THE NAME GAME
feature a thing of beauty by affording it a brushed metal finish with a model-specific badge at its base. A design element that would go on to become an important part of the 911’s heritage, this stainless hoop ensured the first open-to-the-elements 911 was instantly identifiable to even the most casual of car fans.
The Targa’s rollover bar was updated with a trio of ‘gills’ in 1969, drawing further attention to the model’s most distinctive feature, but despite Porsche’s efforts in styling, there were detractors who thought the 911’s beauty was actually inhibited by the roll bar, as though it spoiled the smooth lines of the model’s flowing bodywork. In truth, a completely new body style was out of the question — interchangeable parts with the coupe served to reduce factory machining and tooling costs. Indeed, doors, wings and other exterior panels could be shared between the Targa and hard-top.
Despite the extra weight delivered by its chassis rigidity enhancements, the 911 Targa tipped scales at just fifty kilograms more than its closed-top sibling. The Targa’s removable rear window helped to lighten the load (at the same time as improving aerodynamics), but it didn’t do much for the model’s looks. In fact, when viewed side-on with the rear window removed, the car can be described as having an appearance similar to that of an Erdbeerkörbchen (strawberry basket). Consequently, though optional in 1968, a fixed, heated and beautifully curved glass rear screen became permanent in 1969. More practical and more elegant than its plastic (and often brittle) predecessor, the domed glass immediately banished the early 911 Targa’s slightly awkward looks. Plus, because the new rear screen was bonded to the roll bar, structural integrity of the car as a whole increased. New seals made the Targa better protected from the elements, and when driven at high speed on the autobahn, the new rear glass retained its shape, unlike the earlier plastic screen, which suffered from unsightly ‘ballooning’. No longer would you have to worry about having to return from a visit to your hairdresser, only to have your new beehive barnet blown out of shape.
But why the Targa tag? Porsche marketing man, Harald Wagner, named the new 911 after the Targa Florio, a challenging endurance race which scythed its way through mountains on the island of Sicily. Porsche enjoyed eleven victories at the fearsome event — reason enough to mark the achievements with a 911 model nameplate — but in Italian, Targa translates as shield, which served to emphasise the protective nature of the Porsche’s roll bar. This was the first time Targa referred to a semi-convertible sports car. Today, so widespread is the name’s use, few people realise Porsche successfully
FROM 1975, A SATIN BLACK ROLL BAR COULD BE SPECIFIED IN PLACE OF THE STANDARD BRUSHED METAL HOOP
secured it as a trademark after Wagner presented his idea to the company’s board of directors.
As time went by, Targas mirrored the trim level of hard-top 911s. That said, at launch, the 160bhp 911 S Targa’s two-litre flat-six delivered 50bhp less than the coupe equivalent, although both cars enjoyed the same sense of style. The 130bhp 911 L Targa sat somewhere between the two. Later, 1974 saw a radical revamp of the 911 concept, resulting in the ‘impact bumper’ G-series. The Carrera 2.7 enjoyed mechanical fuel injection and 210bhp, while the 200bhp Carrera 3.0 of 1976 gained a continuous injection system. In 1978, the 911 SC
Targa was revealed, but even when rumours started circulating regarding the potential discontinuation of Porsche’s flagship model at the start of the new decade, the Carrera 3.2 of 1983 ushered in a Targa variant packing 231bhp.
The first fully open-topped 911, the SC Cabriolet, appeared on the scene a year later. Up until that point in time, Targa-badged 911s had enjoyed success as a highlight of the 911 line-up. The cabby’s arrival, however, caused the Targa’s shining light to dim — not enough for Porsche to stop producing the model (the basic concept lived on until 1994, before being rebooted with the 991-generation 911), but certainly enough to have a significant impact on sales figures.
The most aggressive classic Targa is accepted as being the open-top version of the 1987 911 Turbo (930). In production for only a single year and often thought not to exist, only 193 examples are thought to have rolled out of Zuffenhausen. It’s a real ‘Marmite’ model, combining Targa styling with the chunky looks of a Turbo. Like it or loathe it, there’s no denying it’s a monster of a machine.
In 1995, Targa took on a new twist. By this time, the 993 was in production, the final generation of 911 to truly follow the original 901/911 concept. This last hurrah for air-cooled Porsches brought with it a radical new way of looking at the Targa concept — thirty years after the original semi-open 911 was presented to the world, the “new Targa for a new generation” featured an electrically
operated retracting glass roof panel which slid inside the host vehicle’s rear window at the push of a button. User convenience was the order of the day, but at what cost? There was no longer the need for a standalone roll bar, meaning in profile view, the new Targa was virtually indistinguishable from its coupe stablemate, the only notable difference being the way the rear side window sloped to where it met its neighbouring bodywork. There was no removable roof panel, no metal hoop. Admittedly, the new panoramic view afforded to occupants when the glass panel was in place was a great idea, but to all intents and purposes, the 993 Targa was a hatchback coupe with a fancy sunroof.
The revised Targa concept continued with the 996 Targa of 2002 and the four-wheel drive 997 Targa of 2007. Thankfully, Porsche acknowledged the historical significance of the original Targa when a brushed metal roll bar was fitted to the 991 Targa 4 and 4S. Operation of the roof remained electric, of course, but the classic domed rear window design returned. Then, in 2015, the 424bhp GTS became the most powerful 911 Targa ever built. Big bhp and electrical trickery are, of course, all well and good, but if we’re being honest, they’re not wholly true to the original Targa concept. Modern versions may be fast, practical and convenient, but in terms of style and desirability, they can’t hold a candle to the classics.
It’s worth noting how, from 1975, a satin black roll bar could be specified in place of the brushed metal part supplied as standard equipment, but by the time the 964 Targa pitched up in 1990, the darker finish was the only available option. Today, the 964 Targa represents one of the Porsche scene’s best buys, which is why we were keen to explore Duncan Lang’s modified Guards Red Carrera 4, one of the earliest right-hand-drive
964 Targas assembled.
Duncan bought the car after spotting it hiding at the back of the Paul Stephens workshop in Halstead, where it had become supplementary to requirements after the project it was acquired for failed to come to fruition. Duncan knew he was going to modify the radiant red 911 from the off, but his plan to backdate to early 1970s styling hit a stumbling block when his wife fell in love with the look of 964’s front end. Instead, he consulted with Chris Lansbury, head of Suffolk-based marque specialist, PIE Performance, after learning of the PIE Performance Tuning (PPT) brand Chris was launching. “There are many specialists with their own line of bespoke Porsches, but the price of what’s on offer is astronomical, certainly beyond the reach of most owners,” he says. “The thinking behind PPT is to afford enthusiasts the opportunity to create a Porsche suiting their driving style and the environment
THE ENGINE HAS A MORE PRONOUNCED EAGERNESS TO ADVANCE THROUGH THE REV RANGE
their car is likely to be used in. We can source the Porsche a PPT customer wants to drive, though as demonstrated with Duncan’s 964, the PPT programme is also available to owners already in possession of a Porsche, but like the idea of mixing things up in a bid to fall back in love with their car, or simply to personalise it to their taste.”
Duncan had already installed polyurethane suspension bushes and a set of Silver’s Neomax height-adjustable coilovers — affording him twenty-four levels of damping adjustability — but was soon asking Chris to apply corrected geometry and to install one of PIE’S PPT digital ignition systems, eliminating standard analogue engine management equipment by introducing a fully programmable system delivering greater reliability and performance. Combined with an aftermarket exhaust,
Cup pipe and a derestricted intake system making use of genuine carbon-fibre pipework and a free-flowing foam air filter, this trick ignition kit has helped Duncan’s 964 to deliver an extra forty horses — taking power close to 275bhp — with markedly improved throttle response.
It wasn’t all plain sailing, though. Bubbling bodywork at the base of the windscreen gave cause for concern, and when the PIE Performance team began to poke around, Duncan’s worst fears were confirmed — water had made its way through a weak point in the metalwork, rotting the inner wings. In recognition of his wife’s desire for the Lang family to keep the pretty 911 for the long term, rather than fix these areas in isolation, he instructed
Chris to commence a full body restoration and respray, resulting in the stunning finish the car wears today. Additionally, the interior (already sporting a MOMO steering wheel) was treated to an overhaul, including seat outers and door cards retrimmed in black leather,
while the seat centres were covered in tartan fabric, a nod to earlier cabin 911 styling, but one which perfectly suits this four-wheel-drive 964.
Complete with its raised rear brake light, this terrific Targa exemplifies the ‘no fuss, Oem-plus’ approach to Porsche personalisation. Granted, a full body restoration isn’t exactly something you’d cite as keeping a lid on spend (Duncan chalks this up to bad luck), but save for the purposeful drop in ride height and the PPT decals, there’s nothing to draw attention to the work Chris’s team has carried out. There is, however, an urgency to the way the flat-six releases its increased number of galloping ponies — the engine has a more pronounced eagerness to advance through the rev range, and we can completely appreciate why so many third-party specialists are stocking PPT ignition systems, which are available for most air-cooled production 911s and even four-cylinder models in Porsche’s transaxle family of cars. The roadholding characteristics of the Silver’s coilovers are surprisingly good for a budget brand — too often have we experienced ‘crashy’ handling from products significantly cheaper than those offered by premium manufacturers, such as KW, Bilstein, GAZ and Tractive — though
Duncan agrees they might not be up to the task of hard track work. For B-road blasts and general commuting, however, the entry level Neomax offering appears to be more than adequate. Application is important — the Lang family are using this tidy Targa as their everyday vehicle, with Duncan’s recent 911 Turbo (930) purchase serving as his ‘go mad’ modification project, another job given to PIE Performance. With the bodywork comprehensively refreshed, it would, of course, be easy for the Langs to tuck this 964 away, retaining its financial value by keeping miles off the odometer, only taking to the road on sunny days and for car shows, but Duncan is our kind of owner — he wants his Porsches to be used as intended, and isn’t afraid of seeing numbers stack up on the dash. And after spending an afternoon enjoying his Targa’s improved performance and enhanced chassis dynamics, we can see why.