A Generation-by-Generation Dive Into Porsche 911 Targa History

1967-1969 Porsche 911 Targa “Soft Window”

Buoyed by fears that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) might ban convertibles with fully retractable soft-tops, Porsche developed the first 911 Targa out of perceived necessity, and not ingenuity. Launched for the 1967 model year, the first Targa featured the same rollover bar “hoop” immediately behind the driver’s head, but in place of the familiar fixed rear glass, a flexible clear plastic window section could be attached or removed.

In effect, this made these so-called soft-window Targas appear very much like a full-bore Cabriolet with an awkward roll bar jutting out of the center of the cabin. A novel idea, but buyers found the rear window cumbersome to install or remove, and not always completely weatherproof. Porsche offered the familiar fixed-window Targa from 1968 alongside the soft-window, until it mostly discontinued the latter after the 1969 model year. However, those in-the-know could special order the soft-window through the 1971 model year, though few selected that option.

1968-1973 Porsche 911 Targa Fixed Window

Mechanically and aesthetically, nothing differentiated the subsequent fixed-window Targa from the soft-window model aside from the rear-window configuration. Like the soft-window 911, buyers could pick a Targa in all mainstream 911 flavors, including T, E, and S.

1974-1977 Porsche 911 Targa

For this entry in Porsche 911 Targa history, the 911 in 1974 entered the era of the impact bumper, and it would remain almost stylistically unchanged for the next 15 years. Porsche again offered the Targa with all of the same engines and trim as the rest of the regular production 911 lineup.

1974-1975 Porsche 911 Carrera 2.7 Targa

While not as hot as the legendary 1973 911 Carrera RS, the subsequent “mainstreaming” of the Carrera name brought with it a similar 2.7-liter flat-six with 210 horsepower. Surprisingly, the contemporarily high-performance Carrera 2.7 was offered in Targa configuration as well, replete with large rear wing and requisite “Carrera” graphics.

1976-1977 Porsche 911 Carrera 3.0 Targa

It’s the same story as above with the surprising Carrera 3.0 Targa. The updated Carrera now packed a naturally aspirated version of the 3.0-liter found in the contemporary 930 (911 Turbo). Compared to the Carrera 2.7, power dropped to 200 hp, but this was still enough to sit pretty at the top of the naturally aspirated 911 production range of the time.

1986-1989 Porsche 930 Turbo Targa

One our favorite moments in Porsche 911 Targa history: Yes, for a brief period, you could order your new 930 in Targa configuration before the 930 switched over to the 964 Turbo. The same turbocharged 3.3-liter flat-six put down a then-impressive 296 hp, with exceptional straight-line performance—no doubt contrasted by the Targa’s tendency to flex while cornering.

1978-1983 Porsche 911 SC Targa

Nothing new to report here, other than the 911 SC’s excellent 3.0-liter flat-six. Offered initially in either coupe or targa-top form, the SC saw the introduction of the full Cabriolet—a Porsche 911 first—in 1983, sticking around just one model year before the following 3.2 Carrera took over in 1984.

1984-1988 Porsche 911 3.2 Carrera Targa

Don’t let the Carrera name fool you; the 3.2 Carrera from 1984-1988 set the precedent for every regular production 911 to bear the Carrera name. Like the SC, the 3.2 Carrera offered coupe, targa, and cabriolet configurations.

1989-1993 Porsche 964 911 Targa

As Porsche 911 Targa history marched on, the full cabriolet version of the 911—first introduced in 1983—gained in popularity while sales of the Targa began to slide. With the launch of the 964, the Targa was available in both rear- and all-wheel drive, but sales still suffered. By the time the 964 left production, Porsche had built only 4,863 964-series Targas of any drivetrain configuration—out of 62,172 total 964s sold.

1996-1998 Porsche 993 911 Targa

The Targa name returned for the 1996 model year, though it signaled a major departure for the nameplate. Instead of the non-mechanical removable center roof section, the 993 Targa introduced a new “greenhouse” design that was essentially little more than a large, frameless panoramic moonroof.

Inside, occupants could power-retract the front glass panel for a semi-open experience, but it had a few downsides. The mechanical guts in the roof proved complex and prone to failure, and contributed to a higher center of gravity than that of the lighter coupe. Over broken roads, the roof creaked, and when the sun was particularly bright, the cabin would heat up far more than the fixed-roof car would.

Still, enough buyers plunked down cash for the 993 version to continue the nameplate, marking Porsche 911 Targa history with 4,619 993-series Targas sold during the three-year period.

2002-2004 Porsche 996 911 Targa

Starting with the 996.2 generation, the Targa made another comeback after a four-year absence, retaining the same sliding moonroof design as the 993 but incorporating a new glass liftback portion to allow access to the storage area behind the front seats. Mechanically, this was identical to the regular 996.2 911 Carrera, but Porsche offered it only in rear-wheel drive.

2007-2008 Porsche 997.1 911 Targa 4 and Targa 4S

At this stage of Porsche 911 Targa history, the manufacturer began to catch-on to what kind of buyer picked the Targa over a Cabriolet. For the most part, the Targa was popular in environments prone to inclement weather, seeing as it was “safer” to park your fixed-roof 993, 996, or 997 Targa outside in a snowy or wet environment than it was with a soft-top.

Thus, for the 997.1 generation, the moon-roofed Targa was offered only in all-wheel-drive Targa 4 and Targa 4S flavors. As the names suggest, the Targa 4 retained the same 3.6-liter naturally aspirated flat-six as the base Carrera, and the 4S incorporated the engine, suspension, transmission, brakes, and interior upgrades levied on the Carrera S. It wasn’t exactly a sales superstar, but the Targa 4 and 4S proved to be highly sought-after commodities in the aforementioned niche market.

2009-2012 Porsche 997.2 911 Targa 4 and Targa 4S

The 911 Targa received the same upgrades during the switchover to the 997.2 generation, including a boost in power and performance. The expansive glass roof now featured increased UV protection to prevent damage to both passengers and interior trim.

This is the point in Porsche 911 Targa history when the model re-established itself as the perfect halfway measure between a true coupe and a convertible. Porsche engineered a wildly complex power-retracting center roof piece and left the rear glass fixed in place like the Targas of yore. Beyond this fabulous roof mechanism, it’s the same Carrera 4, 4S, and 4 GTS you know and love.

2016-2019 Porsche 991.2 911 Targa 4, Targa 4S, Targa 4 GTS

Surprise, surprise—the updates made to the 991-generation 911 were superimposed onto the Targa as well. More power, more features, and upgraded aesthetics were the name of the game with the 991.2 Targa.

2021 Porsche 992 911 Targa 4 and Targa 4S

As we covered in-depth at the car’s debut, the Targa is back for the 992-generation 911. Seeing as the 992 is rather related to the 991-generation 911, it’s no surprise the incredible roof mechanism carries over. Underneath, the familiar 3.0-liter twin-turbo flat-six from the 992 Carrera 4 and Carrera 4S push out 379 hp and 443 hp, respectively.

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Porsche 911 Targa History Fast Facts

  • Born from Porsche’s paranoia about potential new safety regulations
  • From 1967 to 1982, this was the only way to get a convertible 911
  • Mechanically identical to the coupe counterparts
  • 993, 996, and 997 generations had retracting glass roofs rather than removable center sections
  • From 997 and on, only offered with all-wheel drive
  • The Targa is favored by those who live in areas with rotten weather

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