15 Memorable Yet Forgotten Targa-Top Cars to Enjoy
Porsche has a stranglehold on the Targa name, but there are plenty of other interesting cars with targa tops.
The introduction of the new 2021 Porsche 911 Targa got us thinking about other targa-top cars. Technically, they can't be called targas, since Porsche owns the term as a trademark. But there are plenty of vehicles that use what is widely called the targa top, with the rear window-frame fixed in place and a removable roof panel above the passenger compartment. Here are 15 cars with targa tops you might have forgotten about—or might not have known about at all.
The first-generation Acura NSX was a car for the ages—an affordable supercar from the manufacturer least likely to produce something so extravagant. Even today, 30 years after its introduction, the original NSX is still a shockingly good car to drive. The year 1995 saw the introduction of the NSX-T version, with a 19-pound aluminum lid that could be removed and stored between the engine compartment and the backlight. Acura never did say what the "T" stood for, since the "Targa" name was (and is) a trademark owned by Porsche, but we all knew. To this day, it remains one of our favorite targas. Now if only Acura would take the roof off the new one …
AMC Concord/Eagle Sundancer
By the early 1980s, American Motors was doing everything it could to mask its dearth of new product, primarily by dressing up the 1970-vintage Hornet in new and innovative ways—including as a convertible. The Hornet's unibody construction relied on the roof for rigidity, so when AMC contracted with Florida-based Jack Griffith to build an open car, he used a targa top. Griffith cut the roof off at the top of the pillars, welded in a heavy steel-tube frame, and covered the structure with fiberglass panels. The roof's center piece was removable, while the rear section folded down, convertible-style. The Sundancer treatment was available on both the two-wheel-drive Concord and four-wheel-drive Eagle, but with prices starting at $10,500—$4,500 more than a basic Concord—the Sundancer found only about 200 takers in the 1981 and 1982 model years.
Bentley Continental SC
When we mention open-top Bentleys, you probably think of the brand's convertibles, but the British company's hundred-year history has so far yielded one targa-top car. The Continental SC (Sedanca Coupe) was based on the Continental T, and it made its debut at the 1998 Paris Auto Show with a U.S.-market price of $319,000. The SC featured two glass panels above the driver and passenger that could be removed and stored in the trunk, leaving an interrupted swath of sky above. In order to make up for lost rigidity, the Sedanca Coupe received the same chassis reinforcements as the Azure convertible. Bentley built just 73 Continental SCs: five in 1998, 64 in 1999, and the remaining four in 2000.
We tend to think of Corvettes as either coupes or convertibles, but the targa top has been a Corvette staple for more than 35 years of its history. Early concepts for the C3 Corvette (1968-82) had a targa top, but the bodies flexed too much, so Chevrolet fitted a center bar to the production car and invented the T-top. The C4 Corvette of 1984 switched from a traditional ladder frame to a unitized body, allowing the use of a proper targa top. While there have been some fixed-roof variants, the Corvette has been available with a targa top ever since then, right up to and including today's C8 Corvette.
When Dodge announced the Viper way back in 1991, there was much excitement about its massive V-10 engine, lack of door handles, airbags, and electro-nannies, and its over-arching badass-ness. But few people appreciated one of its finest felicities: it had a targa top. Truth be told, with a canvas top and zip-on windows, the Viper was never meant to be driven with a top at all. When the second-gen Viper appeared in 1996, it was available in coupe and convertible body styles, and the targa was no more.
Ferrari Dino 246 GTS Spyder
Ferrari launched Dino in the late 1960s as a sort of low-cost exotic sub-brand. The first Dino production car was the 1967 206 GT, a beautiful coupe graced with perfect Scaglietti-sculpted sports-car lines. With its flying-buttress rear treatment, it begged for a targa top—and it got one in 1969 when its larger-engine successor, the steel-bodied 246 GTS, came to town. A removable fiberglass top was the perfect way to enjoy the 2.4-liter V-6's delicious scream, and flattening (or removing) the roof visually lowered the car slightly and emphasized the sinewy lines of its fenders and doors. Is there a more beautiful targa-top car on this list? We don't think so.
Back in the 1970s, the Fiat X1/9 seemed like a good idea—an affordable Italian mid-engine exotic, sort of like a Lamborghini without the off-the-charts price tag. The X1/9's sharply-creased styling and targa top differentiated it from old-school British roadsters, and though it wasn't quick, it was huge fun to drive—when it worked, that is. Unfortunately, like most Fiats, the X1/9 was built poorly, and it was unreliable and prone to rapid rust. As a result, today there aren't many of these lovely little sportsters around.
Honda Del Sol
Honda's 1993 replacement for the legendary CRX never got the respect it deserved. True, the CRX was a hard act to follow, but the Del Sol held a couple of advantages over its revered predecessor, including a removable roof and a retractable rear window. At the time, critics chided it for not being a proper convertible—remember that the Miata was still in its first generation, and it made the Del Sol seem like a cheaply engineered wannabe. A very un-Honda-like trait of leaky targa-top roofs certainly didn't help the Del Sol's position much, and it wasn't until the CRX became a scarce classic that the Del Sol began to garner appreciation from collectors.
Technically, Jaguar's first attempt at turning the beautiful XJ coupe into an open-top car was almost a targa top. It had what appeared to be a convertible roof, with a fabric panel over the cabin, and a soft rear roof and window that folded down. The framework over the doors, between the windshield and the B-pillar, remained in place, which technically means this isn't a targa top, but it's bizarre enough that we decided to include it here. The XJ-SC wasn't popular with buyers, and after five years of limited sales, Jaguar replaced it with a proper convertible in 1988. You'd think an unusual car like this would garner collector interest, but surprisingly, they still sell pretty cheap.
You could argue the Lotus Elise is, so far, the last true Lotus, one designed per Colin Chapman's ethos of paring cars down to the bare minimum in order to save weight. (We'll wait for the hate mail from Exige owners.) The Elise's aluminum-tub chassis holds strong with no need for a top, so Lotus built the Elise as a targa top. Removing the roof does more than give you a wind-in-the-hair experience: It shaves 20 pounds or so from the Elise's weight, and isn't that what Chapman would have wanted?
Mazda MX-5 RF
The retractable hard-top feature has always been part of the Miata lineup, but in 2017 Mazda gave us something different: Rather than swap the fabric roof for one made of metal, Mazda created a beautiful coupe with flying-buttress roof pillars. When you folded the top away, the pillars remained in place, making the MX-5 RF a targa top. We at Automobile can (and will) argue for hours about whether a Miata is a Miata without a true convertible roof, but regardless of individual opinions, we are unified in our stance that the RF looks great, top up or top down.
The Pontiac Solstice was, in its own way, a mini-Corvette wannabe—and just like the Corvette, it offered a targa top, at least in its last two years. The Solstice has a removable roof panel, a plastic skin over a magnesium frame. Unlike the Corvette, the hard top didn't fit anywhere in the car, so owners had to carry a separate soft top in case of a sudden downpour. Styling wasn't really a high point; from the side, these cars look rather like the top was removed with Photoshop. But that was hardly the least-pleasant thing about the Solstice, which was far from a wonderful car.
The Porsche 914 was the sensible alternative to the aforementioned Fiat X1/9: It lacked the sexy Italian styling, but it was built with robust Volkswagen mechanical bits. Though it was awkward to look at, the roomy cabin with its removable targa top made for a great open-air driving experience. It's a matter of personal taste whether you find it surprising or unsurprising the 914 needed many years to garner appreciation, and only in recent years has it earned status as a desirable classic.
Smart ForTwo Cabrio
Smart billed the ForTwo Cabrio as a convertible; really, like the Fiat 500C, the power-folding fabric top was more like an oversized sunroof. But once the roof was open, the frame rails between the A- and B-pillars could be removed and stored in the trunk lid, and voila! Your Smart car was now a Smart targa top. Having the sun on your face and the wind in your hair did little to alleviate the misery inherent in driving a Smart car, but hey, a targa is a targa is a targa, right?
Toyota Supra Sport Roof
The classic Toyota Supra is known for many things; being available with a targa top is generally not one of them. Toyota first lopped off the roof panel from the third-generation A70 Supra, starting with the 1987 model year. When the A80 Supra arrived for 1993, the targa Sport Roof model returned. Today's newly reintroduced Supra is basically a rebadged BMW Z4, with the Toyota sold as a coupe and the BMW as a convertible so as to avoid direct competition. With that in mind, perhaps the idea of a modern-day targa-top Supra Sport Roof isn't so far-fetched. Come on, Toyota—if you build it, we will come.
- Acura NSX-T
- AMC Concord/Eagle Sundancer
- Bentley Continental SC
- Chevrolet Corvette
- Dodge Viper
- Ferrari Dino 246 GTS Spyder
- Fiat X1/9
- Honda Del Sol
- Jaguar XJ-SC
- Lotus Elise
- Mazda MX-5 RF
- Pontiac Solstice
- Porsche 911 Targa
- Porsche 914
- Smart ForTwo Cabrio
- Toyota Supra Sport Roof