Car Stars: Knight Rider

1982: Disco was finally dying out. Japanese cars were invading the country in record numbers, and television viewers reached out to an all-American Robin Hood named Michael Knight.


Knight Rider starred a handsome young actor with poofy hair named David Hasselhoff. More importantly however, was that his costar was a Pontiac Trans Am endowed with super powers. This car had moves and attitude, never to be matched by any Toyota Celica.


This was the first year for the third generation Trans Am, and legend has it that the first cars off the line went directly to the show’s production company. The Trans Am was the last remnant of the muscle car era, which ended ten years earlier due to the gas crisis and astronomical insurance premiums.


Oddly, Pontiac Trans Ams could not technically qualify for the Sports Car Club of America race which gave it its name. However, they were some of the best performing street cars of the day. The 1982 production Trans Am featured:


  • 305 cubic inch Chevrolet V8 engine
  • “Crossfire” fuel injection for auto trans; 4V carb for manuals
  • 165 horse power for auto trans; 145 for manual trans
  • 15” aluminum wheels
  • Available WS6 performance option
  • Power-bulge hood
  • Aerodynamic body with steeply raked windshield


Of course there was also the Camaro, its sister car from Chevrolet. Unfortunately for General Motors, the hottest car out of Detroit that year was the new, 5.0 liter (302 ci) Ford Mustang, which boasted a superior power to weight ratio.


Michael Knight’s TV Trans Am was equipped with a super computer with artificial intelligence, named KITT, which stood for Knight Industries Two Thousand.


Knight’s greatest ally, KITT was voiced by actor William Daniels. It would do almost anything to help our hero beat the bad guys. Other equipment included:


  • Knight industries turbojet engine with modified afterburners
  • Eight-speed microprocessor turbodrive transmission with autopilot
  • Emergency eject; infrared tracking scope; interior oxygenator; rocket boosters; smokescreen; grappling hook; oil jets; flame thrower, etc.
  • 0-60 mph, 0.2 seconds; 70-0, 14 feet
  • $11,400,000 MSRP


The most notable exterior modification is a nose containing a red light moving back and forth. Despite its subtlety, the black Trans Am is still an icon, more than 20 years after the show went off the air in 1986.


David Hasslehoff, “the Hoff” went on to star in Baywatch, and most recently was a celebrity judge on a prime-time talent show. Pontiac discontinued the Trans Am in 2002.


February, 2008: NBC airs the latest, made-for-TV movie sequel of Night Rider, which serves as a pilot episode for a new regular series. This time, the human hero is Michael Knight’s son, and the super-car is a preproduction 2008 Ford Shelby GT500KR (Mustang).


Ford re-issues this real-life super car to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the first, 1968 GT500KR. Model year 2008 production vehicles will have the following features:


  • 5.4 liter, supercharged V8 engine
  • Six speed, manual transmission
  • 540 hp, 510 lb-ft torque
  • Ford Racing Power Upgrade Pack
  • 18” alloy wheels
  • Cold-air induction hood scoops
  • Retro styling


This car has spectacular performance, and will be a hit regardless of the movie’s success (or lack of success). The run of only 1,000 vehicles should arrive in dealerships spring of 2008.


The special effects department will be working overtime on this show. Features on the Knight Industries Three Thousand will include:


  • 5.4 liter V8 with Whipple supercharger and Knight Industries liquid air cycle auxiliary turbine engine.
  • Continuously variable transmission
  • Radar; sonar; DNA analysis system; GPS; 3D heads-up display; holographic projection; laser weapons system; Nanotech cloaking; video surveillance; reconnaissance drone; heated seats; keyless entry and ignition, etc.
  • 0-60 mph, 1.77 seconds; 300-0, 12 feet
  • $45,600,00 MSRP


Of course, the new super vehicle has a talking computer and red lights in the hood scoops. Three vehicles were used for filming, including one that lowers severely for “attack mode”, and another that drives by remote control.


The Night Rider legend passes from father to son and from Pontiac to Ford. The 2008 Shelby GT500KR is a fitting super-car, with or without special effects. Carroll Shelby collaborated with Ford to produce spectacular vehicles in the 60s, and this newest car is his masterpiece. “KR” stands for King of the Road, which couldn’t be more appropriate.


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