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Dramatic Arc

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A euphoric feeling, even at moderate speeds: The 911 Targa 4S rolls across the bridge from Copenhagen to Malmö in seventh gear.

The Porsche 911 Targa not only spans the gulf between coupe and convertible—it also links tradition and modernity like no other model. On the drive from Copenhagen to Malmö, the sports car and the scenery complement each other in form and style.

The scenery recalls photographs of a ballet. First comes the upward swing. Then a gentle straightaway before swooping back down again. And then a turn to the left (seen from the Danish side). Like a sequence of steps in a dance, frozen: peaceful elegance, quiet effortlessness. For a bridge, so pregnant with meaning in its symbolism, not to mention complex in its design, the Øresund Bridge between Denmark and Sweden projects an almost delicate character.

Especially in the gray early morning hours. Wispy clouds waft playfully above the sea, hugging the pylons—the first rays of sunshine reflect on the asphalt. The road is still wet from the night’s rain, and traffic is all but nonexistent. The Porsche 911 Targa 4S glides quietly over the two northbound lanes in seventh gear. The roof, naturally, is open. There’s a strong wind tugging and pushing on the Targa, but the car effortlessly keeps the lane. In the interior, there’s scarcely any wind at all, no swirling gusts of air—just the sound of the six-cylinder boxer engine and the smell of the salty sea air to delight the senses. It would be possible to go faster, if you wanted—but you want to savor the view as well.

In the end you’re just plain amazed by it all. The open roof makes it easier to gape at the four 204-meter-high pylons, from which eighty diagonal cables, arranged like the strings of a harp, descend to the high bridge. That’s the main span, which sits 57 meters above the sea and is 490 meters long. Altogether the Øresund Bridge is 7.85 kilometers long, and the complete crossing is almost 16 kilometers long. It begins on the Danish side in a 4-kilometer tunnel which leads to an artificial island called Peberholm—pepper island. That’s where the actual bridge begins.

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With an open roof, the driver enjoys the sound of the boxer engine and the fresh sea air.

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The strong wind on the bridge has no power to ruffle hairdos—the interior is a placid refuge.

The entire structure—an idea bandied about for decades but repeatedly dashed by political resistance—cost a billion euros (about US $1.2 billion). And it was built in less than five years. The start of construction was November 1995, with the opening on July 1, 2000. With the Great Belt Bridge being completed around the same time as the Øresund Bridge, the nations of Europe moved a bit closer to each other. Now all that’s missing is a connection across the Fehmarn Belt. Beneath the four-lane highway on the Øresund Bridge is the two-track railway line between Copenhagen and Malmö—but who wants to ride the train when it’s possible to do the same route behind the wheel of a 294-kW (400-hp) Porsche 911?

The Targa celebrated its premiere in September 1965 at the International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt. “The Targa is neither a convertible nor a coupe, neither a hardtop nor a sedan, but something completely new,” was the description in the press release back then. The Targa was the answer to the demands of the American Porsche dealers for an open-top version of the 911, follo-wing the great success of the convertible version of its predecessor model, the 356.

However, as the U.S. safety regulations for convertibles became ever more stringent, moving many manufacturers to strike con-vertibles from their model ranges entirely, Porsche needed a new solution. A “true” convertible was the idea from the outset; early sketches show a wide-open vehicle—making a virtue of necessity was the typically Porsche-esque response.

The wide rollover bar behind the seats was intended first as a protective shield, referencing the medieval Italian word “targa,” which stands for shield. But the name also refers to the Sicilian road race Targa Florio, where Porsche had sped to its first overall victory in 1956 and won another ten times by 1973. By removing the front roof section and (until model year 1969) the plastic rear window behind the rollover bar, you’d have enough wind in your hair to awaken that authentic convertible feeling.

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Tradition meets modernity: The rollover bar of the current Targa is silver, as in the original fifty years ago.

The Targa roof could be folded up and stowed in the trunk in no time. In any case, the Targa—dubbed the safety convertible—fulfilled the strict regulations for registration in the United States, and by the early 1970s the model made up some 40 percent of 911 sales.

The original Targa existed until 1973. Then there was the G model Targa from 1974 to 1989, including a Turbo version in the later years. The Type 964 variants (1990 to 1993) were the last models with removable roofs; the Type 993 had a large glass panoramic roof, just like the Type 996, which additionally had a hinged rear window. The Type 997 also featured the Targa with the glass roof, for the first time available exclusively with all-wheel drive—no surprise, really: after all, the Targa is an all-season car that has to get around in the winter as well. With an open top.

With its top on, the Targa is like the Coupé: quiet, confident, ready for the long haul. Without the roof, the ride is still friendly, hairdos maintain their composure, but there’s a more intense immediacy to it, it’s louder and … more natural! Then, completely open, with the windows down, as well, the experience is even more intense, lively.

When the sound of the boxer engine mixes with the sound of tractors plying the fields, the chirping of the birds, the horn of the bus driver and, in European cities, the sonorous bell-ringing of bicyclists, the smell of fresh-cut grass and old cow pies, hot asphalt and rubber—then you’ve arrived in the moment when open-air driving is at its most alluring. Moments such as climbing the mountain in the early morning hours—or this bridge between Denmark and Sweden, a span that resembles a modern ballet.

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A stop at the Skovshoved gas station north of Copenhagen, which opened in 1936: A functionalist work designed by architect Arne Jacobsen.

And indeed, it is a type of dance that the new 911 performs—a techno-ballet. The rear glass cupola rises and tilts back. Two hat-ches in the classic Targa rollover bar open and release the kinematics of the magnesium plate–reinforced fabric hood. Once folded up, its two halves are stowed behind the two rear seats. The glass roof closes again. The whole procedure takes 19 seconds, a quiet flow of motion—so fascinating, you might even forget to get into the car. So you press the button again. And again. Gas stations are a good place for such fun and games.

“Imagine meeting a childhood sweetheart again. And discovering they are now even more attractive”—Porsche’s pitch for its new Targa. Yes, it’s true—it’s not only this techno-ballet that renders onlookers speechless. It’s also just the pure spirit of the car, one of the most beautiful 911s ever. Purist and yet powerful, with finely drawn lines that coalesce to form a unified masterpiece.

The silver Targa bar makes the vertical lines even more harmonious without disturbing the horizontal ones. This element, too, resembles the Øresund Bridge—it also stretches, tranquil, into the distance, but the eye rests on the magnificent pylons. They are the focal point, everything is about them, and yet they don’t disturb the observer—everything comes together in motion.

Last year after a concert in Malmö, the band Manic Street Preachers was crossing the Øresund Bridge to Copenhagen. In the middle of the bridge, bassist Nicky Wire, who also writes lyrics for the Welsh band, decided that he couldn’t go on, didn’t want to—that he had to separate from the band. It was a curious place to entertain such thoughts; bridges, after all, are more than just architectural structures. Symbolically, they also stand for a positive sense of connection. Nicky Wire wrote a song about the experience: “Walk Me to the Bridge,” released last year on the new album Futurology. For, after crossing the bridge, he decided to stick with the Manic Street Preachers, after all.

By Peter Ruch
Photos by Steffen Jahn

911 Targa 4 GTS

At Porsche, the designation GTS stands for more power, greater driving dynamics, and a more striking design. As the fifth model variant of the 911 with this version, the 911 Targa 4 GTS celebrated its world premiere at the Detroit Auto Show in January.