KITT from Knight Rider in Dubai, we drive it

We take a shadowy flight into the dangerous world of a car that does not exist. Okay, it’s not really dangerous and it does exist – 1982 Pontiac Firebird KITT replica

By Shahzad Sheikh

KITT from Knight Rider in Dubai - we drive it

Zaib Abbas is one of the world’s biggest fans of Knight Rider the original TV show from the 1980s. Five years ago he bought this 1982 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am (the correct year for the car used by David Hasselhoff as Michael Knight) and now he’s turning it into a full-on KITT replica.

Already the Firebird looks like a convincing KITT double, so we just couldn’t resist the opportunity to take the legendary TV superstar car for a bit of a drive, see our video below in which we drive KITT from Knight Rider.

What was KITT?

In September 1982, a brand new TV show, called Knight Rider, hit the small screens and instantly had boys hooked, almost right up to the show’s demise exactly four years later. During that time it made an enduring star out of the larger-than-life David Hasselhoff, provided a distinctive theme tune that stuck in our heads forever, and made a legend out of the third generation Pontiac Firebird Trans Am.

Hasselhoff himself attributed the show’s success to premise of ‘one man can make a difference’, and the show’s creator Glen A Larson thought his ‘Lone Ranger with a car’ action adventure series was a ‘kind of sci-fi thing, with the soul of a Western’, but quite frankly, they both missed the point.

KITT from Knight Rider in Dubai - we drive it

What millions of fans, including yours truly, knew for certain was that the show wasn’t about any of that, it was about one thing alone, and that was KITT – the talking Trans Am. The super high-tech automobile dubbed Knight Industries Two Thousand (aka KITT) was a superhero all by itself and Michael Knight was its sidekick!

Artificial Intelligence – which only now, 30 years later, is starting to edge anywhere near close to becoming a reality – enabled the Pontiac to drive itself, play detective, talk and even deliver aptly timed one-liners often leaden with enough sarcasm to floor ‘the Hoff’s’ ego in an off-the-cuff instant.

KITT from Knight Rider in Dubai - we drive it

In fact KITT was inspired by the HAL 9000 computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey, although our hero lived in the body of 1982 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, not a spaceship. As a result, so many punters walked into GM dealerships and demanded to buy a non-existent ‘Knight Rider’ editions of the car, that the manufacture implored the show’s producers to only refer to the car as the ‘black T-top.’

Of course that was never going to fool anyone and really you do wonder why Pontiac didn’t just jump on this marketing gimmick and give the people what they wanted – something that would definitely happen today.

KITT from Knight Rider in Dubai - we drive it

What happened to the original KITTs?

A fair few were indeed made for the show – 23 in fact. All of which, bar one, survived till the series ended in August 1986. After which most of them were crushed as they didn’t actually have VIN numbers and couldn’t be registered as cars – they were props!

Five survived this cull of which one hero car and one stunt car were retained by Universal Studios initially but later sold to a private collector, although the Studios later had another replica built for its Entertainment Centre. Another hero car went to Australia, but it’s not known where it is now. A convertible is with the Dezer Collection in Miami and the fifth car is thought to be with a private collector in the UK.

KITT from Knight Rider in Dubai - we drive it

Hasselhoff himself had two KITT replica cars used for publicity purposes but both of those were later sold. Fortunately over 840,000 of these third generation Pontiac Firebirds were made over the period of a decade and you can pick them up for anything between US$5000 to US$25,000 for a very good late 80s / early 90s example. There are a number of companies supplying KITT replica parts and you can buy everything you need to make your own KITT for around AED80,000 according to Abbas.

So you could drive around in a pretend KITT for about a couple of hundred grand (in Dirhams), though you might have to source the car in the States just as Abbas did, since there are surprisingly few to be found in the region, even though I remember these to be popular sellers back in KSA when they were new.

KITT from Knight Rider in Dubai - we drive it

What features did KITT have?

KITT was toughened up for crime-fighting duties with a ‘molecular bonded shell’, featured a turbojet engine with an 8-speed gearbox (these are now a reality) capable of 0-100kph in 2 seconds and over 300kph. A ‘Turbo Boost’ feature utilising a pair of rocket boosters mounted behind the front tyres, proved useful for jumping over or through just about anything.

Most famously of all, the all-black car had that red scanner planted at the front of the bonnet, actually a carryover from the ‘eye’ of the robotic Cylons of Larson’s previous television series, Battlestar Galactica. This was dubbed the Anamorphic Equalizer, a device that could ‘see’ in all visual wavelengths as well as X-ray and Infrared (night vision is of course now available on high-end German luxury cars!).

KITT from Knight Rider in Dubai - we drive it

These and a host of other discreet features were more than enough to defeat most of the villains that ‘operated above the law’, and the show only jumped the shark when in series four KITT became a convertible and sprouted all kinds of absurd spoilers in ‘Super Pursuit Mode’, ruining the sleek shape of the really rather handsome 1982-1992 Firebird.

What about the actual 3rd Gen Firebird?

When the third generation Pontiac Firebird arrived, as previously it had a body shared with its Camaro cousin, but the Pontiac’s sleeker more chiselled nose and pop-up headlights all worked so much better with the wedge-shaped overall design (even the windscreen, at 60 degrees, was the most raked back ever seen in a GM vehicle to that point), all of which of course made it the most aerodynamics Firebird with a drag figure of just 0.32cd. It was also about 225kg lighter than the previous car.

KITT from Knight Rider in Dubai - we drive it

The WS6 option, also fitted to the cars playing KITT, included four-wheel disc brakes, 15-inch alloys, stiffer springs, thicker front and rear sway bars, a high ratio steering box and limited slip rear differential. Abbas’ car was also equipped with this pack.

Although V6 and even four-cylinder 2.5-litre ‘Iron Duke’ versions were available, V8s were of course the preferred motor to have under that long bonnet (failing the possibility of getting a TurboJet on the options list of course!). Initially it came with a pair of 5.0-litre engines putting out 145bhp with a 4-speed manual and 165bhp with a 3-speed auto (it’s the latter of these fitted in Abbas’ car).

KITT from Knight Rider in Dubai - we drive it

From 1987 it got the much meatier 5.7-litre V8 and towards the end was putting out 245bhp and 345lb ft of torque giving it a 0-100kph time of around seven seconds and a top speed of just over 200kph.

Driving Zaib’s car

Despite Zaib’s car still being fitted with the original stock 5.0 (although he wants to swap out the engine for a more powerful unit) its light weight was immediately apparent through the astonishingly sprightly acceleration – only 165bhp remember!

Off the line it took a moment or two and then the torque would come in strong on this extremely tight 33-year old car – Abbas sure found a good example with only 52,000 miles (84,000km) on it. Unlike previous Firebirds I have driven, the suspension was taut and only a little body roll and float testified to the age of this black beauty, nor were there as many rattles and squeaks I was anticipating.

KITT from Knight Rider in Dubai - we drive it

The steering was typically vague but light, and compensated with decent response and surprisingly eager turn-in. Brakes were better than anticipated probably thanks to those four-wheel dics, and road holding at the back was good, whilst the front exhibited a bit of understeer.

I only had a brief drive in this car, but it certainly felt like it would be worth taking for a longer run and chucking it about a bit. Certainly felt solid enough. Perhaps we can have another go when Abbas switches out the interior and swaps the motor!

Watch this space.

KITT from Knight Rider in Dubai - we drive it

Tell us your favourite things about Knight Rider and KITT below in the comments section

6 responses to “KITT from Knight Rider in Dubai, we drive it”

  1. Roy Fernandes says:

    I love KITT. The team, the stunts and the show. I had to have one. Thanks Mr. Shaikh for sharing & keeping the dream of having KITT alive. You have helped Make A Difference.

  2. A.R. Khan says:

    Would love to see your KITT!

  3. Ghaz says:

    Hi, Amazing to see kit again. May I have Zaib Abbas’s contact details so I can also visit n see kitt? I m also interested in having a kitt. I believe he can help me in that.

    Thanks

  4. Shaikh momin says:

    I am one of the biggest fan of knight rider since my child hood
    It was my true dream to drive this car since then but never came true the music viberates in my blood I wish I can drive it Uae

  5. sharezaad says:

    I think my dream will be filled me being behind the wheel and driving kitt knight rider myself as a child growing up I always wanted a remote control repliçá car of kitt knight rider

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