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The coolest car on the 1980's TV block, with thousands of replicas still on the road.
Knight Rider burst onto television screens, and streets, in 1982, running for four seasons, with 90 episodes. The star of the show was an intelligent, talking Pontiac Trans Am named K.I.T.T., which stood for Knight Industries Two Thousand. There was also a sidekick, maybe a lifeguard-ish fella, David Hasslehoff, who played Michael Knight, a former detective, now fighting crime with a super car, sporting the distinctive voice of actor William David Daniels, aka Mr. Feeny on Boy Meets World.
K.I.T.T. oozed with 80s coolness, brandishing a 300 mph top-speed, and over a hundred supped-features like Super Pursuit Mode, Silent Mode, missiles, flame throwers, oil-slick, electronic signal jamming, a lie-detector, a laser cannon, and a laser printer, because, you know, dot-matrix printers were so uncool. The car was conceived by brilliant, but eccentric billionaire Wilton Knight founder of Knight Industries.
K.I.T.T. had a ‘self-aware’ cybernetic processor programmed to protect the driver and all human life, at all costs. K.I.T.T.’s exterior was protected by “Tri-Helical Plasteel 1000” a molecular bonded shell plating. The fictitious vehicle was powered by a turbojet engine with modified afterburners, with an eight-speed microprocessor-controlled transmission. It could go from 0-60 mph in 0.2 seconds, and cost a mind-blowing $11.4 million dollars to construct.
The 1982 Pontiac Trans Am was in short supply when show production began, so master-craftsman Michael Scheffe created the signature K.I.T.T. look, and designed only one car, which was then used as a pattern for three more vehicles when they became available.
Based on an F-body Pontiac Trans Am, K.I.T.T. was a front-engine 5-liter V-8, which pushed 145-horsepower to it’s rear-wheels. The first-season car had minimal body modifications the first two seasons, as the red chasing lights on the nose provided ample ‘eye candy’. The approximate $18,000 put into modifying cars, was dedicated in thee different types of vehicles, the ‘hero’ car, that Hasslehoff posed in or next to; the lightweight, mostly fiberglass stunt car(s), and the rear-seat, hidden driver car, for scenes where K.I.T.T. drove itself. But season three gave K.I.T.T. a big makeover, with wings, spoilers, a hood scoop, and other tweaks to combat the thousands of super-fan K.I.T.T. replicas flooding the roads.
The production department worked tirelessly with just those four cars until the spring of 1983, when a train carrying dozens of Trans Am’s derailed, classifying the vehicles as ‘unsaleable’. GM sold 10 cars to Knight Rider as ‘damaged goods’ for $1 each, with the stipulation that once the show concluded, they were to be destroyed… which they were, with a wrecking ball. (Sacrilege!)
Homage should be paid to the show’s creator, Glen Larson, who died at age 77. His visionary musings put sci-fi wonders into K.I.T.T. that can be found on most modern-day vehicles as actual features. K.I.T.T. could easily handle self-driving and collision avoidance, utilizing K.I.T.T.’s signature red chasing lights, referred to as the “Anamorphic Equalizer” that were described as a set of electronic eyes that scanned ahead in all visual and X-ray spectrums.
If Michael was in danger he could summon K.I.T.T. with a homing beacon hidden in his pendant. Kind of like how “find my iPhone” works today. And if he was hurt, K.I.T.T. could scan his vital signs, much like FORD’s new ECG heart-rate monitoring seats. If a driver issue is detected, other vehicle systems could be activated, like safely stopping and automatically calling for assistance.
Finally, K.I.T.T. was powered by a hydrogen-gasoline turbo engine, and while uglier than copy-machine, so is today’s Toyota Prius hybrid.
NOTE: We are not even going to mention the 2008 Knight Rider reboot. (Shame on you NBC.) But you can read, and even watch, it’s one-season fizzle, if you like.
Thinking about building a replica with an american-made engine? Fraser has the right engine ready for you!