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Open-top classics: 964 Targa v Cabriolet

These days the 964 is an almost universally popular generation of 911. Endeared to the hearts of many for its near-perfect blend of modernity and classic purity, most would stick a 964 in their five-car 911 garage – though that 964 would likely be a Coupe.

However, with 964 Coupe prices – particularly for the Carrera 2 – now off the scale, and in an air-cooled Porsche marketplace that’s slightly unpredictable, for anyone wishing to get behind the wheel of a 964 at a reasonable price point perhaps the Targa and Cabriolet versions of 964 are worth considering?

I admit I am with you with a preference for the Coupe. A 964 Carrera 2 Coupe is always the perfect choice, so would you really consider the two runts of the litter: a pair of Carrera 4 964s, one a Cabriolet and the other a Targa? Well, there’s only one way to find out.

Drive both across the bumpy, undulating B roads of the North Yorkshire Moors in the bitter cold of March, on a week when the UK is being battered by winter gale-force winds. Sounds perfect.

If we’re going to do this, we had better do it properly. That means no sheltering underneath the canvas; topless is the plan. It’s actually a bright,
sunny day despite the gale-force winds, and as photographer Chris says: “You won’t see the howling wind in the pictures.”

Removing the roof of both cars differs significantly. The Cabriolet is simple: sit in the driver’s seat, and push and hold the button. Wait 20 seconds or so. Done. Okay, so it’s not quite as snappy as a modern convertible Porsche, though it’s perfectly acceptable. For me, convertible cars of any make should be driven top-down whenever possible.

I always offer a disapproving frown to anyone I see driving anything with the hood up in the sunshine, so making the process as simple as possible is a vital element for me. 

The Targa is different. First off you’ll need to rummage in the glovebox for the two levers needed to release the latch above the windscreen, then faff about inserting them before swinging them through 90 degrees. That releases the front edge.

Now you have to climb out and figure out how to lift the entire roof section clear, with the catches at the front combining with two steel pins at the rear to secure the section. If you’re like me and have a giraffe-like physique, you can use your leverage and self confidence to lift it clear, a small voice in your head saying, ‘don’t drop it, don’t drop it…’. Humans with lesser leverage may need assistance.

Once you’ve lifted the top clear, what do you do with it? The stubborn male in me refuses to do the obvious thing and read the manual. After a few more moments of fiddling I discover the over-centre crank that gives the Targa section its shape and rigidity and allows the whole assembly to fold down, suitable for storage in the front luggage area. Assuming you haven’t already filled it with luggage. 

Fast and easy it is not. However, as I stand and look at the two cars, there’s no doubt in my mind which one is the better looking with the
roof configured for sunshine. The Targa is the more attractive of the two. I have always loved the rollover hoop section and, while the rear screen isn’t the classic Coupe shape, I do actually like the wrap-around curvaceousness of the one-piece rear glass.

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New Porsche Speedster takes to the ‘Ring

Porsche may have revealed its new Speedster concept ahead of its likely public debut at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, but this week the car has taken to the Nürburgring Nordschleife to complete some fast laps. As you can see from our pictures, Porsche has been taking these laps very seriously indeed, the concept car appearing to be stripped and caged with a Nomex bucket seat fitted too.

Our pictures also provide an opportunity to see the Speedster’s roof up for the first time, which takes a similar appearance to that found on the current Boxster Spyder.

Porsche’s 991 Speedster concept features a 500hp, 4.0-litre engine taken from its GT3 sibling, with a compulsory six-speed manual transmission. Its likely unveiling as a fully-fledged production version will take place at Rennsport Reunion in September.

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993 Targa: air apparent?

The sky is the colour of slate, the temperature scarcely into single figures and there’s a fine drizzle hanging in the air. This isn’t a
Targa sort of day. 
Photographer Dan and I are killing time in the Paul Stephens showroom, ogling Porsches and contemplating a third mug of tea. Dan wants the rain to stop before he can start snapping, but there’s a fully-fuelled 993 Targa outside and I’m itching to get behind the wheel. Eventually, Dan relents. “We’ll just have to work around it,” he shrugs as we climb aboard, raindrops now drumming steadily on the glass roof.

The Targa itself started life as a work-around. Porsche feared the US would outlaw full convertibles on safety grounds, so the halfway-house Targa – with its fixed roll-hoop and removable metal roof – was a means to sidestep legislation back in the 1960s. The drop-top ban never materialised, but Porsche’s Targa proved a sales success and soon became a fixture of the 911 range. It evolved gradually for almost three decades until a radical reinvention in 1996. The 993 Targa had arrived.

Nobody could accuse the 993 of being a work-around. This thoroughly modern Targa boasted a panoramic glass roof that retracted electrically behind the rear window. No longer did the driver have to remove a heavy, cumbersome Targa top and find somewhere to stow it; the 993 morphed from coupe to near-cabriolet in around 10 seconds, and at the touch of a button. The engineering was complex, but the execution brilliantly simple.

The styling, too, was a study in subtle elegance. Interestingly, the 993 Cabriolet, upon which the Targa is based, had been designed to more closely resemble the Coupe. Stylist Tony Hatter said: “I never liked the look of the early Cabriolets. The classical 911 shape is the Coupe. With the 993, we tried to get some of that form into the roof.”

This thinking also permeates the Targa; to the untrained eye, it’s almost indistinguishable from its Coupe cousin. Drag coefficient, too, is an identical 0.33. Unless you happen to be looking from above, the rear side windows – which taper to a sharp point instead of a smooth curve – are the obvious giveaway. Note also the pop-up wind deflector aft of the front screen, two-piece alloys with five concave spokes, absence of rain gutters on the roof and ‘Targa’ script on the engine lid.

‘Our’ Arena red Targa is for sale for £52,995 at the time of writing. At some point during the past two decades, its factory split-rims have been swapped for the more familiar Cup alloys and the rear badge has gone missing but, aftermarket radio aside, the car is otherwise standard. “We rarely see modified 993s,” explains Tom Wood, sales executive at Paul Stephens. “Owners tend to keep them original and simply enjoy driving them.”

The roof remains closed, but I’m already enjoying this one. The expanse of thermally insulated, UV-resistant glass overhead feels like an aircraft-style canopy. It floods the cabin with light, an effect exacerbated by the Classic grey carpets and trim (most owners opted for Midnight blue or black). In contrast to the claustrophobic 993 Cabriolet, with its huge three-quarter blind spots and plastic rear window, the Targa feels airy and accommodating. It looks better than the Cab when ‘open’, too.

For the full road test article on the Porsche 993 Targa, order your copy of Total 911 issue 163 here or download to your Apple or Android digital device. 

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