Every since I started publishing videos of my KITT replica Trans Am, people have been asking questions about the iconic, yet still missing KITT dashboard. Although I’ve decided not to install it in my car and keep the dashboard stock, I want to share with you why and what alternatives I see for a possible 21st century KITT dashboard. Might give some inspiration to the film makers, should they turn the many reboot rumors into reality.
When it comes to converting the rearend of your Firebird to KITT, one of the crucial elements are the taillights. KITT being an 1982 Firebird Trans Am had very specific taillights (covered with a black plexiglas) that from the factory only came on 1982 – 1984 Trans Ams. The subsequent ’85 to ’90 Trans Am had different taillights, but kept the same light chamber partition, thus the wiring for KITT also fits the latter taillight clusters.
Long story short, over the ten years of production, there were several types of taillights and in this following video I’m showing you the different options you have when converting the wiring harness from the standard Firebird taillights from 1985 – 1990 to the Trans Am style from 1982 – 1990. Check it out! 🙂
The undoubtedly most iconic piece of Knight Rider and maybe even of the 80s is KITT’s wooshing scanner. If there is one thing that cannot miss and must be done right in any KITT replica, it is the scanner. It would definitely be cool if the so called scanner could actually scan its environment, just like KITT did on the show, but unfortunately it’s just a light bar with a trailing effect.
In the following video I’m showing you what type of scanner I’ve chosen for my KITT and how I installed it. Furthermore, I’m giving you an overview of what the current option are and what you should consider before you pick one. Enjoy the video!
This second part of the “K.I.T.T. & K.A.R.R.” ERTL model cars review – a focus on the 1/25 and 1/64 scale models. Contrary to the 1/18 models I’ve reviewed in part 1, these cars were actually produced in 1982 when the TV show started.
Let’s start with the exterior of the 1/25 car. Contrary to the 1/18 models, this one is much more basic. The only parts that do open are the doors. In fact let’s take a closer look at them: You can clearly see that the doors are not well aligned, the clearance on the front and the right side of the bottom is quite significant. If you turn the car to the side, you’ll notice that the doors don’t stay shut. It’s a relatively low standard of fit and finish. Anyway, at least ERTL made the door handles and locks visible.
Up front, ERTL didn’t bother putting the custom K.I.T.T. bumper on it. Instead, they went with the original Firebird front. As you can see they did however, put a red scanner light sticker on it. I must admit, it’s not totally wrong, as K.I.T.T. can be seen in several scenes of the pilot episode of Knight Rider (Knight of the Phoenix) with that stock bumper and the scanner mounted right on the front.
The front marker lights are molded into the fenders, but are obviously not painted yellow. As a matter of fact, the whole car is all black. The wheels are equipped with the turbine finned alloys and the “Bowling Ball” hubcaps. They even have a little Pontiac logo in the center. Moreover, the tires have “Goodyear” markings on the side and descent profile on them – very nice! Don’t try looking for stone deflectors or air extractors on this car, you won’t find them.
In the rear, I’m unable to say whether there are rear marker lights or not, as the “Knight Rider” stickers cover that part of the body. They did however manage to put in the fuel filler cap on the left side. The back follows the same path as the front. You can clearly see the stock taillight cluster with the three parts, the horizontal lines, the Firebird logo, as well as the Pontiac lettering. Let me just add that there aren’t any side mirrors, but that’s probably due to the fact that this was built to be a children’s toy. Mirrors would have represented a safety hazard.
On the hood, we find the iconic Trans Am bulge on the left side including the separation line for the upper element. The roof has the T-top shape, but no actual glass or plastic covers to put in. Furthermore, the center bar is way too large for a third generation Firebird and reminds me of the previous generation model.
Overall regarding the exterior, ERTL didn’t bother applying any of the Knight Rider transformations and instead went for a bone stock Firebird Trans Am with some stickers. Bear in mind that this car was intended for children for ages 3 and over and not for adult collectors as it has become today.
Now, what about the 1/64 model? Due to the fact that it is even smaller than the 1/25, my expectations in terms of fit and finish were quite low. Interestingly, you can kind of see that it was made by the same manufacturer at the same period: the front bumper is the stock Firebird one with the scanner sticker and it does have the “Knight Rider” sticker on either rear fender, like on the 1/25 model. But I must say, it’s actually not a bad model. Contrary to the bigger one, this one does actually have air extractors in the front fenders.
It has a compact single piece body. As a result, none of the panels can be opened or removed. The doors do however have handles and locks. For obvious reasons, it doesn’t have rear view mirrors, but it does have garnish moldings which again, are not on its slightly bigger brother.
In the rear, the fuel filler cap is visible on the left side. As we get to the back, this is where it starts to get tricky: Look at the rear spoiler – it’s diagonal instead of flat and continuous along the sides, just like on the second generation Firebird. How weird is that? Maybe ERTL didn’t want to plug in the authentic spoiler just in case it gets loose and children would swallow it…who knows?
At least they put in transparent plastic roof panels on the T-top – good job. Nevertheless, I would have liked to see the Trans Am bulge on the hood. Wouldn’t have that been possible on that scale in 1982? Lastly, the wheels are simple black ones made out of solid plastic – most likely a standard issue part.
So much for the exterior. I’d love to open the hood and take a look at the engines of these cars, but unfortunately they don’t have any.
So let’s get underneath the cars straight ahead. The 1/25 model is reasonably accurate. It pretty much carries on the same attention to details as the exterior: You can recognize the shapes of the radiator and the steering, but of course, the whole undercarriage is just one single plate that imitates all of the elements, such as the oil pan, transmission, exhaust system and fuel tank. There is no functioning steering but the wheels mounted to their respective axle do turn. The undercarriage is clipped into place and bolted to the body with one screw only in the back. The traditional ERTL logo is branded in the middle. There is however no mention of Pontiac, General Motors, NBC or Universal Studios.
Let’s zoom in on the 1/64 K.I.T.T.: Obviously, the standard is lower on this model, but so are the expectations. It’s a one plate undercarriage as well. There are very few details visible, basically just the transmission and the exhaust pipes. The plate is riveted to the body with one rivet in the front and another one in the back. As on the 1/25 scale model, this one carries the ERTL branding in the middle.
Enough of the greasy stuff, let’s jump into the cars. As you know by now, only the 1/25 has access to the interior. If you want to get into the 1/64, you’re gonna have to do that ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ style, as the doors are just engraved.
The first instantly recognizable observations are the all black interior and the fact that it looks pretty stock Firebird inside. Neither the dashboard, nor the steering wheel is in Knight Rider fashion. However, I must give ERTL some credit, as they did a pretty good job at replicating the original Trans Am. The front seats don’t have the hole in the head-rest and the back seats are separated by a huge transmission shaft, but other than that it’s quite good. They even put in the center console and the hand brake lever. Furthermore, considering that the doors are made of a single metal piece, the interior trim is actually really good: most of the elements are visible and shaped accurately.
It’s a different story on the 1/64 model – it’s much more simplistic: A plane flat dashboard without any gauges, a standard steering wheel, front seats only and a gear lever.
Now this is something special: Having the original packaging of a model car that is over 30 years old, that alone makes it a collector’s item. So here it is: The box of the 1/25 model has a longer back plate with the ERTL and Knight Rider letterings on the front, as well as a drawing of K.I.T.T.. Notice that even on the picture they used a stock Firebird Trans Am with a scanner at the very front. The main part of the box comes in a yellow and blue color combination with an open window upfront all the way over the top. With “Durable Die-Cast 2000“ on the front and “Durable Die Cast Replica – Constructed to Last a Lifetime!“ on the top, ERTL emphasizes on the solidity and ruggedness of its product.
In the back, you’ll find a brief description of the car and another picture of KITT as well as Michael Knight. Funnily enough, on this picture, K.I.T.T. is shown with the actual front bumper of the TV show. On the bottom is where you can see the ERTL and, finally, the Universal City Studios brandings, trademarked in 1982. On the right side you’ll find a kind of an application form to fill out and cut out in order to become a member of the ERTL Collector’s Club. A very special and rare thing to have. I guess I’m going to have to find out want that has become!
Onwards to the packaging of the smaller car. You can instantly recognize that the two cars come from the same brand and are made in the same period. The car was originally hold in place by a transparent box. The cardboard comes in the same yellow and blue color scheme with the ERTL and Knight Rider letterings. On this particular example, there is an additional French sticker on it, indicating that it was originally sold in France. In the back, we get the same Collector’s Club application form as on the bigger model on top, as well as the ERTL and Universal City Studios brandings below.
Back on the road
These two model cars are definitely not the most accurate TV show car replicas, but they were meant for children to play with. Moreover, the fact that they were made at the time the show aired now makes them collectors items anyway and for that reason they have earned their tickets into the fan collection.
In this article I’m presenting a series of four ERTL model cars of the 1982 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am “K.I.T.T.” and his evil twin “K.A.R.R.”. The iconic automobiles of the 80’s TV series “Knight Rider”. I’ll start with the more recent 1/18 K.I.T.T. and K.A.R.R., compare them to the original Firebird Trans Am they are based on, and continue with the 1/25 and 1/64 scale models in part 2.
History of the car
In 1982, Pontiac launched the completely redesigned third generation of the Firebird model. It was a drastic change in terms of technology and styling: electronically controlled retractable headlamps flush-mounted side glass, a glass rear hatchback, just to name a few. This generation was designed in the wind tunnel. Every exterior element of this car was designed to be sleek and aerodynamically efficient. The Trans Am, which was the top model of the range, was the perfect car to choose for a TV series that was about the car of the future, the “Knight Industries Two Thousand”, commonly known as “K.I.T.T.”.
Engine wise, the third generation Firebird came with a plethora of inline 4, V6 and V8 engines, going from 151 cu in (2.5 L) all the way up to 350 cu in (5.7 L). In the TV show, K.I.T.T. got its power from a turbine, but the actual engine was the Crossfire-injected LU5 305 cu in (5.0 L) V8 with a whopping 165 hp, coupled to the TH-200c automatic 3-speed transmission, that came with the Trans Am only – A rather modest power output for today’s standards, but then it was in 1982.
K.I.T.T. and K.A.R.R. were based on the Recaro Edition Trans Am with the PMD (Pontiac Motor Division) seats. On the exterior, the changes to the production model were surprisingly small, but all the more iconic. The front bumper with the integrated red scanner light has the correct shape. The scanner light even works and is powered by four coin cells located in the fuel tank. Press the small black button on the left side just in front of the rear wheel and the scanner light will stay on for 20 seconds. Press the big blue button on the opposite side and it’ll stay on till you press it again.
This K.I.T.T. has two fog lamps per side plus additional turn signals. In the TV show, K.I.T.T. never had turn signals in the front bumper. There were three fog lamps per side in the first two seasons and only two fog lamps per side in the final two seasons. According to the dashboard, this is supposed to replicate the car of the first two seasons. Back then, K.I.T.T. had a slightly different front bumper than in the following seasons: the fog lamp part was covered with black laths, making the fog lamps visible only when switched on. The original parking lights were covered by tinted plastic, letting the light shine through when switched on. This is the later bumper that completely covers the original parking lights of the Firebird. K.A.R.R. had two appearances on the TV show; one in the first season when the exterior was identical to K.I.T.T.’s and one in the third season, when the scanner light had faded from red to yellow, due to a two years in salt water. He had also repainted the lower part of the body in grey.
The only differences to K.I.T.T. are: the grey paint on the lower part of the car, the yellow scanner and the yellow voice modulator. The grey paint job just misses one detail, the line along the wheel arches. It does have the front stone deflectors like on K.I.T.T.. K.A.R.R. has three fog lamps per side as well, instead of two. However, they are all white.
Further down the front, you can see the grappling hook. Although it was only visible up close on the show when used, ERTL managed to install a permanent one with a spring that rolls it back in when you release the rope. Whereas it works still quite good on this K.A.R.R. model, it’s a little stuck on K.I.T.T. and I have to roll it back in manually. Nevertheless, it’s really impressive to see that they thought of it and made a working unit!
Back on top, the hood has its signature left side Trans Am bulge. The headlights do not pop up on this models, nor do any of the other lights work, which is a little sad, since they already have batteries for the scanner lights. Anyway, the marker lights are correctly painted orange in front and red in the rear. Fortunately, the windshield wipers are accurately replicated separate items that have been installed hidden behind the hood – just as they should. The air extractors on the front fenders are also there. ERTL even painted them in a different matt black as opposed to the shiny black on the rest of the car. The garnish moldings on the doors have been installed correctly. On K.A.R.R., they also mark the limit between the two paint colors. The radio antenna is missing, just as in the show.
The wheels are fitted with the turbine finned alloy imitation rims with the black “Bowling Ball” hubcaps. The tires don’t show any brand markings on the side like in the show, but they have actual profile on them. The stone deflectors, standard on the Trans Am, were mounted in front of either wheel. Contrary to this model and many replicas, the front ones were never mounted on the actual K.I.T.T.. Even this one has got them. Finally, the fuel filler cap with the opening bulge on the left side is very accurate. The back window is tinted and opens just as in real one. Contrary to the life size one it has a thick frame, but then I suppose it would have to hold everything together. In the rear, K.I.T.T.’s black single piece taillight cover is on, as opposed to the Firebird’s original three piece cover. The bumper follows the exact embayment in the lower part and is completed with the classic blue “California KNIGHT” license plate sticker, bold on by four painted screws. However, ERTL just made yet another mistake with the paint job on K.A.R.R.: On the model the entire bumper is grey. On the real car, the separation is on the edge of the bumper, meaning that the upper surface is black. Please note: There was no license plate on K.A.R.R. when I got it. The one on this one is a self-made replica.
Looking further down we can see the tips of the two exhaust pipes, but we’ll get to that in a moment. Let’s get up to the roof. As a matter of fact, the T-Top was a crucial part of K.I.T.T.. If you have watched to show you’ll know that K.I.T.T. used his ejector seats frequently, but we’ll get to that as we’ll get inside the car. The two sections are made out of tinted plastic, follow the original’s slightly curbed shape and are retractable. They are simply put on the car and cannot be attached. So be careful when turning the car upside down. That said, they fit perfectly, just as in the real world. 😉
Now let’s check out if there is actually a turbine under K.I.T.T.’s and K.A.R.R.’s hood. On the one hand the result is very disappointing, because ERTL put the conventional original 5.0 L V8 in it, in lieu of the turbine. On the other hand, the turbine was never visible in the show; every time they opened the hood, the stock V8 engine was in there. In that perspective, it’s a spot on job: Gold painted engine block, chrome valve covers, grey headers and alternator – all the different elements are painted in their respective color. The air filter, the cables on the engine bay and the hose connecting the radiator and the engine are on, even all of the auxiliaries and the v-belts are installed, even though they cannot turn. They even thought of replicating the exact shape of the cover plate between the headlights – well done.
The only letdowns are the battery and the headlights. While the battery is installed, no cable or connectors are visible. ERTL did a better job on the “Bluesmobile” I reviewed previously. And I assume it would have been feasible to install retractable headlights on this kind of model – Some less expensive model cars have that. Overall though, a very nice job. The hoods of both cars close nicely, they are well adjusted and the shut lines are very clean.
Time to look under the car. The mechanical details are all very accurate. The differently painted colors like in the engine bay continue their way down here. The wheels turn and the steering is connected to K.I.T.T. & K.A.R.R.’s futuristic steering wheel. From underneath we get a close look at the grappling hook and it’s actually quite sophisticated: A mini hook attached to a rope, which is attached to a winch that has been fitted with a spring. Just pull it out and it’ll rewind as you let it go. Although it still works quite good on this K.A.R.R., the one of K.I.T.T. appears to be a little stuck, probably because he got to use it more often than his evil twin.
The rest of the undercarriage is as detailed as we can expect it from ERTL: the exhaust pipes even integrate the catalytic converter. The tail pipes have the original angular ending – very nice. The transmission and propulsion shaft are painted grey and even show the correct articulations. Another nice touch is the fact that ERTL put in four real springs. Unfortunately, they are just for show and the suspension is solid. As usual for ERTL 1/18s, the undercarriage is screwed to the body with six bolts; two in the front, two in the middle and two in the back.
As mentioned before, the buttons in front of the back wheels are here to action the scanner light. The fuel tank is obviously the ideal place to store the coin cells. Funnily enough, the fuel tank is painted grey on K.I.T.T. and black on K.A.R.R.. Since I purchased K.A.R.R. a couple of years later, it just looks like ERTL made some improvements over the years – so far regarding the fuel tank and the fog lights, but also within the interior, as we shall see next.
Inside K.I.T.T. and K.A.R.R. is where the future begins – or at least used to begin during the 80’s. As soon as we hop in the cabin, the iconic dashboard of the 1st two seasons of Knight Rider greats us: The main dashboard, dash switchpod, steering wheel, upper & lower console – everything has the correct shape and sticker on it. Fortunately, ERTL even thought of the “Knight Industries” logo on the steering wheel.
The eight single diodes arranged vertically around the voice modulator are accurately painted on K.I.T.T.: the upper four are yellow, the lower four are red. However, the voice modulator itself is not painted at all. On K.A.R.R., the upper four diodes are orange, instead of yellow, but the voice modulator is painted as a square, like K.I.T.T. had in red in the very first few episodes. It would have been perfect, had they painted K.A.R.R.’s voice modulator with three yellow stripes. Nice job, even the gear lever is the one of the 1982 Firebird so often seen as a close-up when K.I.T.T. changed gears himself.
The rest of the cabin is all beige as it should. The front seats are just like in the actual K.I.T.T.: today’s very rare PMD units. All seats come with the accurate striped upholstery, but remain plastic of course. Tilt the front seat forward and you can access to the rear bench. The coolest thing of the whole interior is without a doubt the passenger ejector seat. Push the black button on the right side of the seat and off it goes! Don’t forget to remove the top first. 😉
The box comes in traditional ERTL / RC2 fashion with the big windows in the front and on top, a picture of K.I.T.T. or K.A.R.R. in the front and in the back. Moreover, there is an open spot up front to try the car’s scanner light. Interestingly, on K.I.T.T.’s box, the acronym is written out just underneath it – “Knight Industries Two Thousand”. On K.A.R.R.’s box, they left that out, whereas they should have added “Knight Automated Roving Robot”. David Hasselhoff aka Michael Knight is depicted on top and in the back for both models. In the back, you get a brief description of the show and the car in both English and French. On the bottom, the ERTL, RC2, General Motors and Universal Studios logos authenticate that this is an official product of the toy company, the car manufacturer and the movie production studio.
Back on the road
Overall, ERTL did a fine job building these 1/18 K.I.T.T. & K.A.R.R. replicas. There are a couple of minor flaws regarding the front of the cars and it would have been nice to have actual retractable headlights, but the rest of the car is very accurate. Furthermore, the functioning scanner light, the grappling hook and the ejector seat make you want to immerse into the Knight Rider world.
While you’re at it, you might want to check out David Hasselhoff’s trailer of the next Knight Rider iteration: