Just as trends come and go in fashion, so they do in the car world. Case in point: the Porsche Targa.
For those unfamiliar with the ‘Targa’ designation, it harks back to 1965 and fears that impending U.S safety regulations might put paid to sales of conventional convertible cars – a problem that Porsche addressed by introducing a ‘safety cabriolet’ in the form of a 911 with a removable roof panel supported at the front by the windscreen surround and at the rear by a hefty, stainless steel rollover hoop.
Early examples, known as ‘soft window’ models, also had a fold-down rear section to increase the open-top feeling, but this was replaced after just a year by a solid and distinctive wrap-around rear window, introducing a design that remained essentially unchanged until 1993.
The name Targa (which translates into the less romantic-sounding English word ‘plate’) was inspired by a run of Porsche victories in Sicily’s Targa Florio road race – one of the world’s oldest motorsport events that was founded in 1906 by Sicilian businessman Vincenzo Florio – and Porsche subsequently patented the name.
But while the Targa proved an initial hit in some markets, especially on America’s west coast, enthusiasm for the model gradually waned.
Convertibles were not banned after all, and hard-driving 911 fans spurned the Targa format on the basis that the removable roof panel made the car less rigid and therefore less sure-footed than its hard-topped coupe sibling.
When the ‘993’ iteration of the famous 911 was launched in 1993, no Targa option was initially offered – but in November ’95, Porsche wowed the car world with a new take on the theme by introducing a large, electrically-powered glass roof panel.
And again, when the 996 upgrade arrived in 1997, a Targa version didn’t materialise until four years later using a similar roof system to its predecessor.
But the launch of the Type 991 911 in 2011 (forgive all the numbers….) really did seem to mark the end of the road for the Targa – until Porsche amazed in 2014 by not only re-introducing the format but presenting it as a modern-day take on the original design, complete with prominent roll-over hoop and a soft panel that disappeared behind the rear seats at the push of a button.
Suddenly, the 911 that many Porsche die-hards had long considered to be ‘not quite right’ was considered bang on trend, combining stellar performance with open-top versatility and just the right dose of vintage vibe.
And now there’s an all-new Targa model based on the latest 911 ‘992’ iteration launched in coupe form at the end of 2018.
This latest Targa oozes even more retro-cool than the previous model and some say it’s better looking – but it is also the quickest and most powerful ever, with a three-litre, twin-turbo engine that makes 380 bhp in basic form and 444 bhp in the higher-performance Targa 4S. That translates into respective zero to 62mph sprints of 4.2 seconds and 3.6 seconds and top speeds of 180 mph and 189 mph.
And, while the cars are equipped with four-wheel-drive and Porsche’s PDK double-clutch, semi-automatic gearbox as standard, fans of a more interactive driving experience can specify a seven-speed manual instead.
As with any Porsche, however, the new Targa isn’t what you’d call cheap: the entry-level model will set you back £98,170 and the 4S £109,725.
But if you’ve got even more to spend, Porsche has this month announced a special ‘Heritage Design’ edition featuring elements inspired by past models.
Just 992 examples will be available in a choice of five special colours (cherry metallic is the best) with gold logos and old-fashioned Porsche crests for a ’50s feel. Inside, there are two-tone leather seats with corduroy inserts and a perforated roof lining reviving an aesthetic seen on the original Porsche 356 of 70 years ago.
The rev counter and dash-mounted chronograph also get a classic look with green back lighting, while a metal badge carries each individual car’s edition number.
The 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design edition costs a heady £136,643 – and those with cash left over are invited to pay a further £10,650 for a made-to-order titanium Porsche Design chronograph watch, complete with a strap that matches their car’s paintwork and an automatic winding rotor based on the look of the Targa’s wheel design.
The price of the watch, incidentally, is almost 50 per cent more than I paid for my own 1981 Porsche Targa 15 years ago. Keen to become a 911 owner but with limited funds, I went for the least desirable model – ie a Targa – in the best condition I could afford.
It has served me well, providing thousands of miles of open-topped driving fun without the pitfalls of being fully convertible.
And now, it seems, I might even be trendy….