Finding The Stylish Side Of Safety Regulations With A Soft-Window Porsche 912 Targa
Photography by Virgiliu Andone
When the flowers finally start to bloom under the tentative spring, Britain leans into the new season with the kind of zeal that can only be produced by a long and dreary winter. In my case, I took a bit of inspiration from the garden and unzipped the rear window of this joyful little Porsche. Little, as it’s a nimble 912, with its 4 pot boxer directly descending from the 356. Joyful, as it’s a bright orange Targa. This car is purpose built for sunny spring days.
The Targa line officially came into existence in 1966 as a reaction to the threat of upcoming American legislation that was expected to ban cabriolets outright, on the grounds of poor safety reports. Porsche solved the problem in typical German fashion by engineering a large piece of shiny metal. Functionally, the Targa’s now-iconic hoop behind the passengers added the protection of a roll bar while still allowing for a removable roof, if not a fully retractable one. A little over a year later, the architecturally beautiful glass rear window became an option for Targa models, but the early cars came with a removable plastic section, hence these cars often being referred to as soft-window Targas.
The polished exterior of the crossmember integrates smoothly with the often brightly colored bodywork of this era Porsche, subtly complementing the assortment of brightwork that adorns the first generation cars. There is a certain delicacy about the original design lacking in its successors, slowly but noticeably departing from the Porsche design language as performance targets dictated wider tires and tracks alongside an increasing influence from the world of motorsport that was at odds with such styling frills. This was a very understandable shift, given the string of motorsport achievements that created the awesome legacy of Porsche in racing that we all know today.
These early 911s and 912s are also some of the last cars from the brand that preserve traces of naivety, or some kind of innocence—whatever you call it, it manifested in more charming, more approachable, and in many ways more lovable machines. Their looks promise a lot of fun is to be had behind the wheel, but they do not articulate the same sense of coldly engineered competence and intimidating precision that has crept into the designs ever since.
A fruit snack colored 912 is just plain friendly, and especially so in contrast to its more serious and more stereotypically Teutonic relatives. And if that 912 also happens to be a soft-window Targa, its DNA seems to have borrowed more than just the name from its Italian connection. There is a bit of Sicilian zest in this car, not so much related to the madness of the original Targa Florio road races, but more so the carefree attitude of the race’s bystanders. their open hearts and unfiltered energy that made them famous all around the world. Distill just some of that into car form and you might get something like this 912.
For this story, I visited the headquarters of British Porsche specialists Rindt Vehicle Design, a company that takes their love for the brand further than most of the world’s many Porsche specialists. With a catalog of extensive restorations behind them, as well as their trademark restomods, Rindt does all of its work in-house, from its bodyshop to its engine room, teeming with four and six-cylinder hearts in various states of tune.
While there are many car to be found here that have more power and prestige, I was struck by the abnormal amount of soft-window Targas. So, being the nice hosts that they are, the guys at Rindt took one of them out so we could stretch its legs in the scenic countryside surrounding the compound. The choice was this matching numbers 912, fresh out of a recent restoration, including tracking down and swapping in the period correct door cards—a much more tedious job than you would think, as these were only produced for one year only and are notoriously hard to source more than half a century later.
Orange is the color of choice of Brian Richardson, the founder of Rindt Vehicle Design, and this 1968 example wears its Blood Orange paintwork very well, the hue in its absolute element surrounded by the fresh May hues of new life, under the bright sun filtered and textured by stretching trees above. Looking at the clouds that surround us, it’s easy to think that we’d found ourselves in the eye of a storm, about to be engulfed by a wall of wind and wet; in other words, a typical day in May out here. And predictably so, all hell broke loose from the heavens just moments after we made our way back inside.
The downpour sounded like a truckload of nails coming down on the roof, only for the rain to leave as quickly as it’d come, the sun providing us with a much welcomed encore in its stead. It made us reflect again on the nature of the Targa. That defining hoop of metal came into existence for the “just in case” accidents, just in case the concept of a full convertible became an illegal one in one of Porsche’s most important markets. In other words, that bar is a multifunctional precaution that also became a statement of almost pure style.