Crime-busting KITT is back - as a Ford
What’s this? KITT has morphed from a Pontiac Trans Am into a Ford Shelby Mustang?
Strange, but true; not that the producers of the new two-hour Knight Rider TV special had much choice – Pontiac doesn’t build a Trans Am anymore.
David Hasselhoff is no longer Michael Knight, KITT’s erstwhile, crime-busting owner.
In the updated show, Justin Bruening (pictured at right) is KITT’s master – Michael Knight’s long-lost son Michael Tracer.
The new KITT is a 2008 Ford Shelby GT500KR, and Ford says US viewers might be confused about what the KR initials mean when the Shelby road car launches later this year.
Do they mean King of the Road (as they’re intended to) or Knight Rider?
“It’s purely a coincidence and a nice one at that,” says Al Uzielli, a senior advisor to Ford Global Brand Entertainment, the Ford office in Beverly Hills which works to place Ford branded vehicles in movies and TV.
“Auto enthusiasts will know what KR stands for. But most viewers will probably think it means Knight Rider; at least at first.”
The Knight Rider television series ran from 1982 to 1986 with the Hoff starring as Michael Knight, a kind of modern day knight.
His partner was an advanced Pontiac Trans Am with artificial intelligence. Not only could it talk, it could morph into an attack vehicle that accelerated to 300mph, used a Turbo Boost to jump over obstacles and even drive itself.
In the new version, Hasselhoff returns, but the lead character is now his long-lost son.
Replacing the Pontiac is the KR.
TV network NBC says that if the ratings for the Knight Rider special are good, it plans to turn the show into a weekly series in the northern hemisphere autumn.
Ford says the movie special will give it the opportunity to showcase its new SYNC voice activated information and entertainment technology, available in some road cars in America.
The arrangement between the network and Ford allows the two to co-promote both the movie and the cars at special events, in theatres, in print and on the internet.
“This is a completely car-centric show and my understanding is that NBC was heavily pursued by both GM and Chrysler,” says Ford’s Uzielli. “We landed it because not only did we have the perfect car, we had the right logistics. Our advertising agency had strong contacts on the business side and our team at Ford Global Brand Entertainment had a close relationship with the creative side, including the new head of NBC Entertainment Ben Silverman.”
For many Knight Rider fans, the casting of KITT (Knight Industries Three Thousand) is as important as the lead character.
In the movie version, KITT’s supercomputer is capable of hacking almost any system, and its body – thanks to its creator’s work and nanotechnology – is capable of actually shifting shape and colour. Plus, its artificial intelligence makes it the ideal good cop partner: logical, precise and possessing infinite knowledge. It is the ultimate car – and villains will be willing to do anything to obtain it.
For designers, the first challenge of creating a screen version of the 2008 Shelby GT500KR was that the car isn’t even on the road yet. The solution was to go to Galpin Auto Sports (GAS), which is well-known for creating one-of-a-kind vehicles in the Californian market.
GAS had one week to create the new KITT, and it pulled out all the stops. Six people worked fulltime to create the Mustang that would be sent over to Picture Car Warehouse as the father of all the KITT derivatives and stunt cars.
Not only does KITT make its appearance as a GT500KR, but Knight Rider fans get to see KITT in three modes – HERO, ATTACK and camouflage versions.
The HERO is a standard 540hp Shelby GT500KR and the ATTACK is a further modified high-speed version.
The GT500KR is built up from a Mustang GT with an automatic transmission to facilitate the driving scenes, stunts, and camera work necessary to produce the great action scenes in the movie. Stunt versions were also built for doing all of the aggressive driving manoeuvres.
The ATTACK version was designed by Harold Belker working with Ted Moser of Picture Car Warehouse, and 25 automotive specialists who created six variations of the GT500KR. The ATTACK car features a new rear bumper cover, two-tiered spoiler, side scoops, custom rocker panels and a completely modified interior.
“Ford wanted to keep KITT as close to the Mustang Shelby GT500KR as possible,” Belker said. “Some may say the ATTACK version is a little over the top, but this isn’t about reinventing design language, it’s about being entertaining.”