The Birth of the Targa

The Story Behind the First Open 911

October 27, 2016
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For model-year 1965, Porsche wound down production of the 356 Coupe and Cabriolet and ramped up the assembly line of its then-new 911 coupe. While some open-air driving enthusiasts were likely concerned that roofless 911s weren’t offered at the model’s launch, these worries would soon be eased.

In September 1965, at the Frankfurt Motor Show, Porsche introduced the “Targa” version of the 911, which was named after the company’s many racing successes in the Targa Florio open road race in Sicily. But after this first showing the company took more than a year to put the unique, precedent-setting open-topped 911 into production.

Setting the Stage

Convertible models had come to enjoy a modest but steady sales rate since an open car was part of the very first Gmünd-built Porsche range. In 1960, in fact, they were 41.6 percent of total Porsche sports car production. The share was in decline, however, falling to 27.2 percent in 1961. This was the position at the beginning of 1962 when key decisions were being made on the new T-8 body that became the 901 (later renamed the 911 in October 1964).

From the outset, it was assumed that the T-8 range would include both a coupe and a cabriolet. This was enthusiastically supported by Harald Wagner, a nephew of Ferry Porsche and the domestic sales chief at Porsche since 1954, described by author Wolfgang Blaube as “the strongest cabriolet protagonist in Zuffenhausen’s executive suite.”

Both Gmünd and Reutter-bodied 356 Cabriolets were of natural notchback configurations, differing in this respect from their fastback coupe counterparts. “The system to open the roof of the 356 was completely developed,” noted engineer Eugen Kolb, “but nothing could be taken from it for the 901. If you copied the 356 roof system it would have been too high at the rear, like a Volkswagen and not like a Porsche.”

In addition, Porsche management’s presumption with the 901 was that the coupe’s lines should be only slightly altered because the open model was foreseen as enjoying only a small share of the production. This meant that an open 901 would have to use all the structure and rear sheet metal of the coupe.

Also from Issue 242

  • 2017 911 Targa 4S
  • 2017 Panamera Turbo
  • Market Update: 911 Turbos
  • Revived 914-6 Racer
  • A Stunner of an R Gruppe 911
  • Kussmaul recalls Le Mans 1983
  • Porsche Parade 2016
  • 1957 Denzel
  • Porsche Ignitions
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