Chevrolet Corvettes have had targa-style roofs since the third-generation C3 model of the late 1960s and early 1970s, so pulling one of the panels off and stashing it in the trunk is old hat for the faithful. In fact, for fourth- through-seventh-generation Corvettes, the targa top removal procedure has remained pretty much unchanged as the chassis design and interior layout have effectively remained functionally the same. The eighth-generation Chevrolet Corvette is a different story, though, because now the detached roof has to fit around the new mid-engine layout.
One of the great side benefits of the C4, C5, C6, and C7-generation (in Corvette-speak) was that they were effectively little pickup trucks. Pop the rear hatch, and you had this big, square cargo area behind the seats that could hold a ton of luggage. Storing the targa top was as simple as laying it on the perches in that cargo box, pushing it down to engage the spring-loaded latches, and closing the hatch.
Obviously, putting the engine of the C8 Corvette where the trunk used to be has upended the procedure. In fact, the desire to not only have a trunk behind the engine—which many mid-engine supercars do not—and make that trunk big enough to hold the targa top is the reason the C8 has such a big rear end. Just looking at it, you can clearly see the roof won’t lie down flat back there like it used to.
How to Remove the Corvette’s Roof
On new Corvettes, like our long-term test car, the top has to be inserted trailing-edge-down into the trunk with the leading edge pointing up at the sky. It doesn’t sit straight up and down; rather, it leans forward against the wall between the trunk and engine. The trunk opening is only a little wider than the roof, so you need to take your time and lower it in carefully, so you don’t bang up the paint. You also need to make sure the top is lined up correctly on its little perches so it will latch in place. The perches are hard to see and easy to miss, as each is about the size of a quarter.
This is the most critical part of the process. You must get the roof on its little perches and then push hard—much harder than feels safe—to latch it in place. Put your hands on the painted side and push it hard against the wall between the trunk and the engine. Get it right, and you’ll feel and hear the spring-loaded latches click into place. Only then should you close the hatch and get in the car.
Do as We Say, Not as We Do: Don’t Damage Your Corvette
Why? Because if you mess this up, it will damage your Corvette’s roof and hatch. If the roof isn’t fully locked in place, the leading edge will rub against the braces on the underside of the hatch while you’re driving. The result is a pair of divots in the edge of the roof you can see from a mile away and obvious paint damage on the underside of the hatch every time you open it. We made this mistake with our Corvette, and the result isn’t pretty. Learn from us: Don’t just drop the roof in the trunk and hit the road.
Otherwise, removing a Corvette’s targa top is no more difficult than it has been for the last four decades. Three latches—two at the leading edge and one at the rear—release the roof, and then it’s up to you to lift it out and carry it rearwards. Getting the top off is easier with two people, but then you have to awkwardly walk sideways to the back of the car while holding the roof over the car. Remember not to open the rear hatch before you take the roof off, because you can’t lift it over the open hatch.
The best way we’ve found is to have someone help you lift it off the car, then have the stronger person reposition their hands and lift it off and away from the car themselves and walk it to the back. One person can do it alone, but it’s just cumbersome as it’s hard to get good leverage on the roof from the side of the car and you want to be careful not to drop it. The process is clearly a bit of a hassle, so we primarily leave our Corvette’s roof in place. Even so, you can see from the damage on the trailing corners of our roof, it was dropped or set down too hard at least once.
The targa-style top (Porsche owns the trademark to the name Targa, so everyone else has to call it something different) is a brilliant little invention that gives you the simplest, lightest removable roof with the least impact on chassis rigidity, all clutch for a sports car. Removing and storing one has been an issue since day one, so as long as you’re willing to deal with that, you can have the cheapest convertible version of a sports car around without giving up much else.
Bonus: The C8 Corvette also has a frunk (front trunk), so you still have storage space even when the roof is in the trunk, which wasn’t the case on older Corvettes.
For more on our long-term C8 Chevrolet Corvette Z51 test car:
- We Welcome Our 2020 Car of the Year to the MT Garage for a Yearlong Test
- Failure to Launch
- The Good and the Bad About Our Corvette Z51
- What Happens if You Leave Your Corvette in Track Alignment?
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