T Top cars have been around since the 1940s. They were originally designed to offer a convertible-like experience in various vehicles without the costly and time-consuming process of removing the entire roof. Even today, t tops are still popular, and for a good reason. Today we share some of the best T Top cars to own – ones that rise above the rest.
With more than a sunroof, but less than a soft top, Targa top cars walk a thin line between a coupé and a convertible body style.
In short, targa tops are removable roof panels. The Targa roof is constructed in a way that does not require the same extent of body and chassis structural rigidity otherwise mandatory for keeping roofless cars from falling apart, thus providing a similar open-air feel with mild effects of added weight and compromised overall performance.
In addition to being a better engineering solution for open top cars, targa tops became a car design necessity. Due to growing safety concerns exploding in the late sixties, no significant companies developed convertibles as their future was uncertain and bound to be written off due to inadequate rollover protection. So, to still offer an open-top experience, automakers resorted to targa tops where the rear glass housing acted as structural protection in case a car finds its way wheels up.
Now, while there aren’t many targa tops on sale today, the historic and collector car market offers plenty of options.
To find ten best second-hand T Top cars you can buy right now, we decided to focus on attainable and usable classic, so don’t be surprised not to find a Porsche Carrera GT, 918 Spyder, Bentley Continental SC, Ferrari F50, LaFerrari Aperta, or Maserati MC12, just to name a few rare, otherwise elusive and seven-figure examples.
Our list of the 10 best T Top cars are:
- Porsche 911 Targa
- Acura NSX-T
- Lotus Elise
- Pontiac Firebird
- Chevrolet Corvette C3-C8
- Triumph TR4
- Ferrari 308 GTS
- Fiat X1/9
- Toyota MR2
- Mazda MX-5 RF
Here’s a look at the top 10 T Top cars:
1. Porsche 911 Targa
Porsche 911 is the only car to actually bear the Targa name, hence its first place on our T Top cars list. In 1965, Porsche conceived this body style to meet safety regulations of the era, naming it after the Targa Florio, a Sicilian public road event where Porsche scored considerable success with its lightweight sports cars, namely the 550, 718 and 904.
Porsche offered the 911 as a Targa throughout many variations, starting from the G Series all the way to the current 992 generation. First, the Targa was a removable hardtop, only to be reinvented as a sliding glass roof panel on 993, 996, and 997 models. Then, starting from 991, the 911 Targa became a modern interpretation of the classic car design.
That being said, it’s up to you, your budget and preferences which one you choose. Do you want a classic air-cooled 911 or four-cylinder 912, or do you prefer one of two modern variations? Tell us what’s your perfect 911 T Top car in the comment box below!
2. Acura NSX-T
Midway into production, Honda introduced an open top version in 1995, naming it the NSX-T and making it a bit softer compared to its hardtop counterpart.
That might disappoint those looking for an undiluted NSX driving experience, especially given the fact that the NSX-T became the only variant available on the North American market. However, even with a bit more weight and re-engineered internals, the NSX-T is a staple Japanese sportscar and a sound investment opportunity.
3. Lotus Elise
When it comes to cars clad in actual bodywork, there’s hardly any providing an open-wheel feel better than the featherweight Lotus Elise.
Its minimalist interior is distraction-free, its seats will grip you tightly in the bands, but what’s really amazing about the Elise is its chassis stiffness and surgically precise handling. Further enhancing the feeling of a race car, the nimble little Lotus was exclusively offered with a removable top.
Depending on the generation and the variant, the Lotus Elise has either a soft canvas or a hard fiberglass top, but what’s common for all of them is that you had to leave it home should you decide to go for a roofless drive.
Given that the Elise has been in production from 1996 to the present day, there’s plenty of variants to choose from, so when picking the best one for yourself, it all comes down to the budget and how much horsepower you think is enough to have proper fun.
4. Pontiac Firebird
While the late 2nd generation Pontiac Firebird might lack in the performance department compared to virtually every other car on the list, it more than makes up with its all-American charms and pop culture credentials.
Of course, we’re talking about a very particular F-Body Firebird, the black and gold 1977 Firebird Trans-Am Special Edition, better known as The Bandit.
The T-Top wasn’t limited to this edition too, debuting in 1976 on the 50th Anniversary Trans Am which still used single headlight design and staying as an optional extra through 1981.
First developed by Hurst, the design was later finalized by GM and had two removable panels with a fixed bar in the middle. The third generation Firebird Fiero got a T-Top only in 1988 and with a compromise in performance, so we’re staying with the iconic 1977-1981 Firebird as our pick.
5. Chevrolet Corvette C3-C8
The 1968 Chevrolet corvette coupe (C3 generation) was the first US production vehicle to incorporate a t top roof, and it has stayed there to this day.
In fact, the C4 generation was built exclusively as a T top car until the convertible joined the lineup in 1986. The following two Corvettes, the C5 and the C6 had a targa top as one of three roof options alongside a hardtop coupé and a convertible, whereas the C7 was again a T-top. Finally, the latest and the first mid-engined C8 Corvette is also a targa by default.
So, all of this begs a question, which is the best buy? Honestly, it all depends on what you’re looking for in a car. Less exciting variants of the C4, C5 and C6 Corvette are budget-friendly options, as well as some C3 ones from the malaise years, but as your budget increases, a low mileage C4 ZR1 is a safe bet for an investment that’s also a fabulous driver’s car.
Finally, there’s also the C6 ZR1, perhaps the best second-hand Corvette you could get to enjoy and store value. Which one is your favorite T-Top American sweetheart?
6. Triumph TR4
The now-defunct Triumph brand gained popularity for its Italian-designed roadsters from the TR and Spitfire series, but it produced targa tops as well.
In this segment, Triumph is mostly remembered for the Stag, designed as the Spitfire’s big, V8-powered sibling, but the first Triumph T-Top actually preceded our number one pick on the list.
Truth be told, the Triumph TR4 wasn’t a typical t top car in the sense that the rear glass housing wasn’t a structural element of the bodywork, but a bolt-on removable panel, while the canvas roof panel was dubbed Surrey Top.
The TR4 was produced from 1961, four years earlier than the 911 Targa, but Giovanni Michelotti’s design was overshadowed by the iconic Porsche. Still, that doesn’t mean the TR4 isn’t worthy of your attention. On the contrary, it is a charming and well-drivable piece of British motoring history.
7. Ferrari 308 GTS
The world of T Top cars from Maranello offers a lot of options to choose from and in all price ranges, like the 246 Dino classic car, the 1990s icon F355 GTS to the exotic glass panel top 575M Superamerica, but this time our vote goes to the 308 GTS.
Powered by the venerable Dino V8, the 308 engine produced 240 horsepower in carbureted and 32-valve Quattrovalvole variants and mere 200 ponies as a 308 GTSi. Power figures aside, nothing really beats the 308’s pop-cultural appeal, courtesy of Magnum PI among others.
Prices of these legendary cars have witnessed a surge in recent years and today, you can find them in the neighborhood of $70,000.
8. Fiat X1/9
Fiat 124 Spider was available from the 1960s to 1989 and unlike many other Fiats, it achieved considerable success in North America, so it’s no wonder this Bertone-designed two-seater wedge is often forgotten. But, the X1/9 is a nimble, lovable, and above all affordable sports car, so you should be eyeing to get one and see why.
Originally sporting a transversely mid-mounted 1.3-liter 63 horsepower inline-four powering the rear wheels, the X1/9 later got a bump to 1.5-liter and direct fuel injection, resulting in 75 horsepower.
These numbers might seem humble to say the least, but the X1/9 provides an immersive experience nonetheless. Perhaps the best of all, this little T Top car was designed by Marcello Gandini and while it isn’t his most famous work, it’s enough for the X1/9 to become an integral part of Fiat’s sports car history.
9. Toyota MR2
The original W10 Toyota MR2 is another compact, cool and fun mid-engined wedge T Top car. This sweet little JDM coupe took the automotive world by storm in 1985 and today, it’s still worthy of every bit of praise it garnered back then.
Initially powered by a 112 horsepower 1.6-liter transversely mounted inline-four, the MR2 was built with handling in mind, so Toyota enlisted Lotus for some expertise in that department.
To max out on both the driving sensation and value, you should go for a 145-horsepower factory supercharged 4A-GZE-powered variant in stock condition.
10. Mazda MX-5 RF
The car that reinvented the roadster and kept it alive well into the 21st century has its targa top variant as well, dubbed Mazda MX-5 RF.
The initials stand for ‘retractable fastback’ and this roof mechanism functions just like the modern 911 Targa – the rear section lifts to house the roof panel and it all happens with just a press of a button.
Contrary to a majority of T Top cars, the MX-5 RF isn’t an alternative derived from a coupé body style, but a solution to make a classic roadster more user-friendly, which makes it a unique market offering.
Mazda MX-5 RF can be bought straight from the showroom, but second-hand examples are a viable alternatives too given that it has been on the market since 2017.
Are there any T Top cars that should be included in our top 10? Comment below.