Porsche introduced the 911 Targa in 1965 as a slick-looking preemptive cheat around the U.S. Department of Transportation's plans to outlaw convertibles altogether. Its removable fabric roof panel still allowed for open-air motoring (though it was famously leaky), and the brushed-stainless-steel Targa Bar was meant to keep the driver safe(-ish) in case of a rollover. A hard top was added in 1975 but had to be taken off by hand (not a good look in the parking lot) and crammed into the backseat. "The Targa was never the ideal Porsche," admits Grant Larson, manager of the brand's special projects, who's worked on the Boxster and the 918 Spyder. "For a long time, it was something that we never wanted to relive." But thanks to advances in engineering, the German automaker finally got it right, without the half-measures required before.
The 2015 911 Targa debuted in January at the Detroit Auto Show, wowing jaded car enthusiasts with its sexy retro vibe and an origami-like top that, at the push of a button, flips back and dramatically somersaults before disappearing behind the backseat, all in 20 seconds. "The biggest inspiration was the challenge of getting it all to work," Larson says. "What we didn't reckon was the emotional aspect of the transformation." Orders are being taken now with the promise of a June delivery. While you wait, read on to find out how summer's hottest car was reborn.
1. Larson describes the back glass as more "three-dimensional than the earlier models" (meaning there's more headroom). "You can look at any car from the sixties and see where they had to make compromises because of certain manufacturing technologies," he says. "But we had free rein in terms of what was possible. When we showed it in Detroit, people wanted to see the top open and close again and again and again."
2. "In the early stages, we had the idea to make it a two-seater," Larson says. "But we decided it had to remain a four-seater, because that's what the 911 philosophy is all about, this two-plus-two seating. It was this premise we had to work around."
3. When the roof is in motion, two forged-steel panels on top of the Targa bar lift up so that the soft top's mechanical arms can pass through to the back of the car. "It's a very sophisticated movement, and none of it can be seen whether the roof is open or closed," says August Achleitner, the head of the company's 911 line. "It's my favorite part of the car."
4. The louvers in the stainless-steel bar of the original Targa provided ventilation, but today they remain intact because they've become an iconic design element. "We took them off, but then we were told to put them back," Larson says. "They play a visual function that's about pure emotion.""
5. As a self-professed Porsche purist, Larson preferred retaining the original top, meaning the driver would still have to get out and remove it himself. "But then the marketing people got involved and said that no one wants a manual roof anymore," he says. "Our customers expect to be able to open the roof by sitting in the car and pressing a button. In the end, it was a better solution."
What does Larson keep in his garage? "I'm a total Porsche freak. I live and breathe this stuff. I've got a 67 911S, a 65 356 SC coupe, and my real baby, my take-it-to-my-grave car, is a 56 Speedster. It's not a replica, so don't even ask that question. There's a 68 912 in there too, but my wife calls it hers.