1983 Porsche 911SC Cabriolet

The 911SC Cabriolet was unveiled at the March 1982 Geneva auto show as Porsche's first factory-built convertible since the last open 356Cs of a decade before. Of course, it was also the first true Porsche 911 convertible. The Targa, despite its sunny disposition, was regarded as a coupe or semi-convertible, depending on whom you asked, because of its rollbar superstructure and take-off roof panel. As with the beloved 356s, Porsche's Reutter division built the bodies for the new 911 cabrios.

Porsche 911
Unveiled at Geneva in '82, the Cabriolet was added to the 911SC lineup for '83.

The 911 Cabriolet was part of a nascent ragtop revival that marked a surprising turn for a species that nearly died out in the 1970s. Though never strong sellers even in the best of times, convertibles began losing their old appeal in the late 1960s as buyers embraced the greater practicality, comfort, and security of closed body styles, including pillarless hardtops, sunroof models -- and, of course, the 911 Targa and its imitators.

The U.S. government sounded an apparent death knell in 1973 by proposing rollover-protection standards that might effectively ban full convertibles from the world's richest car market. Standards were enacted, but weren't nearly as tough as the industry feared. Still, the mere threat of legislation was a convenient excuse for most automakers to dump convertibles.

The Detroit Big Three abandoned them entirely after 1976. And why not? Driving top-down on a smoggy day in clogged urban traffic was hardly the romantic picture that had driven convertible sales in the old days.

Nevertheless, a good many people still wanted traditional wind-in-the-air motoring, suggested by continuing interest in a dwindling number of British roadsters and luxury tourers like the Mercedes-Benz SL.

Porsche and other automakers also took note of the convertible-conversion "aftermarket" that had sprouted to fill the gap left by the demise of factory models. After all, there must be something going on when most anyone with a hacksaw and torch could make ready money by decapitating ordinary coupes and even sedans. Something was going on, which is why Porsche and Detroit returned to the convertible market during 1982.

The Porsche 911SC Cabrio got a warm U.S. reception on its 1983-model debut despite a chilling $34,450 sticker. Though its manual soft top might seem needlessly cheap at that price, eschewing power-fold hardware kept curb weight the same as that of the SC coupe and 30 pounds less than the Targa's.

Typical of Porsche, the top had three bows, spring-loaded self-adjusting steel cables, and a concealed steel panel in front to keep things taut and snug at high speed. Porsche said that the design also afforded minimal heat loss in winter (air-conditioning was available for summer) and milder wind noise.

Road & Track was divided on operating ease, but at least the top was compact enough to allow retaining the normal back seats. A conventional fabric boot covered the roof when stowed; an available tonneau snapped in to protect the cockpit when you just couldn't bring yourself to raise the roof. The rear window was plastic, broadly wrapped for good outward vision, and could be zipped out for copious top-up ventilation.

Oddly, Porsche claimed "the aerodynamic lines of the Cabriolet made it possible to match the 140-mph top speed of the 911SC coupe." In truth, the droptop was nowhere near as slippery, topping out at 124 mph in R&T's testing.

Porsche 911
Above is a photo of the Porsche 911 coupe in 1983 SC form.

Though a Cabrio could stay with a coupe up to 60 or so, it fell back as air drag began to assert itself -- and that was with the top up. But it mattered little. Where else could a driver enjoy the combination of open-air pleasure and the Porsche 911's many virtues?

Of course, the Cabriolet had several virtues of its own. For one, it was exceptionally solid for a convertible. Consumer Guide found nary a rattle from body or top -- this in a preproduction prototype, no less. It was a tribute to the literal integrity of the Porsche 911 hull. In fact, the coupe bodyshell was so rigid that little reinforcement was needed to restore torsional stiffness lost from slicing off the roof.

The inherent soundness also testified to Zuffenhausen's painstaking workmanship. (A detachable Targa-type rollbar was optional, but added nothing to rigidity.)

Another nice thing was that the Cabrio could be driven with the top down and windows up without the nasty wind buffeting that plagued so many convertibles. Consumer Guide found this true even at modestly illegal speeds.

But the best thing was that this was an open Porsche 911, with all that implied for excitement and prestige. It also implied that the 911 was being given new emphasis in the scheme of things -- as indeed it was. A major impetus was American-born Peter Schutz, who'd approved the Cabriolet for production shortly after he replaced Dr. Ernst Fuhrmann as company chairman in 1981.

Unlike those who'd long written off the rear-engine Porsche, Schutz felt it should be "back on the front burner," as R&T reported. His reasoning was sound. Despite the sales ups-and-downs of the Porsche 928 and 924 models, the 911 was still good for a steady 9,000 units or so per year and had a vast and loyal following. Under Schutz, the 911 would continue to be upgraded, but more aggressively -- and more often. The Cabriolet was a first step. A new Carrera would be the second.

Porsche 911
The 911SC Cabriolet had a lined and padded soft top for weather protection.

Check out the complete story of Porsche cars, including these fabulous models:

Porsche 356
Porsche 911
Porsche 914
Porsche 924, 944, 968
Porsche 928 Porsche 959
Porsche Boxster Porsche Cayenne Porsche Cayman

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