September 26, 1982 – Knight Rider debuts

On this day in 1982 the TV show Knight Rider made its prime time debut. The show starred David Hasselhoff as crime fighter Michael Knight who drove a customized 1982 Pontiac Trans AM named K.I.T.T., which stood for Knight Industries Two Thousands. The following is a previously written description of the car from Wikipedia: K.I.T.T. was designed by Michael Scheffe using Pontiac’s 1982 Trans Am. Michael Scheffe had worked for Mattel designing toys, and had done some design work on Blade Runner. Scheffe had around 18 days to create his first mock up of K.I.T.T. for the network. 

Stuntman Jack Gill says the car was dropped about an inch and a half from GM’s stock height. The car also had around $2,000,000 worth of modifications. Spare cars were always on hand, and Universal eventually did all of the modifications that were needed. The hero car was the only one of the vehicles on hand that contained the intricate dashboard. A mock up dashboard was used on a soundstage for closeups of the voice box or other buttons. Glen Larson wanted the car to have a heartbeat and asked Scheffe to design a beam of light like the Cylons had in Battlestar Galactica to be used on the front of the vehicle. The Pontiac’s nose was eventually extended slightly. 

K.I.T.T. replica. By MovienerdDeluxe – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Gill claims that they got the cars from Pontiac for $1 each. The only car Universal had to pay full price for was the hero car. Pontiac would call up the studio and ask how many cars were needed. Pontiac often gave the studio vehicles that had already been damaged. William Daniels, the voice of K.I.T.T., would record his parts after the majority of the episode were filmed. Hasselhoff would work with a guy off camera who would read him K.I.T.T.’s lines. If the vehicle was in motion, the lines would be read through the car radio. 

The studio had a marketing campaign for Knight Rider. Fans could write the network and they would receive a pamphlet detailing some features about K.I.T.T. The first campaign was held in August 1982. The pamphlet received said, “The Competition is NO Competition!” K.I.T.T was parked alongside a vehicle that resembled the General Lee from Dukes of Hazzard. The General Lee featured a double zero on the door. The pamphlet compared the two vehicles. In the fall of 1985, an ad came out in TV Guide detailing K.I.T.T.’s upgrades. K.I.T.T. received an overhaul in 1984, receiving a new interior to keep up with the times.

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