did.

What is it about the Porsche 911 Targa that makes it so special?

Porsche is one of the few automakers that provides models with removable targa tops. According to Porsche, the unique, fully autonomous, and motorized transitional roof on the 2021 Porsche 911 Targa transforms in just 19 seconds at the touch of a button.

With startling resemblance, today’s 911 Targa model retains the iconic style of the 1960s automobile. The proportions are practically perfect, and Porsche even embosses the distinctive “Targa” model identification on each side of the iconic hoop.

Under the surface, however, there are significant technological variations. The original vehicle’s canopy was a folding metal frame clad in vinyl that had to be manually removed and stored. The 2021 model features a lightweight magnesium panel with sound and temperature insulation that motors away with the press of a button and disappears from view.

The opening and shutting actions are carried out with the agility of a great dance. Each motor, pulley, and cable eagerly awaits its chance to pirouette, allowing the entire rear decklid to be raised off the back of the sports car – and held there – so the little roof can be retracted and stowed.

So, the Porsche 911 Targa provides occupants with a new air ride with the top open. Additionally, the outside environment is kept at bay when the roof is closed, and the automatic dual-zone climate control maintains the temperature.

What is the difference between a targa top and a convertible?

Previously, targa top models demanded you remove the roof manually and stow it in the frunk. Now, all you have to do is flip a switch, and the roof will vanish behind you. It differs from a convertible concept, where the ceiling (either a soft fabric top or a metal top) folds into the back. There is no back windscreen, nor is there a ‘hoop.’ A standard convertible, on the other hand, will allow you to lower the top more quickly.

Lastly, a targa top on Porsche models is distinguished by its rollover hoop, which is finished in an aggressive shade of steel grey, three vertical slats, and the embossed ‘Targa’ logo, all of which stand out from the crowd.

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