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KITT the Knight Rider Car

Jesse McGraw

Knight Rider was the epitome of 80s television action dramas, but the Knight Rider car was the best part. Here’s some facts on KITT.

Crime, Cars, and Chest Hair

It’s the 80s. School just got out and you run home with your friends to see David Hasselhoff fight crime with a feathered hairdo and way too much exposed chest hair. Sounds odd today, but Knight Rider was a huge hit in its day. Through 5 years, 4 seasons, 85 episodes, and one made-for-TV movie, Hasselhoff played Michael Knight who was, as the narrator put it, “a young loner on a crusade to champion the cause of the innocent, the powerless, the helpless in a world of criminals who operate above the law.” Basically, he was a guy that got his face reconstructed after an accident and turned into a crime fighter with the help of Knight Industries.

Hasselhoff as Michael Knight next to KITT - nbc.com
Hasselhoff as Michael Knight next to KITT - nbc.com

But The Hoff wasn’t the best part of Knight Rider, instead it was the talking car that stole the show. The Knight Industries Two Thousand, or simply KITT, was every kids’ dream car. A blacked-out early 80s Pontiac Trans Am with a turbo boosted turbine engine, lasers, a dashboard full of buttons and monitors, and a quick-witted AI with a dry sense of humor! The main thing everyone remembers though is that super iconic sweeping red light at the front of the car. KITT was awesome in every way and the only car that came close to being as cool was KARR, but he was evil.

We here at the Daily Driver appreciated the show so much growing up that we figured it’d be nice to give a little rundown on KITT. However, we’re not talking just the fantasy Knight Rider car from the show, but the real-life cars that made KITT come to life on the television screen. So, buckle up and switch to pursuit mode, because we’re hitting Turbo Boost on KITT the Knight Rider car.

The Cars That Made KITT

1983 Pontiac Trans Am KITT replica – carsforsale.com

1983 Pontiac Trans Am KITT replica – carsforsale.com  |  Shop Pontiac Trans Am on Carsforsale.com

KITT was brought to life with the help of Pontiac’s Trans Am. More specifically, around 20 models of KITT were made consisting of Trans Ams from 1982, 1983 and 1984 as well as some base hardtop Firebirds that shared similar paneling. However, not all of these models were made the same. Over the course of the show, there were two fiberglass dedicated jump cars, 12 other stunt specific cars (including ones for driving on two wheels), three shell cars that were intended for destruction, and six “Hero” cars that were used for close up shots.

Almost all the stunt cars had their internals redone, the frames strengthened, and were tuned to their specific tasks. Transmissions were swapped with a Turbo 350 3-speed and brake line locks were added for easier burnouts and 180° spins. With only a few of these KITT cars actually being destroyed for the show, it’s odd that only five are known to still exist. The original three from season one of Knight Rider and another mid-series one made public appearances to promote the show and somehow made their way into the hands of private collectors.

KITT at Universal Studios in 1988 - thestudiotour.com
KITT at Universal Studios in 1988 - thestudiotour.com

The last KITT known to exist was the second-to-last one ever built for the show. It was purpose built as a disposable stunt car, but NBC took the car and fitted it with the sound stage dashboard and T-top making it a kids’ attraction. If you were a kid growing up in the late 80s or early 90s you may have sat in this very car at Universal Studios theme park. Although, it becomes a little less glamorous when you hear that the park drilled holes in the floor due to over excited children having accidents…

1982 Pontiac Firebird KITT replica – carsforsale.com

1982 Pontiac Firebird KITT replica – carsforsale.com  |  Shop Pontiac Firebird on Carsforsale.com

But the question remains among collectors and show fans alike, where did the rest of the Knight Rider cars go? Sure, some were crashed in stunts and others didn’t even have an engine, but they had to of ended up somewhere. For the most part, Pontiac required the show to destroy many of the vehicles after the show since some were bought for a mere dollar from the company. Not all of the cars had to meet this stipulation, but it’s a possibility that the rest of these KITTs just ended up as scrap or were sold to someone less enamored with the show who sadly removed the gimmicks and made it their own.

KITT Facts

KITT's lightbar - nbc.com
KITT's lightbar - nbc.com
  • The sweeping red lights on the front of KITT weren’t always on. Their actual purpose was to show that KITT was scanning the surrounding environment called the Anamorphic Equalizer. It supposedly detected wavelengths, X-rayed items, hacked computers, and utilized infrared at long distances. This is also KITT’s most vulnerable area of his design.
  • KITT’s turbine engine technically had two top speeds depending on which version of Pursuit Mode you reference. The original Pursuit Mode reached speeds of 200mph, while the later Super Pursuit Mode reached 300mph! Super Pursuit Mode also added a transformation to KITT giving the Knight Rider car spoilers, air intakes, and an elongated front.
  • The turbine engine coupled with a computer controlled 8-speed turbodrive transmission allowed the Knight Rider car to reach 0-60mph in 2 seconds (1 second faster than the Hummer EV) and it could perform a ¼ mile in 4.286 seconds. KITT’s Electromagnetic hyper-vacuum disc brakes stopped the car in 14ft. from 70mph. The Emergency Braking System engaged with reverse thrusters and air panels to stop the vehicle when at top speeds with Super Pursuit Mode.
Knight Rider Intro featuring KITT - nbc.com
Knight Rider Intro featuring KITT - nbc.com
  • The AI that made KITT able to talk was a Knight 2000 Microprocessor. Early in the show, he has 1000mb of available memory with a nanosecond of latency for information. This was later increased to an unlimited memory capacity along with some enhanced knowledge features.
  • The Alpha Circuit is the main component allowing for KITT’s Auto Cruise Mode where he drives himself. Nowadays, almost every new car coming out has their own “Alpha Circuit” like Tesla and their Autopilot mode or Ford and their Lane Keeping System.
  • KITT’s Turbo Boost allowed the car to both accelerate to top speed and launch the car upwards to jump over obstacles. This boost was aided by two rocket boosters mounted behind the front wheels.
  • KITT’s body is constructed with a Tri-Helical Plasteel 1000 Molecular Bonded Shell. This protected the car from bullets, explosions, or direct impacts like to walls or other vehicles. The body was also coated in a Pyrolastic Lamination protecting it from temperatures of up to 800 degrees Fahrenheit. However, KITT was not prepared to withstand electric shock or acid, both of which negatively impacted the car.
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KITT in Convertible Mode - nbc.com
KITT in Convertible Mode - nbc.com
  • A fun mode added in the fourth season was the addition of Convertible Mode. This new mode made KITT a convertible and allowed viewers to see Hasselhoff’s wonderful hair flowing in the wind.
  • One of KITT’s best weapons was his Resonating Laser. It is a high-powered ultra-frequency modulated laser capable of burning through steel. The only issue with utilizing KITT’s laser was that it drastically drained his batteries.
  • Both of KITT’s front seats were ejector seats. They were used to throw criminals and to help Michael Knight reach high places. The ejector seats were also a lot less of a hassle to reset in comparison to James Bond’s car. The seats shot up at high speed while remaining attached to the vehicle and the famous 80s T-top design allowed for simple roof openings.
KITT being dumped into acid - nbc.com
KITT being dumped into acid - nbc.com
  • While KITT was basically an “indestructible super car” on paper, he did end up getting destroyed 4 times in the show – once by the Michael Knight’s evil twin Garthe in the armored Goliath semi-truck, another time by a missile fired from a Halston drone car, once again by being dropped in a pit of acid, and finally destroyed by an armored truck after having had KITT’s Molecular Bonded Shell neutralized by chemicals.
  • KITT was not only a crime fighting tool, but also basically an office on wheels. The car featured a telephone, computer, printer, and tint-able windows creating a private working environment. It was used primarily for covert operations and communicating with the Foundation for Law and Government (FLAG), but maybe KITT helped file some of Knight’s taxes too.
KITT's dashboard - nbc.com
KITT's dashboard - nbc.com
  • KITT featured a ton of gimmicks and special tools over the years, but here’s a sampling of some other features found in KITT:
    • Olfactory Sensor – allows KITT to smell.
    • Microscanners – super tiny audio and video sensors embedded into KITT’s body. They allow KITT display anything around the car on the dashboard monitors.
    • Oil Slick – a classic car gadget to get evil doers off the hero’s trail.
KITT's flamethrower - nbc.com
KITT's flamethrower - nbc.com
    • Flamethrowers – Michael Knight refers to them as rocket boosters serving this flame shooting function, but I’m sure KITT is interpreting the command with the correct gadget.
    • Ultramagnesium Charges – help throw heat seeking missiles off the Knight Rider car’s trail.
    • Bomb Sniffer – used to detect bombs in the proximity to KITT.
KITT driving on water - nbc.com
KITT driving on water - nbc.com
    • Aquatic Synthesizer – gives KITT the ability to drive underwater and provides occupants with oxygen thanks to the Interior Oxygenator.
    • Microlock – KITT can stop the brakes of other cars by heating up their brake fluid forcing the brake mechanisms to activate.
Knight Rider 2000 - nbc.com
Knight Rider 2000 - nbc.com
  • Following the television show, the made-for-TV movie Knight Rider 2000 was released. In it, KITT was dismantled and a furious Michael Knight reinstalls the AI into a ‘57 Chevrolet Bel Air and then later retrofits him into the Knight Industries Four Thousand (KIFT) which was a Dodge Stealth fitted with custom body panels to resemble a 1988 Pontiac Banshee concept car.
Knight Rider 2010 - imcdb.com
Knight Rider 2010 - imcdb.com
  • Knight Rider 2010 was another made-for-TV movie, however it strayed away from the source material a bit. The movie is based in a Mad Max type of future and KITT is replaced with PRISM which is a female subconscious uploaded into a solid-state drive that lives within a heavily modified 1991 Ford Thunderbird.
Team Knight Rider - imdb.com
Team Knight Rider - imdb.com
Knight Rider Knight Industries Three Thousand - imdb.com
Knight Rider Knight Industries Three Thousand - imdb.com
  • Knight Rider fell off the radar a bit, until 2008 with the nostalgia driven Knight Rider movie and TV series remake. KITT now stood for Knight Industries Three Thousand and was built around a 2008 Shelby Mustang GT500KR. This rehashed version of the Knight Rider car could transform into a bunch of Fords, such as 2 different F-150s, a Crown Victoria, a Flex, an E-150, and even change up its Mustang form.

One of the Best TV Cars

Knight Rider cars - valaryc on deviantart.com
Knight Rider cars - valaryc on deviantart.com

While my colleague toted the General Lee as “the TV Classic Car,” I think that KITT holds a special place in our hearts as possibly the best TV Car. KITT had his own personality, high-tech gadgets, hit super speeds, and had The Hoff behind the wheel; how much more could you want? Knight Rider and KITT define that quintessential 80s aesthetic everyone remembers. The show will forever remain a major piece of 80s nostalgia. It may not necessarily have been an awesome show, but it sure was as an awesome concept.

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Jesse McGraw
Jesse McGraw

Jesse's life-long car obsession began when he started collecting Hot Wheels as a child. He’s constantly keeping up with the latest car news and diving deep into automotive history. His automotive journey began with a rusty ‘99 Dodge Dakota held together by zip ties, only recently replaced by an impeccable 2014 Kia Soul. You can find him modifying and racing cars in video games when he’s not playing paintball or writing about cars.

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2 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Tricia November 2, 2020

    Very interesting read!

    Reply
    1. Carsforsale.com Team
      Carsforsale.com Team November 2, 2020

      Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it!

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