CLASSIC DRIVE: Porsche 911S Targa

Porsche 911S Targa

What does an original Targa offer more than 50 years after its introduction? We headed to Johannesburg to sample a young enthusiast’s example.

Words: Wilhelm Lutjeharms 

Pictures: Rob Till

It is interesting how the perception of a car can increase or decrease its value. Over the past few decades, few enthusiasts have really sat up and taken note when Porsche revealed its latest Targa variants, be it the 964, 993, 996 or even the 997. 

Modern Targa’s design harks back to the days of the original Targa with the thick and shiny roll-over bar. Porsche has started to execute some retro designs only over the past few years. The latest being exterior and interior trim levels and wheel designs. These thoughts were going through my head as I met up with the kind owner of this 1968 911S Targa.

Porsche 911S

This ’68 example has the front foglamps which pull your focus to the low stance of the car. I walked towards the rear of the car and immediately noticed the gold “Porsche” and “911S” badging, a perfect contrast to the silver exterior of this early Targa.

Roof off

On a near-perfect sunny day outside Johannesburg, the first thing we did was take the top down. The owner has two different tops for the car. The original unit is the sturdy vinyl fold-up roof, while the non-standard roof is a one-piece unit. Both these removable roofs can fit, one at a time, in the front luggage compartment. Having said that, the owner uses them rarely and rather takes the car out on a sunny day and leaves both roofs at home.

Porsche 911 Targa

The owner bought the Targa 18 years ago when he was 22. The car is mechanically sound but the usual suspects demanded attention. These included the rubbers, seats and paintwork. He went out of his way to get quality materials, and even travelled to RUF in Germany to source the chequered cloth for the seats. While he was there, they took him out in one of their tuned cars with a test driver behind the wheel! 

The classic Fuchs wheels were refurbished and they now look like new, especially since these are also silver, in tune with the car’s exterior colour.

Porsche 911 Targa

A very short piece of road close to Krugersdorp was the perfect place to get acquainted with this Targa. It has been used in the past for the Krugersdorp Hill Climb; contenders included the local Porsche clubs. Although the quality of the tarmac is not perfect (actually no worse than a Swiss mountain pass), the short straights are connected by three tight hairpins. 

The proportions of this short wheelbase model still look spot on, even after 54 years. As cars (including the 911) have grown with each respective generation, the compact nature of these early 911s is truly inviting. 

Porsche 911 Targa

The engine lid runs perfectly parallel towards the rear window. The significant glass window curves downwards and meets the rear wings – a design element unique to the Targa. At the front, just behind the A-pillars is a small window which can be opened from the inside. It is the perfect solution for this car as it doesn’t have air conditioning. Position it in the correct way, and it channels air perfectly to the inside of the cabin. 

Behind the wheel

Unlike the later 911s, you simply press the button pointing outwards to open the door. You have to first slide your right leg into the footwell before you position yourself on the seat. Do it the wrong way round, by sitting down first, and you won’t be able to move your right leg in under the wooden steering wheel. The taller you are, the more religiously you need to follow this manoeuvre.

Porsche 911 Targa

The softness of the seat surprised me; you sit lower than I originally thought when I first investigated the cabin. And you have to adjust the seat belt manually. This can take a few moments, but once it is done, you need to fiddle with it again. To the left of the steering wheel is the ignition slot as well as the organ stop for the headlights. To the right are the other stops for the heater, fog lamps, emergency lights and the fan. 

Porsche 911S

The handbrake is situated between the seats, while a small lever to the left manages the engine’s idle speed – a perfect solution while manoeuvring the car at low speeds for photography or to get the engine warmed up on a cold day.

Turn the key and the engine starts with a little help from the throttle. There is no doubt that it’s a flat six, and from the sound of the engine and exhaust, you would think that it has a larger capacity than the humble 2.0-litre engine.

Porsche 911S

If you are used to driving old 911s, the heavy steering feel wouldn’t bother you. If not, the wood steering wheel is so large that it gives you enough leverage to turn the wheel even while parking.

Engaging the dog-leg first gear with the 901 gearbox adjusts your mindset like few other sports cars. The lever needs a simple push to the left, and then down. Should the road be twisty, you won’t need to go back to first gear. After a few slow runs I began to push the engine further up the rev range.

Porsche 911 Targa

Each time I was astonished at how effortlessly the engine revs. Did I expect anything else? Probably not. However, as this was the first 2.0-litre 911 engine I have experienced, I somehow expected the engine to feel lazier. It doesn’t have that strong top end of the later 2.2 S, but whereas the 2.2’s sweet spot arrives after 5 000rpm, the 2.0-litre comes in at around  4 000rpm. It is not happy below 2 000 rpm though, but once you have passed that mark, it picks up. At 4 000rpm, the engine and exhaust deepen to a more inviting soundtrack. Happily, you still have over 2 000rpm to enjoy before your left foot descends to the clutch. 

Porsche 911 Targa

The car feels surprisingly light, and you can tackle corners with a healthy dose of enthusiasm. Turn in sharper than you thought necessary, and the car responds well with some body lean, but less than you would expect from such an old car. Since there is not enough power to lose any real traction, you soon realise that you can get back on the power as early as possible. Keep the revs high as you exit the corner, and you get a sense of how the small tyres push you out of the corner, especially on the outside. After a few times up and down this twisty road, I began to wonder why some enthusiasts still disregard Targas. I was one of them, but this experience has proven me wrong.

Porsche 911 Targa

Since you are seated low in the cabin, the top of the windscreen and the roll-over bar are surprisingly high above your head. Even at 100 or 110 km/h, there is little wind buffeting in the cabin. Any breeze that does enter the cabin, through the open top or the small side windows, is just enough to remind you that you are not driving a fixed-roof coupé. We were still able to continue a conversation. The complicated roof might put some potential buyers off; if it doesn’t work correctly, it will lead to a lot of wind noise and leaks are almost guaranteed. But in fair weather, it ticks all the right boxes. 

Porsche 911 Targa

This model is currently used every single week and has won time trails in its class at local Porsche club events. “For a Sunday car, I think the Targa offers a more rounded package than a coupé,” says the owner. After just five hours with the car on the highway, on an historical hill climb and in the passenger seat, I have to agree. “When I get back from a holiday, the first thing I do is jump in the car and take it for a drive,” he adds.

Porsche 911 Targa

The slightly softer chassis doesn’t really affect the driving experience, except if you start to push the car to 9 or 10 tenths. Bear in mind that only 925 of these 911S Targas were built, which makes it rather sought after, although not as sought after (yet) as the coupé models of the same era. The 911 Coupé is a car to be enjoyed by its owner, on specific roads on specific days. But if you have to take a passenger along, a Targa will put a smile on both your faces. 


1968 Porsche 911S Targa 

Engine: 2.0-litre, flat-six cylinder

Power: 119 kW @ 6 800 rpm

Torque: 180 Nm @ 5 200 rpm

Transmission: 5-speed manual, RWD

Weight: 1 075 kg

0-100 km/h: 7.9 seconds

Top speed: 225 km/h 

As a bonus, have a look at this video where our very own Hannes Oosthuizen gets to drive the latest Porsche 911 Targa Edition 50 Years Porsche Design. 

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