KITTstang: Knight Rider Returns as Ford

December 13, 2007
On the original Knight Rider TV series, which ran from 1982 to 1986, David Hasselhoff was catapulted to stardom. But the real star was a talking car named KITT (Knight Industries Two Thousand), a Pontiac Trans Am that, in a stretch of reality, was modified to reach a salt-flats-defying 300 miles per hour with the help of a ‘Turbo Boost’ mode. The original KITT could drive itself, conduct surveillance, become airborne for short distances, and jump over obstacles.But now with a new Knight Rider show almost ready for release, a Ford is set to take its place. The automaker has announced that the star of the show — the new KITT (the Knight Industries Three Thousand) — will be a 2008 Mustang Shelby GT500KR.

That the “KR” moniker is being brought back for 2008, at the same time as the show, is just a happy coincidence, according to Ford. The original KR, which came out in 1968, was termed the “King of the Road.”

Todays retro-styled Mustang isn’t nearly as futuristic-looking as the Pontiac Trans Am was at the time of the original show, but Hollywood car experts have been working hard to give the new car a new but equally captivating personality.

The new car’s look is conceived by Galpin Auto Sports, a Van Nuys–based maker of one-offs for the So-Cal market. Then it was sent on to the Picture Car Warehouse, where 25 specialists created six variations, some for stunt purposes.

On the show, which will debut in February with a two-hour movie pilot, the new KITT will have three modes — Hero, Attack, and Camouflage. Hero is equivalent to the standard 540-horsepower Shelby GT500KR fitted with an automatic transmission, but the attack car will be a further bolstered and visually enhanced version. The now-requisite post-production rendering will also be part of the package.

The stock Shelby GT500KR that KITT is today based on makes 540 horsepower. In 1982, the Trans Am’s 5.7-liter V-8 made 165 horsepower in it most desirable trim.

Thankfully (provided he’s not providing the soundtrack, we say), David Hasselhoff returns in the new iteration of Knight Rider, but the central character is now Justin Bruening, of the soap All My Children , who plays Michael Knight’s long-lost son, Michael Tracer.

As the voice of the new KITT will be provided by one of our favorite Canadian actors, Will Arnett, of Arrested Development and 30 Rock , KITT will probably no longer have a proper English-butler accent but we hope the mix of corny banter, along with a sometimes clinical, sometimes best-bud demeanor, will remain. Ford said that KITT’s artificial intelligence “makes it the ideal good cop partner: logical, precise and possessing infinite knowledge.” Wait ‘til Google catches wind of the latter.

The show will also give Ford a chance to plug Sync, the new interface system for cellphones, PDAs, and media players, available across much of the automaker’s product line for ’08. The Sync system can read — but not compose from voice — a text message, and it can follow complex voice commands to let you browse through a music library or choose multiple phonebook entries, but it’s not the true interaction that those who watched the original show — during which the Chrysler Le Baron had talking alerts — would have expected by now.

Some may not even be aware that the show was already resurrected once before, in 1991 as a made-for-TV movie, Knight Rider 2000 . The car in that movie closely resembled the Pontiac Banshee, a concept that prefaced the last-generation Trans Am.

--Bengt Halvorson

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