With the Targa, Sheaffer firmly embraced the notion of metal-bodied, essentially cylindrical pens which was sweeping the writing world in the 1970s and which didn’t release its grip until roughly the end of the century. Another trend which Sheaffer embraced with this pen was the apparently powerful urge in all sorts of consumer product to apply the word “Targa”. This word, Italian for plate, is connected with the Targa Florio auto-race (plate of flowers?), which has run about Sicily since 1906; it thus makes sense when applied to things like a variant of the Porsche 911, and slightly less when hung on a pen.
It appears that the name was actually a bit of an afterthought, as in pre-production the model’s name was to have been “Genesis.” This, it seems, was withdrawn at the last moment for fear of its effect on sales in the oil-rich states of the Middle East. While that seems odd (Muslims, while not following the Christian Bible as such, generally accept inclusion in the Abrahamic tradition, and that chapter is as far from specific to one Abrahamic religion or another as is possible), it also seems like the sort of thing advertising guys will worry about.
That previous name might have been a reference to the return to the sort of silhouette seen in fountain pens at the very dawn of their time, although one modern element was retained. The inlaid point, which is very nearly unique to Sheaffer, was incorporated into the model, which lends an otherwise somewhat clunky-looking pen some sleekness when it’s in use.
Like its predecessor, the Imperial, the Targa appeared in a diversity of trim levels from the start. Unlike the Imperial, trim was the only real variation; there was only the one shape of section ever to appear in the line. The Targa also follows a pattern of previous Sheaffer lines in that the diversity of trim made a very wide cross-section of buying powers capable of laying hands upon the pen; whether one’s resources run to a solid gold or an all-steel pen, the Targa was available in a relatively democratic manner.
Over the years, the diversity of trims swarmed and multiplied, and in this the Targa may be thought of as this maker’s counterpart to Parker’s 75; a relatively sensible pen finding itself increasingly bedecked with unusual treatments. This is something of an expression of Sheaffer’s evident sense at the time that the fountain pen was increasingly an ornament. Taking the extravagant with the mundane, there were at least seventy different sub-models of the Targa.
…if one doesn’t include a rough doubling of the count with the introduction of the Targa Slimline in 1982. I’m not entirely clear whether this was offered as a “ladies’ model” of the Targa, or whether it was simply a response to a market that evidently looked for rather slender pens (as Parker, Waterman and others were all providing for). The problem facing Sheaffer was that the diameter of their cartridge dictated a certain unavoidable minimum girth for their pens, and the Targa was already pretty much there. The response was to offer a slender cartridge around which a much thinner pen could be wrapped, and so there were two different sizes of Targa for much of the line’s run. The problem this presents the modern user is that Sheaffer has since abandoned the smaller cartridges, and so owners of Slimlines are somewhat left in the lurch.
Despite my position as a life-long Sheaffer fan, I come to look at the Targa rather belatedly. Looking at pictures of it, it is as I mention above rather clunky looking. Between that visual impression, a dislike of heavy pens, and a notion that a metal-bodied pen which looked like that must be heavy, I was never moved to try a Targa until presented with it as a repair. I will say now to my readers that they should not let this sort of uninformed prejudice sway them as it swayed me for so long. Like Theodor Geisel’s Sam, I found on trying it that I liked it rather a lot. It is not a light pen, but it is also not an overweight pen. There is a pleasing solidity to it, and the clutch mechanism holding the cap in place is happily positive. The writing performance is all one expects from Sheaffers, smooth, generally on the damp side, and possibly a hair more stiff than is expected from higher end pen; this latter note does not, of course, apply to the steel-pointed models, which were not higher-end pens.
Much of the previous applies to the Slimline branch. The difference in width makes for a somewhat different sense of their weight, and I find there’s more of an impression made by the rather small step from section to barrel, but otherwise the performance is much the same.
Production Run: 1976 – 1998.
Cost When New: This varies extremely, given the vast range of trims; a UK catalogue for 1982 shows a range of £9.90 to £48.00 (for modern values, try this calculator), and some limited and special editions have sold for a hundred times as much.
Size: Standard 13.5 cm long capped, 14.8 cm posted, 11.9 cm uncapped; slimline 13.5 cm capped, 14.5 cm posted, 11.5 cm uncapped.
Point: Steel, 14k and 18k gold have all appeared.
Body: Brass, with various finishes. A wooden-bodied version appeared briefly in the late 1980s, and early production included steel bodies.
Filler: Cartridge, capacity approx. 1.1 ml
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