The first episode of the NBC series Knight Rider screened today in 1982. It starred David Hasselhoff as Michael Knight and a customised Pontiac Trans Am as KITT, the supercharged crime-fighting car with a bulletproof exterior, a currency dispenser, a flame thrower, a medical scanner, an odds calculator and a sensitive ego.

"What would you like to hear?" was KITT's first line. "A little Beethoven?" Knight, who for some reason hadn't been told that his car could speak, replied that he did not intend "to drive in a car that talks back to me". He changed his mind and did so for 90 more episodes.

Neither NBC nor General Motors, manufacturers of the Trans Am, were convinced by the idea of a talking car. There were bad memories of My Mother the Car, a 1960s sitcom featuring a car as the reincarnation of the owner's mother, panned by critics as the worst show ever broadcast. But Knight Rider creator Glen A Larson succeeded in persuading both parties. The first four Trans Am cars to come off the production line went straight to the studio and would continue to be supplied to the show for $1 each.

The car's interior was designed by Michael Scheffe, a former designer for toy company Mattel. As the series gained popularity, General Motors were so overwhelmed with demand for KITT clones that they ordered the producers to stop referring to it as a Pontiac. Clones were never manufactured, so as not to encourage idiots to attempt dangerous stunts in the name of vanquishing evil.

The car was voiced by actor William Daniels. "I do it in about an hour and a half," he said in a 1982 interview. "I've never met the cast. I haven't even met the producer." µ


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