Ford Mustang Shelby GT500KR KITT
Since 1968, the Ford Shelby GT500 has been widely known to racing fans. On a seemingly unrelated note, the television series 'Knight Rider' is being remade, and this vehicle is going to play the part of KITT, the famous computerized car, which is likely going to confuse many people.
Al Uzielli, who acts as a senior advisor to Ford Global Brand Entertainment, said that the similarity in names is a coincidence, albeit a welcome one. The Ford Global Brand Entertainment office in Beverly Hills strives for Ford product placement in television, film and other entertainment media. He also said that the initials KR would be instantly recognizable to auto fans, but most people were likely to draw the connection immediately to Knight Rider at first, until educated otherwise.
Knight Rider, which aired from 1982 to 1986, saw David Hasselhoff starring as Michael Knight. The car used back in that era was a Pontiac Trans Am that Knight had equipped with artificial intelligence. This gave it the ability to talk via a computer, transform into an attack version of itself (with the ability to boost to 300 mph) amongst other things.
Hasselhoff returns in the remake of the series, but is no longer the main character. Instead, Justin Bruening plays Knight's long-lost son Michael Tracer to carry on the family legacy. The Pontiac is replaced by the GT500KR. Offscreen, this vehicle is scheduled to have a 40th anniversary special edition, and its engine output is 540 horsepower, according to estimates.
Knight Rider isn't just Ford's efforts to insert a Ford vehicle into a story for product endorsement. Even in the commercials, Ford products will be promoted and advertised throughout the two-hour premiere. NBC intends to make the series a weekly-airing program in the fall, if it garners high enough ratings.
Knight Rideralso gives Ford the opportunity to demonstrate the new SYNC voice-activated technology into the show's storyline. NBC and Ford are able to co-promote the movie and the new cars at various events and venuest.
Uzielli said that GM and Chrysler had also pushed for this opportunity. Ford apparently got it because of the car and logistics.Teamdetroit, Ford's advertising agency, was very well-connected on the business side. The Ford Global Brand Entertainment was closely related to the new head of NBC Entertainment Ben Silverman, which gave them control of creativity.
Many Knight Rider fans think that KITT, which stands for Knight Industries Three Thousand, is just as important as far as cast goes as is Knight or Tracer himself.
KITT plays a major role in the film's storyline - because of its advanced nanotechological capabilities, artificial intelligence and camouflage abilities, it is thought to be highly powerful, meaning that criminals would likely go to whatever means necessary to get the car.
Galpin Auto Sports was to create the actual field model of KITT, because the car hadn't been designed yet. GAS is one of the best producers of one-of-a-kind vehicles for the California market.
One week was all the time that GAS was allowed to create the new KITT - the challenge was met quite easily. Six people were brought in to create the car, working full-time until it was ready to be moved to Picture Car Warehouse to serve as the base model for the stunt cars and the other derivatives of KITT.
KITT has three modes: HERO, ATTACK and camouflage. The HERO is the standard 540-horsepower Shelby GT500KR, whereas the ATTACK version was modified to grant higher speeds, namely the turbo boost used often in the series.
A Mustang GT with automatic transmission serves as the prototype for KITT - AT gives the proper flexibility for the over-the-top stunts, camerawork and other things that would happen in the series, and stunt versions will be used for the driving techniques.
Harold Belker, who also designed other movie vehicles in Batman and Robin, Spider-Man, Deep Blue Sea, Superman and more, designed the ATTACK version of the car. Belker wanted to make it as creative as possible, without deviating too much from the overall design of the GT500KR.
Ted Moser, of Picture Car Warehouse, got the opportunity to work with Harold Belker along with 25 automotive specialists who designed and created six different variations of the GT500KR. Some of the newer features of the ATTACK version are a new rear bumper cover, side scoops rocker panels and a two-tiered spoiler. Also, the interior was completely modified in order to provide for creative needs such as shooting and post production computer graphics.
Belker said that Ford wanted to keep the ATTACK model of the car as close to the original as possible, although some people would feel it to be a bit much, the point of the changes is to entertain people rather than reinvent design technology.
In February, when Knight Rider is to air for the first time, Ford will already have a large advertising foothold via the Ford Mustang in the movie I Am Legend starring which opened December 17. Will Smith, the lead, drives a Ford Shelby GT500. These two roles will give the Ford Mustang brand nearly three months of visibility not often seen by one product that usually accompanies Hollywood blockbusters.
Cindy Stacy, who acts as senior vice president and is the director of national broadcast for Teamdetroit expressed her disbelief. She feels that Ford products are well-accounted for through Knight Rider and I Am Legend, saying that almost all the vehicles by Ford are featured.
Some people may discount the timing of the two films a pure coincidence, Frank Zazza disagrees. His authority comes from his ability to skillfully place products in films and media, for example, the Reese's Pieces in ET or the Junior Mints in the episode of Seinfeld.
He feels that rather than being lucky in the common sense, Ford was simply well-prepared to use the means it had available at the right time - good projects, good vehicles and knowing how to properly integrate them.