For those belonging to the Generation X, having spent their early hood in the 1980s, one of the best things from the past that could be remembered is without doubt the Knight Rider TV Show.
It was the era of pop music, heavy metal fashion, the video game culture and the beginning of the fascination of computer technology and artificial intelligence concepts.
The Knight Rider television series was created and produced by Glen A. Larson, starring David Hasselhoff as Michael Knight, a high-tech modern crime fighter assisted by KITT, an advanced artificially intelligent, self-aware and nearly indestructible car.
During the mid 1980s, the show was aired on PTV which was the only available TV channel of that time. The title score will give you goosebumps if you listen today, and the above 1:13 second intro defines the childhood of many. It was so captivating that we as kids used to hymn it all the time.
Back then there were no 24-hour TV channels or the internet, to have the liberty to view the missed episodes. So we used to wait anxiously for the Wednesdays to see one episode and got our eyes glued to the TV screens. And then there was an endless wait for the next Wednesday. The Knight Rider episodes used to be a prime topic of our discussions in school and recess time.
The car in the Knight Rider TV show was shown as a heavily modified, technologically advanced car with numerous features, controlled by a computer with artificial intelligence. It was loved for its jet black color, flashing red LEDs up front and pop-up headlights!
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It was such a craze that people used to get installed similar flashing red LEDs up front and spoilers at the back of their cars to mimic the ride from their favorite TV shows. Pop-up headlights were a craze back then and probably the most fascinating feature of automobile design ever. As a kid we used to drool over these cars during the 80s and felt proud to have them on our stationary, outfits and bedroom walls.
The KITT car of the Knight Rider show was actually a modified 1982 Pontiac Firebird Trans-Am. Although the original Pontiac Trans Am looked different, the KITT was specifically customized for the TV show at a cost of US$ 100,000 (equivalent to about $265,690 in 2018). The nose, dashboard and other interior elements of the car were redesigned by the design consultant Michael Scheffe.
Out of nearly 20 Pontiacs used in the show, only 5 Firebirds survived. Two of them are owned by Joe Huth and AJ Palmgren, the Knight Rider historians. Following the completion of the show in 1986, Universal Studios displayed the car at a theme park for about a decade.
Renowned American comedian and television host, Jay Leno is an avid car enthusiast and owns approximately 286 vehicles (169 cars and 117 motorbikes). He also has a website and a TV program called Jay Leno’s Garage, which contains video clips and photos of his car collection in detail, as well as other vehicles of interest to him. Jay Leno features muscle cars and classic rides of all shapes and sizes on his show.
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In a recent episode, Leno got behind the wheel of the real KITT from the Knight Rider. And it’s not a replica, in fact this is the actual Pontiac Firebird used in that show. It only has about 500 miles (around 800 km) on it, but it has put in serious work being a stunt car on set for quite a few years.
Over the period of time various other vehicles have appeared in different movies and TV shows associated with the hero character, but none has been able to get even close to the sort of popularity the Knight Rider got.
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Although the original Pontiac Firebird Trans-Am was never a handsome seller, its modified version the KITT of the Knight Rider became a global sensation and ruled the hearts of car enthusiasts for a long period of time, and for the Generation X even today!
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A computer animation professional with over 23 years of industry experience having served in leading organizations, TV channels & production facilities in Pakistan. An avid car enthusiast and petrolhead with an affection to deliver quality content to help shape opinions. Formerly written for PakWheels as well as major publications including Dawn. Founder of CarSpiritPK.com