The Dukes of Hazzard went on air in the fall of 1979, and CBS soon started to make a ton of money selling their vast variety of General Lee merchandise. It didn't take long for NBC to want a huge piece of that pie too, so by 1981 they came up with the character of Michael Knight, a.k.a. Knight Rider.
The studio hired former Mattel (and later Back to the Future DeLorean) designer Michael Scheffe to turn Pontiac's latest sporty targa into something special in record time, who said that the only thing he didn't like about the Trans Am's design was the car's squared-off nose.
After making sure to fix that by building a Knight Industries Two Thousand concept for NBC, the studio applied his modifications to . Due to the high demand for these cars, four was all they got for the first season: a very detailed one for closeups, a fiberglass car for jumps, a hidden-driver stunt machine and another for ground-based stunts like driving through walls.
But long before the debut season could air, the crew also went to the desert to shoot a promo involving a fake General Lee with "00" painted on its doors instead of "01," and one very happy Johnny Rutherford.
NBC ran its . Those who sent in a request ended up getting a full-sized poster comparing CBS' old junk to their shiny ride. Unsurprisingly, in NBC's book, the Duke Boys had nothing on the Hoff's Trans Am. A V8 against a turbojet, and automatic box against auto pilot, doors that don't open against emergency eject...
While by 1983, CBS certainly started to run out of 1969 Dodge Chargers to crash, the Knight Rider production got lucky. As :
In the spring of 1983, a train transporting Trans Ams from a plant to auto dealers derailed in California. Although none of the cars were damaged, state law said the cars couldn’t be sold. So GM called up Knight Rider and sold the company 10 to 12 cars for $1 each. The only stipulation: Given the cars “damaged” status, once the show was finished using them they had to be destroyed. Over the course of the rest of the series, the show purchased six more cars.
The reason why only five original KITTs survived the four-year production is because Universal destroyed the rest, namely by renting a crane and .
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