How the New Knight Rider Car Works

Image Gallery: Exotic Cars The new K.I.T.T. See more exotic car pictures.
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Hollywood has recently taken a liking to various 1980s television series with a strong emphasis on cars. In the summer of 2007, director Michal Bay took the children's cartoon series "Transformers" and updated it as a live-action blockbuster. The film, about computer-powered cars with the ability to change into anthropomorphic battle machines and fight evil forces, was a big success, grossing over $700 million worldwide at the box office [source: Box Office Mojo]. The flashy special effects and movie stars were exciting, sure, but audiences most likely came to see the movie for the cars, each with its own personality and special attributes.

Television network NBC used a similar formula when it brought "Knight Rider," the iconic detective show from the '80s starring David Hasselhoff, back to the small screen with a two-hour made-for-TV movie based on the original series and an updated series of the show to network TV in the fall of 2008. Hasselhoff wasn't the only star of the show -- in fact, some might say his non-human counterpart was the real star. In the story, K.I.T.T. (Knight Industries Two Thousand) is the supercar Hasselhoff drives to fight crime. A black, two-door Pontiac Trans-AM, K.I.T.T. could drive around on its own, talk back to Hasselhoff's character, Michael Long, with snappy one-liners and provide logical detective work thanks to artificial intelligence.

The new "Knight Rider" updates the original series with a new story, new characters and more spectacular effects. K.I.T.T. also gets a makeover -- or three, technically. Instead of a Pontiac, K.I.T.T. is now a souped-up Ford Mustang GT500KR, and the car can morph into three different versions -- Hero, Attack and Remote.

With the Internet and DVD box sets keeping the cult status of "Knight Rider" alive, you can be sure there's a lot of debate and controversy over the choice of a Mustang. In this article, we'll see what the new version of the beloved K.I.T.T. can do and compare it with the original.

The New K.I.T.T. (Knight Industries Three Thousand)

Concept drawings of the new K.I.T.T. by Harold Belker.
Concept drawings of the new K.I.T.T. by Harold Belker.
Image courtesy
Concept drawings of the new K.I.T.T. by Harold Belker.
Image courtesy

Like the original "Knight Rider" series from more than 20 years ago, the technology featured on K.I.T.T. is a science-fiction take on several plausible concepts in the fields of electronics and engineering. One of these concepts is the increasingly popular subject of nanotechnology, the science of manipulating material at the subatomic level. According to press releases, K.I.T.T. will have the ability to change shape and color with the help of nanotechnology.

This explains the three different modes available to K.I.T.T. -- Hero, Attack and Remote. The filmmakers haven't released many specifics about this system, but we can assume the body of the car will change shape with the help of nanoscopic machines called assemblers. K.I.T.T. Hero is the standard mode of Michael Long's supercar, the stock Ford Mustang Shelby GT500KR. K.I.T.T. Attack, on the other hand, will be a faster, more aggressive version of the Hero mode, used for extreme action sequences and sophisticated weapons systems. In order to get that extra speed, K.I.T.T. must take on a more aerodynamic shape -- and that's exactly what the car does. Nanotechnology allows K.I.T.T. to morph and significantly lower the car's ride height.

Of course, all the transformations will actually be done using computer-generated imagery (CGI), the same techniques used to animate the shape-shifting daemons in "The Golden Compass." The new K.I.T.T. and its variations were created by Harold Belker, who also designed the Batmobile for the 1997 movie "Batman and Robin" and the space shuttle in the 1998 blockbuster "Armageddon." The cool thing about his job? Ford gave Belker and his team the chance to finish the designs of the car, since the Shelby GT500KR wasn't fully completed during pre-production of "Knight Rider."

Here's a list of some of the new features available on K.I.T.T.:

  • Laser Weapons System
  • DNA analysis equipment
  • In-seat medical diagnosis
  • Military grade GPS
  • 3-D head-up display
  • 360-degree video surveillance

For a comparison of the old K.I.T.T. and the new, read the next page.

The Original K.I.T.T. (Knight Industries Two Thousand)

David Hasselhoff, playing "Knight Rider" character Michael Long.
David Hasselhoff, playing "Knight Rider" character Michael Long.
Pictorial Parade/Archive Photos/ Getty Images

No, the original K.I.T.T. didn't have lasers like the new one. No, it didn't have a cloaking system that used nanotechnology. And it didn't have keyless entry, either. But to many people, the 1982 Pontiac Trans Am was the original, and that's all that matters. On this page we'll take a look at what K.I.T.T. (Knight Industries Two Thousand) had and compare it with the new K.I.T.T. (Knight Industries Three Thousand).

According to Popular Mechanics, the Trans Am used for the original "Knight Rider" series was a front engine, rear-wheel drive two-door coupe. In the show's universe, the car cost an estimated $11,400,000 to make, and the imaginary specs the car had in 1982 clearly show that. The engine in K.I.T.T was a special "Knight Industries turbojet with modified afterburners," and the transmission was an "eight speed microprocessor turbodrive with autopilot" (which allowed the car drive without any passengers). K.I.T.T. could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in an astounding 0.2 seconds with powerboosters, while braking from 70 to 0 mph only took 14 feet. Many believe the supercar rivaled current concept cars like the Aptera with a fuel efficiency of about 200 miles per gallon.

The original K.I.T.T. also had a few tricks up its sleeve -- however primitive or silly they might seem -- that the new one doesn't. For those tricky climbing situations, the car could use a grappling hook, and fighting off enemies in front and behind was easy with a flame thrower and an oil slick system.

What about the actual Pontiac Trans-AM used to film the "Knight Rider" series in 1982? By today's supercar standards, it would probably be left in the dust -- its V8, 5.0 liter, 145-horsepower engine is no Lamborghini Reventon. On the other hand, the car does deserve some kind of honorary award for out-performing the entire cast of the show.

For lots more information on "Knight Rider," K.­I.T.T. and other things automotive, click over to the next page.

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More Great Links


  • "Knight Rider car Kitt being sold." BBC News. April 3, 2007.
  • Tannert, Chuck. "Under the hood with Knight Rider 2.0: Trans Am vs. Ford Mustang." Popular Mechanics. Dec. 20, 2007.