What is a Targa Top on a Car?

Christian Wardlaw | Sep 29, 2021

A targa top on a car or SUV is a removable roof panel over the front seats that opens the vehicle to the outside air and surroundings. However, behind the seats, the vehicle’s roof structure—and often its rear window glass—remains in place. Think of the result as a half coupe, half convertible, and you’ll get the idea.

Porsche Owns “Targa,” But Wasn’t First

2021 Porsche 911 Targa Top View

Porsche owns the trademark for “Targa” but was not the first automaker to introduce the design. According to Wikipedia, a limited-production Fiat designed by Giovanni Michelotti was first to use a targa top in 1957. A second Michelotti design, made by Triumph, also had the roof in 1961, and Toyota offered one in 1965.

For the 1967 model year, Porsche debuted the 911 Targa, and the model has come and gone over the sports car’s lifespan. When people think of a targa top, the 911 naturally springs to mind. Today, the modern Porsche 911 Targa 4 lives above the Carrera 4S and below the Carrera GTS in the automaker’s extensive 911 lineup. The price starts at $121,300.

With the Porsche, the curved rear window glass and a portion of the car’s bodywork powers up and back to make way for the roof panel. Once the rear window is clear, the roof panel powers over the targa bar and stows behind the 911’s tiny back seat. The rear window then powers back into place over the roof panel.

Mazda Offers a Targa-Style Top for the Miata

A more affordable alternative to the 911 Targa is the Mazda MX-5 Miata RF. The RF stands for retractable fastback. Prices for the Mazda start at $33,045.

2021 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Polymetal Gray Rear Side View

Roof storage with this model is similar to the Porsche 911. However, with the Miata RF, there isn’t an exposed targa bar. Instead, the bodywork creating the car’s fastback appearance raises, the panel over the seats separates into two pieces and stows behind them, and then the bodywork powers back into place. Drivers can choose to keep the vertical rear window up or power it down for greater airflow through the cabin.

Three other models offer removable roof panels over the front seats: the Ford BroncoJeep Gladiator, and Jeep Wrangler. When equipped with their optional hardtops, owners can remove panels over the front seats to let the sun shine in without removing the rest of the roof. However, these are not targa tops because you can remove the entire roof.

Targa Tops and T-tops are Not the Same

Also, breaker 1-9 for the Bandit; do not confuse a targa top with a T-top. If you’ve ever watched the movie “Smokey and the Bandit,” you’ve seen a T-top on the famous black Trans Am driven by lead actor Burt Reynolds. It looks like a targa top, but the bodywork running from the windshield to the rear window makes it a T-top. Because, you know, when you look down at the car from an aerial point of view, the windshield header and sheet metal separating the two individual panels over the front seats looks like a “T.”

It could also be that The American Sports Car Company (TASCO) was first to use the design in 1948.

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