How Does A GT500KR Become KITT? The New Knight Rider

knightrider edmunds KITT NBC

So we’ve all seen the teaser trailers and short trailers, and we’ve all seen the pictures and media launch videos but have you ever wondered how a brand new Shelby GT500KR became the star of the new Knight Rider series on NBC?

“The original KITT was an ’82 Pontiac Trans Am and by the time the TV series went off the air in ’86, even then it was starting to look old and pokey. Plus today’s 12-year-olds just don’t care about ancient Pontiacs.” says Edmund’s John Pearley Huffman, and he is bang on who in their right mind in 2008 would want to see a hotted up Pontiac over a hotted up Mustang. After all the upcoming Pontiac G8 is an Australian Made car that from my experience is plastic and not too well finished (i have one of the early models from the Holden maker).

“You know what, there wasn’t a lot of fighting about what the car should be,” said Dave Bartis, the executive producer of the film. “Because, you know, when you go out there and you look at what the available options are, this is by far the clear choice. We wanted an American-made car and we knew we wanted a two-door. We knew we wanted something that had some muscle to it. The Mustang is just an iconic car. And the Shelby really just stood out.”

With a car in the bag, or should I say garage, the series producers and big wigs needed to do it up in true Knight Rider fashion. You cannot just have a stock car, not in this show, so the executives sort the work of one Harald Belker who works out of his California home where this former Porsche and Mercedes-Benz designer freelance’s from.

Becker is widely know as the go-to car designer for Hollywood and has worked on movies like Spiderman, Minority Report and Triple X.

“They contacted me in the middle of September,” Belker recalls. “And there was still a lot of discussion about what car they wanted. And in the end Ford was the company that was most willing to make the deal with NBC. Then we went in suggesting that it should be a Shelby. There was some reluctance at first, but we convinced them.”

Once the the contracts were signed Becker got straight into it “The car by itself is a beautiful car with a strong fan base that loves it,” he said. “And the Shelby is a beautiful addition to the basic Mustang. So my purpose was to take it a step further without upsetting too many fans. The input from the producers came in the beginning with a sort of nonchalant wish list. We talked about the light strip and how we could show that. And then once we got the Shelby hood we quickly came to the conclusion the light had to be on the top leading edge of the hood. Otherwise they were just waiting for me to show them something.”

From there Becker spent a good amount of time ‘upgrading’ KITT to modern standard. Gone are the days of LED’s, they were thought to be too dated, hence the new digital super computer in the back seat.

Once Becker had finished his designer it was then on to production but some issues arose, the GT500KR wasn’t due for production until January thought it was needed for shooting in November so Ted Moser and his fabrication crew at Picture Car Warehouse improvised, “We started talking about building the Knight Rider cars on October 15th,” Moser told Inside Line. “And the biggest car event of the year happens at the end of October — the SEMA show in Las Vegas. So trying to get parts or anything, I actually jumped in my car, drove to SEMA and hooked up with the Shelby guys to try and get some parts for the KR. From there we finally got our first car and design on the 15th of November and the first car had to be on the set the Monday after Thanksgiving.”

“The initial meeting I had with them,” Moser said, “you have the Ford guy sitting on one side of the table, the designer and myself are sitting on the other side and the producers and director are on the ends. So there’s [Ford] going, ‘Um, well, we’ll give you two cars. And then we’ll let you use two other cars, but you need to return them to us in excellent condition.’

“So I listened for 15 minutes and finally I said, ‘You know, you’re gonna need two for first unit and two for second unit. And you’re gonna need two stunt cars and a buck. So the way I see it, it’s seven cars.’ And you know, the guy from Ford leaned across the table and said, ‘Well, we never talked about seven cars.’ And I said, ‘Well, you didn’t have me here before.’ So they ended up giving us six cars and we bought one car.”

The ‘Buck’, as it were, was a camera car, the one they had bought. Panels were cut up so cameras could be fitted for various shots. But what’s most interesting is that no real GT500KR’s were used in the filming, they were all GT coupes and two base V6 coupes. “Ford only had one KR hood,” recalls Moser. “So we took it off their showcar, had a mold made and then built six [fiberglass] hoods from there.”

If you were building a house, you’d get dimensions and everything. All I get is a three-quarter front shot illustration, So I call in a prop maker and have him build the side skirts and air spoilers and whatever else we need, out of wood. And then the body guys come in and smooth them all out, straighten the edges, make sure they’re perfect. Then we send them off, have a mold made and fiberglass parts made from those molds. Then they come back, we finish paint and apply them to the car.”

And what about for the scenes where KITT is driving himself? CGI? no, one car was actually fitted with a radio control until so it can be driven around remotely for those tidy shots.

It wasn’t until i read about all this that i realised how much work actually went into the design and production of this series. Although this doesn’t mean the series will be good. There is, after all a plot to it and as I’ve said before, the original aired before I was born, so at least now I have the opportunity to get into this give my own thoughts and opinions. We’ll just have to wait and see.

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