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The Story Behind NBC’s "King of the Road" Knight Rider Mustang

The 2008 Shelby GT500KR is the New KITT

By

The Knight Rider Mustang

The new KITT Mustang is a 2008 Shelby GT500KR.

Photo © Ford Motor Company

Highlights

In February of 2008, a new Knight Rider hit the small screen. NBC, the television network which aired the original television series, Knight Rider (1982-1986), brought the show back for a new generation of viewers. The original series featured David Hasselhoff as Michael Knight. In the new made-for-television movie, Justin Bruening stars as Knight's long-lost son Michael Tracer. According to Niesen Media Research, the 2008 movie was watched by 12.7 million viewers, which resulted in a 5.0 rating for the network.

A New KITT Scores its Starring Role

The show has a new star in Bruening, but what about KITT, Michael Knight's former sidekick? Well, last time around, KITT (Knight Industries Two Thousand) was a Pontiac Trans Am with artificial intelligence and an attitude to match. The car was capable of driving in excess of 300 mph and could be called upon to save the day at a moment's notice. With the Pontiac Trans Am no longer in production, and fewer muscle cars on the street than ever before, Ford offered up the new 2008 Shelby GT500KR Mustang for the part. NBC producers liked the idea, and Shelby's King of the Road Mustang was cast for its starring role as KITT (Knight Industries Three Thousand). It's important to note, although the network bought off on the Shelby car, in reality, less expensive V6 Mustangs were used for production purposes during regular filming; all equipped with GT500KR take-off parts.

Al Uzielli, a senior advisor to Ford Global Brand Entertainment, said, "This is a completely car-centric show and my understanding is that NBC was heavily pursued by both GM and Chrysler. We landed it because not only did we have the perfect car, we had the right logistics. Our advertising agency Teamdetroit had strong contacts on the business side and our team at Ford Global Brand Entertainment had a close relationship with the creative side, including the new head of NBC Entertainment Ben Silverman."

According to a Ford press release regarding the deal, the company says that Knight Rider is more than just the product integration of a Ford vehicle into a plot line; it's also a media sponsorship with commercials and promotions for Ford products interjected throughout the two hour program. For instance, Knight Rider provided Ford with the opportunity to showcase its new SYNC voice activated information and entertainment technology (for the Focus and Edge) into the storyline. The arrangement also allowed NBC and Ford to co-promote both the movie and the cars at special events, in theaters, in print, and on the internet.

Creating the Car

In the grand scheme of things, scoring a part in NBC’s television movie was a great start for Ford. The only thing standing in their way was the creation of the car. At the time, the 2008 Shelby GT500KR wasn't even in production. Ford thought on this for a while and decided to enlist the help of the master car customizers at Galpin Auto Sports (GAS) in Los Angeles, Calif. The shop is well-known for creating one-of-a-kind vehicles in the California market, and has been the creative force behind MTV's Pimp My Ride for the past few years. According to Ford, "GAS had one week to create the new KITT, and they pulled out all the stops. Six people worked full time to create the Mustang that would be sent over to Picture Car Warehouse as the father of all the KITT derivatives and stunt cars." In actuality, the KITT Mustangs used in the pilot are modified 4.8L GTs designed to look like KR Mustangs.
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