"I was not in the office on Monday, but Glen calls me. ‘They watched the short,' he said, ‘and they loved it. They bought 22 [episodes].'" The NBC network, based on what was essentially a 15-minute demo reel hastily produced over a rushed three-day weekend, had committed to a full season of Knight Rider.

The rest, as the hoary cliché goes, is history. Knight Rider went on to be a hit show and ran for four years. It generated millions of dollars in licensing and syndication fees for Universal, millions more in advertising revenue for NBC, made a star of David Hasselhoff, further enhanced Glen Larson's profile as a producer, and, oh, by the way, helped sell a ton of Trans Ams. Even Jim Graham, the man who originally turned down the placement on behalf of Pontiac, eventually put aside his derogatory My Mother the Car comments and adopted the show as his own to burnish his image as the Division's Hollywood Man. In fact, everybody involved in the placement seemed to make something off of Knight Rider except Vista Group. Ironically, the agency that first recognized the potential and significance of the show for Pontiac and the Trans Am, and bent not a few rules to make it happen, was on a flat monthly retainer with Pontiac's PR department, which did not have money for product placement.

"Because it had been turned down originally, and PR didn't have a budget for product placement, there was no way to pay us," says Dahlquist ruefully. "Pontiac got probably one of the best television placements ever for free."

So that's the full, definitive story of how the Trans Am came to be K.I.T.T. on Knight Rider. Except for the part about the lunch with studio executives and the artist Leroy Neiman at the Universal commissary. Or the part about the car transporter loaded with crashed Firebirds from a train derailment in Arizona. Or how Radio Shack saved the day, and along with it, K.I.T.T.'s iconic red light. Or the crusher's ball that didn't crush. Or … and none of these involved George Barris, either.


The K.I.T.T. Gallery

Editors note: There have been many companies throughout the years that have offered K.I.T.T. conversions for Third-Gen Trans Ams. According to Carl Casper, the owner of the Official No. 1 K.I.T.T. Knight Rider car actually used in the TV series, his company, Hollywood Productions, was the only company officially licensed by NBCUniversal to build and display any of the Trans Am Knight Rider cars. The following two K.I.T.T. Trans Ams were actual prop cars used during the filming of the original Knight Rider TV show.

K.I.T.T. Prop No. 1194

Knight Rider expert Joe Huth, the author of Knight Rider: 30 Years of a Lone Crusader and His Talking Car, owns this K.I.T.T.

"From what I know, my K.I.T.T. was only used in the final two seasons of the series," he says. "Its exact use on the series is unknown, but I believe it was used for exterior drive-by shots or as a stand-in for the hero car.

"I bought it in 2011 from the previous owner and performed a two-year preservation restoration on it, meaning I cleaned it up, partially painted it, put it back together, but left the patina intact. It's the only original car left that I know of that hasn't been subjected to a complete restoration.

"It has its original motor, but the studio swapped out the factory 700-R4 transmission for a Turbo 350. They also replaced the computer-controlled carb with an older model, and the distributor with a vacuum-advance unit. All emissions equipment was removed. My K.I.T.T. has less than 1,000 miles on it."

K.I.T.T. Prop No. 1083

A.J. Palmgren of West Des Moines, Iowa, owns this '82 Trans Am K.I.T.T. used on the Knight Rider series. It was likely a backup to the hero car and used for wide-angle exterior shots. It was repainted black and replica parts were installed in a few areas where originals were either missing or incorrect. It otherwise remains exactly as used in the series.