Undoubtedly, Knight Rider – piece of the 1980s pop culture is fondly remembered today. Although hardly a top-quality TV show, Knight Rider offered something for everybody: while kids watched it for the adventures of the super-intelligent car KITT, David Hasselhoff provided a little eye candy for the older crowd.
Debuting in 1982, David Hasselhoff and his Pontiac Firebird Trans Am named KITT (Knight Industries Two Thousand) , the show ran for four seasons and 90 episodes, with a number of TV movies and short-lived revivals to follow.
Michael Arthur Long (David Hasselhoff) was an L.A. cop working undercover until shot in the face and left for dead in the desert. Wilton Knight (Richard Basehart), an eccentric billionaire and founder of Knight Industries, orders his doctors to save Michael’s life. With a new face and a new identity, Michael Knight becomes an operative working for the Foundation for Law and Government – an organization that targets criminals working above the law.
Michael is not alone in his quest. Devon Miles (Edward Mulhare) is his immediate superior in FLAG who sends him out on field missions. Dr. Bonnie Barstow (Patricia McPherson) is Michael’s chief technician. Last but not least, Michael’s partner is KITT: an artificially-intelligent super car with a host of special features. Together, it and Michael would go on to fight evil for four seasons of Knight Rider.
Although the series only lasted four years, it left a huge impression on thousands of people worldwide. The car KITT was so popular, it was featured on an episode of Jay Leno’s Garage in 2018. Super Car Blondie also reviewed KITT while in London and even took it for a spin!
An experimental car prototype developed by the Knight industries, KITT – or Knight Industries Two Thousand – comes equipped with numerous features including a super computer that boasts 1,000 megabits of memory, tri-helical plasteel molecular bonded shell plating, pyroclastic lamination, turbojet engine with modified afterburners, anharmonic synthesizer and anamorphic and etymotic equalizers. What do all these words mean?
Throughout the show’s production, Knight Rider used heavily modified 1982 Pontiac Trans Am as KITT. At first, the show basically advertised the car by explicitly naming its company and model. However, as eager Pontiac customers began expecting real Trans Ams to have all the cool features seen on Knight Rider, producers stopped mentioning the car’s exact model. KITT’s voice was provided by the actor William Daniels. KITT’s most recognizable feature – a cool red light above the front bumper – was directly inspired by the Cylon scanners from Larson’s previous TV show, Battlestar Galactica.
One of the great things about the show Knight Rider is that it did not have to spend millions per episode on super expensive animation or fancy cars such as a Ferrari or a Porsche. Instead, a somewhat limited number of Pontiac Firebird Trans AMs were modified to fulfill the need. The 1982 Trans Am came standard with 305 cui V-8, allowing for a top speed of around 124 mph.
While we’re at the subject of evil twins, there was also an evil KITT. Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t used by evil Michael Knight. Even more surprisingly, evil KITT didn’t sport a goatee. Knight Automated Roving Robot – or KARR – is a prototype version of KITT. KARR is put into storage after is designers realize that its CPU is unstable and more concerned with its own preservation than with the protection of human life. KARR appeared in two episodes of Knight Rider. In the first one, KARR is accidentally activated by a duo of thieves and manipulated into helping them. In its second appearance, KARR is now fully bent on revenge against KITT and Michael.
KARR was also embodied by Pontiac Trans Am but looked slightly different from KITT: it had a black and silver paint job and an amber scanner light at the front.
Admit that the Knight Rider title theme is insanely catchy. The theme was created by Stu Phillips, a favorite composer of the show’s producer Glen A. Larson. Phillips, who previously worked on Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, recorded the Knight Rider theme using five synthesizers along with drums, percussion and a fender bass.
During the show’s initial run in the 1980s, owners of Trans-Am cars could buy special aftermarket kits and add KITT’s “scanner eye” to their own cars. There are now annual conventions of Knight Rider fans, some of which lovingly remake old Pontiac Trans Ams to look like KITT.
Thanks to advancements in technology, today we can imitate some of the more sophisticated devices presented in the show. Today, many drivers have GPS navigation systems in their cars similar to those in the TV show. Not only that, but they can also get one that features KITT’s voice.
What are your impressions with and memories of Knight Rider? Share them with others in your comments below!