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Flashback Friday: 1983 Kenner Knight Rider KITT 2000

There really is no proper introduction to a vehicle as iconic as this one, so I’m just going to trust you all to hum the theme song to yourselves as you make the jump.

In 1982, Pontiac gave their classic Trans Am a subtle but effective makeover. Becoming a cult classic with the 1978’s appearance in Smokey and the Bandit, the 2nd gen Trans Am was one of the most popular large-displacement V8 muscle cars of the decade, if not all time. Pontiac had continually thumbed their nose at the EPA, and when many legacy cars sadly didn’t survive, the Trans Am maintained it’s powerhouse 220 HP Pontiac 400 motor all the way though its production. But with the 1982 model year, the 3rd Gen Trans Am was much more fuel conscious, with a lighter weight, and it’s most powerful option a 5-liter Chevy V8  with little more than half the HP of the previous generation.

But what it lacked in cubic feet, it made up for in style. With a windshield slope steeper than any other production car, and a refined wind tunnel-tested shape built on the F-body frame, the 1982 Trans Am is widely regarded as the most aerodynamic car that GM ever built. This eye-catching almost stealth body shape caught the attention of TV writer Glen Larson, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Kenner, in between what I imagine were cocaine binges and parties where they swam in pools of Star Wars money, were always watching for more licenses to add to their impressive stable. Knight Rider was a very strong performer in 1982, so it’s not surprising that they snatched up the license and cranked out some toys. While most of Kenner’s offerings were more in tune with a Hot Wheels stunt set, there was the jewel of the line: a roughly 1:12 scale electronic KITT, with its own Micheal Knight figure.

Built with an exacting level of details that made it almost more model than toy, KITT came with a “C” Battery-powered voice that said six phrases, all voiced by William Daniels. The electronic feature works by pressing down on the license plate, a genius way to incorporate the feature without sacrificing a single body line. It also has an adjuster lever on the player, so that as time wore down the band, you could speed up the tempo to keep KITT’s voice from sounding like a dying battery. It has functioning doors, a slightly pivoting suspension, and a moveable steering wheel. Add in the functional, if creepy, Micheal figure, this toy commanded a high price point for its day, but it’s tough not to see some value.

I had one as a kid and no doubt ran it til the doors fell off and the voice player snapped, but I had inexplicably forgotten completely about it for more than 30 years. That won’t happen again.

After spending a respectable sum, I was able to recover a KITT in pretty good working condition and with functioning electronics. It needed some restoration, and I knew that in doing so I would be “un-collectible”-ing the car, but with no intention of losing it again, I’m fine with losing some resale value. While the intended figure is just shy of 6 inches tall, the interior is surprisingly spacious, and I found that newer 6inch figures could fit with some effort. Since the floorboards were damaged and it’s cracking at the seats, I took the opportunity to move them back a little further and removed the kick panels in the front. I then re-covered them in styrene, left them black, and secured them to the frame. The wind sheild had warped a bit, so I cut it from the plastic sprue and fit the windows individually to the body.

Decades of running down the hallways and stairs have tweaked the body a bit, so the doors need a little help staying closed. I cleaned up the hinges and flexed the body back toward it’s original position. A couple magnets now give the doors a satisfying snap when they close.

Lastly, I gave it a vinyl dye coat of semi-black to fill in any body scratches and damage. Later, I’ll do a more glossy coat, but this looks pretty good as-is. I didn’t have the heart to paint over that calculator-font on the doors just yet, but eventually that should probably go.

The refitting of the floor panel and windows opened up the interior significantly. And while it might be a little cozy, I can fit two full-size Mezco figures inside of it — something most vehicles probably can’t even dream of.

In the pantheon of iconic rides, KITT is one of the top five vehicles of all time for me. Along his alumni like the Back to the Future DeLorian DMC-12, the A-Team’s 1983 Vandura van, the 1989 Batmobile, and the Mad Max Interceptor, the 1982 Trans Am is a fantastic reminder of my childhood love of cars, and a bittersweet standalone of those five on my shelf. Maybe someday.

14 thoughts on “Flashback Friday: 1983 Kenner Knight Rider KITT 2000

  1. I would have thought the GM license would have cost more for Kenner. David may not have sold away his likeness rights for a bigger payday.

  2. Yeah, it’s getting done. Gonna take it all apart and send the body out for sandblasting. I’ll need a new transmission and diff also. It’ll be a slow project but I intend to do it right. I’ve always lusted for a 383 Stroker so I may have to make a trip out to Long Beach!

  3. So, this thing ACTUALLY EXISTED?!
    So I wasn’t delusional as my grade school friends used to tell me back when the 80’s Knight Rider was on TV?

  4. Thanks for sharing that! I’ve done two engine teardowns in my life. Let’s hope there’s not a third. In your case though, you gotta gotta get it on, you have to preserve that history!

  5. Sadly my KITT replica bit the dust earlier this month. Would have had it 20-years next month and got it over 200K miles! Needed a new distributor but trying to find someone that knows how to tune one is hard these days especially on a car this old. Since this is CA where a mechanic gets more than a surgeon per hour by law I can’t afford to pay for on the job learning! It just sits out in front covered up now.

    Gives me a chance to replace the motor (seriously the guys looking at it said it’s somewhere between a timing job or the juncture at the crank is broken/too worn and the engine will need rebuilt or replaced! Mechanics these days!), strip the body down to bare metal, respray it and do it up right from the ground up. Like the article mentioned the anemic engine isn’t worth a rebuild so I can splurge on a nice crate LS motor now! Going from 160hp to 330 I’ll be mad with power!!

    I think my Kenner car is still at my mother’s house. I tried to dismantle it in high school and taking the voice mechanism apart lost a spring and it never talked again! Kinda cool how it works, it’s basically a small record player. Thing went through hell when I was a kid! Launched it off the roof once and it only developed a crack on the passenger A-pillar making the door loose.

  6. Every nerds’ dream. I remember being young and seeing the KITT on Knight Rider and then seeing people with their own KITT imitation. Teens would wear their leather jackets, and drive the open roads, pretending to be Michael Knight, the sun and heat be damned; mashing that “X” like they were the real Michael. Burning rubber, drifting, and hitting speeds that had only one real purpose, to attract the minge.

    That show was cool and not all the episodes hold up today, but there were more than a few gems.. Everyone wanted to be Michael Knight; the lone crusader.

  7. nice trip down memory lane for i had the thing myself till the the electronic part got screwed up and the car made nothing but making kitt sound like a tape suck in a rewind loop. and always wondered how much they paid the hoff for his rights to the figure or if they didn’t at all

  8. Great trip down nostalgia lane, with a more than appropriate ride. Thank you for the great pics and Mezco scale comparison.

  9. I would have been interested to see how it scales with Mafex or Figuarts figures to be honest ^^

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