Photograph by Paul del Rosario
Drive Cars and Bikes

A fan of the original 911 Targa talks about the car’s enduring charm.

“It’s not so fast, but it’s the sensation of the rear-wheel drive. You can hear the engine, smell the gas; it talks to you," says Gabby Valdez who owns a 1971 Porsche 911 E “soft-top” Targa
Iñigo S. Roces | Apr 16 2019

“The Targa is popular because of the romance of the sunshine,” begins Gabby Valdez, a Porsche owner and one of the founding members of the Porsche Club of the Philippines.

His 1971 Porsche 911 E “soft-top” Targa is one of only a handful in the country and, thanks in part to the return of the Targa bar in the (type 991) 911 Targa, is fast becoming a collectible.

The softtop Targa was conceived to provide the joys of a convertible with the safety of a coupe.

Distinguished from a convertible by the distinctive targa or broad wrapover band, Targas served as a half step between a coupe and a full convertible. Though, these days, their rear windows are normally fixed, targas were first available with retractable rear windows. The curious cars were at one point thought to be the future of convertibles.

By the late 1960s, scarred by Ralph Nader’s exposé on the severe lack of safety features in American automobiles detailed in the book Unsafe at Any Speed, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began mulling over the safety of convertibles.

 

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Porsche, having a significant market in US particularly for its convertibles, feared the worst and went ahead designing a “stop gap” 911 model with a roll bar—cleverly designed and disguised to offer better occupant safety.

The vehicle would be named Targa, after the Targa Florio sports car road race in Sicily, Italy, where Porsche had notable success. Incidentally, “Targa” means “plate” or “shield” in Italian and subtly hinted at the vehicle’s new safety feature.

The vehicle was equipped with a removable roof panel and a removable plastic rear window (a fixed glass version would be offered in 1968, following complaints of the soft-top’s stiffness in cold weather).

The convertible ban never came to fruition but the Targa continued to gain popularity. Porsche worked quickly to trademark the Targa name as other makes would soon follow with their own Targa-inspired models.

The rear panel is secured against the rear seats and covered with an optional tonneau cover.

“I started building this car in 1990-92. I didn’t think it was going to be collectible. It’s just a personal liking and what was available at the time,” Valdez recalls.

“I’ve tried all the Porsches but I still like the (first generation) 911. In the new car, there’s nothing to tell what’s wrong but gauges,” he stresses.

“It’s not so fast, but it’s the sensation of the rear-wheel drive. You can hear the engine, smell the gas; it talks to you. You know what’s wrong with your car.”

Click on the arrows for slideshow

A groved chrome roof guard helps secure the soft-top. 

The Targa bar provided a safety cell for driver and passenger in the event of a roll-over. 

Side-mirrors were only equipped on the driver’s side. 

Gulf blue was once considered a daring color option for the very conservative Porsche brand. 

(L-R) Trunk release hidden behind the driver-side door, Steel pipes precisely delivered fuel to each cylinder. 

Mechanical injection air-cooled engine with original warning decals in German. 

Five-spoke Fuchs wheels were a 911 trademark. 

Fog lamps were optional extras. 

 

Photographs by Paul del Rosario

This story first appeared on Vault Magazine Issue 15 No 3 2014.