40 Years of Knight Rider – Six things that made it so cool

Six of the most unforgettable features of this iconic show

When Knight Rider made its TV debut on 26th September 1982, few could have predicted the pop culture hit that had just been born. Witty, action-packed and oozing with 80s style, the show became a much-loved slice of weekly fun and entertainment for people worldwide. And for those of us who grew up with Knight Rider as a constant, its memorable moments are as indelible as KITT was indestructible. These, for me, are some of the show’s most enduring features:

Six of the most unforgettable features of this iconic show

When Knight Rider made its TV debut on 26th September 1982, few could have predicted the pop culture hit that had just been born. Witty, action-packed and oozing with 80s style, the show became a much-loved slice of weekly fun and entertainment for people worldwide. And for those of us who grew up with Knight Rider as a constant, its memorable moments are as indelible as KITT was indestructible. These, for me, are some of the show’s most enduring features:

A seriously cool theme tune

The Knight Rider theme tune is instantly recognisable. Dark, dramatic and brooding, it sets the tone of the show superbly well. And those catchy synth sounds are capable of transporting you back to the 1980s era perhaps better than anything else. The tune has cropped up frequently since, including as a sample in ‘Mundian To Bach Ke’, a massive Bhangra dance hit from Panjabi MC and in ‘Turn It Up (Remix)/Fire It Up’ by rapper Busta Rhymes. So, as theme tunes go, this one’s not only cool but pretty versatile too!

A seriously cool theme tune

The Knight Rider theme tune is instantly recognisable. Dark, dramatic and brooding, it sets the tone of the show superbly well. And those catchy synth sounds are capable of transporting you back to the 1980s era perhaps better than anything else. The tune has cropped up frequently since, including as a sample in ‘Mundian To Bach Ke’, a massive Bhangra dance hit from Panjabi MC and in ‘Turn It Up (Remix)/Fire It Up’ by rapper Busta Rhymes. So, as theme tunes go, this one’s not only cool but pretty versatile too!

KITT’s futuristic features

Forty years on from Knight Rider, we’re now all familiar with voice-operated personal assistants thanks to the likes of Siri and Alexa. But KITT was rather more than that – a sentient, sensitive and, at times, sarcastic talking crime-fighting car that went above and beyond. And well ahead of its time with its self-driving and self-parking abilities too. Add in some flashy dash displays and that stylish red scanner bar at the front of the car (called the anamorphic equalizer) and you had the recipe for a simultaneously very 80s and very futuristic piece of visual pop culture.

KITT’s futuristic features

Forty years on from Knight Rider, we’re now all familiar with voice-operated personal assistants thanks to the likes of Siri and Alexa. But KITT was rather more than that – a sentient, sensitive and, at times, sarcastic talking crime-fighting car that went above and beyond. And well ahead of its time with its self-driving and self-parking abilities too. Add in some flashy dash displays and that stylish red scanner bar at the front of the car (called the anamorphic equalizer) and you had the recipe for a simultaneously very 80s and very futuristic piece of visual pop culture.

The memorable manoeuvres

The Pontiac Trans Am was already a mighty impressive vehicle. Transformed into KITT in the magic TV world of Knight Rider, it was out of this world, with some jaw-dropping moves to match. The hot pursuits, often with KITT making impossible jumps or leaning over onto two wheels, made for some thrilling viewing. And what Knight Rider fan could forget that nifty signature move where KITT would mount and dismount from its truck trailer up and down a ramp while in motion? When it came to power, though, the most dramatic moments came when Michael activated KITT’s Super Pursuit Mode, where front bumpers, sidewings and a rear spoiler emerged as the car accelerated to terrifying speeds.

The memorable manoeuvres

The Pontiac Trans Am was already a mighty impressive vehicle. Transformed into KITT in the magic TV world of Knight Rider, it was out of this world, with some jaw-dropping moves to match. The hot pursuits, often with KITT making impossible jumps or leaning over onto two wheels, made for some thrilling viewing. And what Knight Rider fan could forget that nifty signature move where KITT would mount and dismount from its truck trailer up and down a ramp while in motion? When it came to power, though, the most dramatic moments came when Michael activated KITT’s Super Pursuit Mode, where front bumpers, sidewings and a rear spoiler emerged as the car accelerated to terrifying speeds.

The rise of The Hoff

David Hasselhoff was already a TV actor but it was his role as Michael Knight that shot him to stardom. With his good looks, permed hair (bordering on mullet territory), leather jacket and buttoned down shirt, Hasselhoff brought a heap of 80s style to the show. He became an international sensation, albeit one whose output came with a large side-order of cheese. The Hoff became the star of Baywatch, launched a successful singing career and popped up in films such as The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie and Guardians of the Galaxy 2. On a more serious note, he became an unlikely hero of German reunification at the end of the Cold War.

The rise of The Hoff

David Hasselhoff was already a TV actor but it was his role as Michael Knight that shot him to stardom. With his good looks, permed hair (bordering on mullet territory), leather jacket and buttoned down shirt, Hasselhoff brought a heap of 80s style to the show. He became an international sensation, albeit one whose output came with a large side-order of cheese. The Hoff became the star of Baywatch, launched a successful singing career and popped up in films such as The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie and Guardians of the Galaxy 2. On a more serious note, he became an unlikely hero of German reunification at the end of the Cold War.

Battling the baddies

Knight Rider was always about Michael and his car companion fighting for justice. And across 90 episodes, this meant an abundant supply of criminals to contend with. Among the catalogue of baddies were nasty ninjas, sinister socialites and badass bikers. But perhaps most memorable were the direct nemeses of Michael and KITT themselves. The appearance of Garthe Knight (who bears more than a passing resemblance to Michael) gave rise to some surreal but engaging Hoff-on-Hoff conflict. KITT, meanwhile, faced off with his evil twin counterpart KARR, for some brilliantly outlandish and over-the-top car fighting action.

Battling the baddies

Knight Rider was always about Michael and his car companion fighting for justice. And across 90 episodes, this meant an abundant supply of criminals to contend with. Among the catalogue of baddies were nasty ninjas, sinister socialites and badass bikers. But perhaps most memorable were the direct nemeses of Michael and KITT themselves. The appearance of Garthe Knight (who bears more than a passing resemblance to Michael) gave rise to some surreal but engaging Hoff-on-Hoff conflict. KITT, meanwhile, faced off with his evil twin counterpart KARR, for some brilliantly outlandish and over-the-top car fighting action.

The bond of friendship

As screen friendships go, the one that exists between a man and a car doesn’t, on paper, seem particularly plausible. But the bond between Michael and KITT really does work. KITT, voiced by the dulcet William Daniels, provides a sophisticated counterpoint to Michael’s brasher manner. There’s banter, conflict, stark advice and pep talks aplenty – but above all, a close affection between the protagonist and his extraordinary car. And while the farfetched plots and fun action are a big part of Knight Rider’s appeal, the warmth at the heart of the show has made one of its most lasting impressions.

The bond of friendship

As screen friendships go, the one that exists between a man and a car doesn’t, on paper, seem particularly plausible. But the bond between Michael and KITT really does work. KITT, voiced by the dulcet William Daniels, provides a sophisticated counterpoint to Michael’s brasher manner. There’s banter, conflict, stark advice and pep talks aplenty – but above all, a close affection between the protagonist and his extraordinary car. And while the farfetched plots and fun action are a big part of Knight Rider’s appeal, the warmth at the heart of the show has made one of its most lasting impressions.

You can check out all my mods for the Knight Rider KITT model from Fanhome, DeAgostini and Altaya here.
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Knight Rider’s release, get 10% off every KITT mod using coupon HOFF10 at checkout. For a limited time only. 

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