DAD, I’m going to have KITT one day!” So said Heath Craddock, with the innocence of any five-year-old fan of Knight Rider.
Who’d have thunk the excited kid would be proven right a quarter of a century later? He has plucked his childhood fantasy from the television and installed it in a Pontiac Trans Am, creating a brilliant replica of the crime-busting hero car of 80s entertainment — high-tech dash and all.
Inspiration came when Heath, in his mid-20s, blew the dust off an old, forgotten video cassette containing an episode of Knight Rider. He put it on. “My childhood came rushing back to me,” he says. “I didn’t budge from my seat until it was finished.” After which, the hunt for a Trans Am began. Before he’d found the right one he’d already reserved his KITT numberplates.
Building an at-a-glance KITT replica is actually pretty easy. Replica body parts are out there, and all you need for a simple version is the front end and a tinted cover for the tail-lights. Most of the stuff is tacky, Heath reckons, plus he needed to go the whole hog.
“It was a two-and-a-half-year build and pretty full on,” he says of the job he did with his father, Ken. They didn’t just turn an existing car into a replica; they rebuilt the Pontiac underneath in the process. Engine, transmission, diff, the lot.
“I didn’t just sign the cheques. It’s my blood, sweat and tears in this car.” Amazingly, Heath persuaded Universal Studios to give him crucial measurements, contacts and even moulds for his project, after he convinced them that he was not only serious about building a high-quality replica of KITT but that he could deliver.
Even so, “it was painstaking work to get the stuff to fit”, he says. The bumper was two inches too wide, for example, and many other anomalies reared their heads.
KITT’s dash is the single most impressive part of Heath’s replica. It’s exactly the same as the TV version’s second incarnation, from the third series of the show.
“People see the car but they don’t expect the interior,” he says. When they look inside, they’re shocked. Even more so when KITT talks, thanks to a CD playing edited voice clips and other sounds that Heath downloaded. Eventually, he says, he’d like to computerise it to allow KITT to ‘respond’ to people’s commands.