Dissecting the trick roof on the 2014 Porsche 911 Targa

Posted by

No one, not even the most tired reporters who have covered hundreds of auto shows, had ever seen a convertible roof come off like the 2014 Porsche 911 Targa. On first sight, when Porsche CEO Matthias Müller sat down to open the roof, the collective gasp from the audience could be heard several stands away.

We’ll gladly join the circus of Targa videos circulating the web, so here it is again, closing:

The Targa dates back to the 1965 Frankfurt Auto Show, one year after the 911 went into production. At this time, the Targa Florio rally races in Italy were at their peak — Porsche had competed there for 10 years — and the name itself (“shield”) came to denote any convertible with a removable central roof section.


The original design featured a metal panel that snapped between the windshield frame and a stainless steel roll bar that blended into a delicate, U-shaped glass window (the Frankfurt concept, however, used fabric sections). When the production car debuted for 1967, the Targa was both beautiful and functional, safer even than the first full softtop 911 convertible that debuted 17 years later, the 1982 SC Cabriolet.


For 1996, recognizing the 911’s burgeoning luxury car status, Porsche threw out the Targa hardtop and introduced a full glass sunroof that electrically retracted on rails behind the rear window. Without the familiar roll bar — by then, it was painted black — a 911 Targa looked exactly like a Carrera, save for Targa-specific wheels and a lightly modified C-pillar. The giant sunroof theme continued on future Targas, with a splash of extra chrome trim tracing the roof of the last-generation Targa in 2012. Perhaps Porsche was inspired to reinvent history when Ruf, the famous Porsche tuner, echoed the company’s original Targa on its 2010 Ruf Roadster.


The new Targa uses a fabric roof section and a single-piece glass and metal rear section that cracks opens like a pistachio. The cut lines for this rear section are so ordinary that it’s impossible to ever think it could open in this fashion. The central steel roll bar is covered in cast aluminum, and on either side, two small sections pop out so the softtop mechanism can nestle inside the bar. With the fabric roof in place, the two sections cover the robotic arms completely, the massive glass rear descends and you’re left dumbstruck, with the impression that the roof is simply an average, manually-operated zipper top. Legacy and luxury, preserved.

One more very cool feature: The wraparound glass incorporates hair-thin heating filaments — the very expensive kind seen on heated windshields and not the standard brown defroster lines you see on all other cars. It’s a handblown piece of art, really. This style creates some distorted images in the rearview mirror, but with at least 350 hp on the all-wheel-drive Targa 4 and 400 on the Targa 4S, what’s behind you won’t matter. The blue car above is likely $150,000 with all options, though the Targa’s base price — if that’s even possible to attain at a dealer — is $102,595. The Cabriolet — ah, who can possibly care about that now?


Clifford Atiyeh

Clifford Atiyeh

Clifford Atiyeh has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own. Based in Connecticut, he writes for BestRide, Car and Driver, The Boston Globe and other publications.