Millionaire industrialist William Knight financed the development of the crime fighting super-computer mastermind car "Knight Industries Two Thousand," or K.I.T.T., a highly modified Pontiac Firebird Trans Am capable of 0-60mph in 0.2 seconds with a top speed of 300 mph. In his search for KITT's human counterpart, Knight restructured Michael Long, a veteran soldier of the Vietnam War and policeman who had sustained severe injuries in the line of duty. Together, with the aid of a new identity, rocket launchers, tear gas, x-ray viewers, medical analyzers, and surveillance scanners, Long and KITT set out to rid the world of crime.
And with that we have the premise behind the K.I.T.T. car from "The Knight Rider" television series starring David Hasselhoff and Edward Mulhare. This is the fourth installment in a series of five articles about movie and television diecast replicas in 1/64 scale. Alphabetically by show title, here are the last of the diecasts featured on television programs over the years:
Did Detective Robert T. Ironside own a van whose lift-gate opened to reveal a hydraulic wheelchair platform? I do not recall seeing that in operation on reruns but according to Corgi Juniors' little diecast that's what transported Raymond Burr around on "Ironside" (1967-1975). I quite doubt its accuracy because the truck I saw in a low-res picture was definitely of a British-made vehicle. Could it be that this show was immensely popular in England, too!?
Ertl was not alone in replicating the 1980's Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
also known as K.I.T.T. discussed at the top of this article. Both Buby in
1982 and, more recently, Matchbox (MBX) with its 'STAR CAR COLLECTION' have
offered their versions of Hasselhoff's super-intelligent ride from "The
Knight Rider" (1982-1986). Another version, "el auto fantastico,"
made by Buby of Argentina, found its way along with other Buby offerings
to Latin community and secondary markets here in USA.
KIDCO, also, like Playart, was an Asian toymaker. KIDCO produced in its 'TOUGH WHEELS' blister pack a pull-back version of Tom Selleck's Ferrari 308 GTB from "Magnum P.I." (1980-1988). Moreover, KIDCO modified its 1978 or 1979 Chrysler Cordoba 'Lock-Ups' casting to make the 2-door police cruiser which may or may not have been featured in the series. MBX recently included a reasonable likeness of the Ferrari in its 'STAR CAR COLLECTION.' The MBX casting had been around since 1981 and, subsequently, it does not have the top panel removed as was so customary when the dashing Selleck spun it around town. Moreover, I doubt if Penny Marshall or Cindy Williams would give a hoot but the Holden delivery van made in Australia and enlisted to represent the American-made vehicle in their show "Laverne & Shirley" (1976-1983) indicates how far MBX will go to reincarnate castings for its notoriously inaccurate 'STAR CAR COLLECTION.'
Alan Alda, Loretta Swit, Jamie Farr, and others were surrounded by military vehicles of all types on the popular "M*A*S*H" (1972-1983) television show. Zeetoys made several replicas, one of which is pertinent to this article: a 1954 Chevrolet Army ambulance. It was painted military green and sported a red cross in a white circle on each side, as did KIDCO's 'TOUGH WHEELS' 4077th Division ambulance, also, associated with the show. Other replicas include an assortment of tanks, halftracks, trucks and jeeps by both Zee and Zylmex.
More recently, Johnny Lightning (JL) offered a 'DIRECT EXCLUSIVE' military
bus available only through the mail that bears the "Mobile Army Surgical
Hospital" moniker and includes a bonus military patch. It is actually
a redecorated "Partridge Family" bus casting and may not be associated
with the actual TV show since it is packaged, I believe, as a 'LIGHTNING
BRIGADE.' However, MBX's 'STAR CAR COLLECTION' markets its Jeep with canopy
top as a "M*A*S*H" vehicle.
Kenner-Parker Toys, Inc., was the only maker to cast the Mobile Armored Strike Kommand, a car that would transform into combat objects on the short-lived 'Mask' (1985). It is actually a 1980's Camaro and was called 'Thunder Hawk' on the television show starring Doug Stone.
Ertl marketed in 1982 four castings from "Matt Houston" (1982-1985), a TV show I have never seen. Three of the castings are recycled from other Ertl releases, but the fourth one looks, from its picture in the Ertl catalog, like a spectacular example of an all-white Excalibur Series III Phaeton custom sports car. Lee Horsley and Pamela Hensley must have been tickled white to be seated in such an outstanding vehicle - and the Ertl replica is second on my "want list." It should be extremely hard to find, unlike the Maserati Quattroporte, 1969 Cadillac de Ville convertible, and GMC pickup truck in the same release. The last three castings were used, also, respectively in "Rocky," "Dukes of Hazzard," and "Simon and Simon" as mentioned in my series of articles beginning in September of this year.
In 1998, MBX's new 'STAR CAR COLLECTION' included the Ferrari Testarossa
from "Miami Vice" (1984-1989) starring Don Johnson and
a Mercedes Benz surveillance van from "Mission Impossible"
(1966-1973, 1988-1990). The Ferrari seems about right but that van is a
recycling of the MBX TV news truck from 1989 and, hence, I do not believe
Peter Graves did much reconnoitering in it - even in the later series between
1988 and 1990. In addition, Robin Williams was hilarious as Pam Dawber's
roommate in "Mork 'n' Mindy" (1978-1982). MBX's 'STAR CAR
COLLECTION' Jeep Wrangler is equally as hilarious since a vehicle was seldom,
if at all, associated with the show.
A four-man singing group copied the mop-hair style of the Beatles, scored a few billboard hit singles, and starred in their own TV show entitled "The Monkees" (1966-1968). Corgi Juniors made a diecast version of the red show vehicle, a heavily-modified Pontiac GTO convertible. More recently, JL produced the same custom vehicle in its "HOLLYWOOD ON WHEELS.'
Luckily, years ago I had seen a magazine picture of the Fred Gwynne and Yvonne DeCarlo's Koach from "The Munsters" (1964-1966). As I recall, JL's 'FRIGHTNING LIGHTNING' does a great job of replicating that hot rod, which was designed by George Barris from a lengthened 1923 Ford Model T chassis and fitted with a Ford Cobra engine.
Don Johnson drives a garish 1971 Hemi Barracuda on his current TV series "Nash Bridges" (1996-present). JL captured splendidly this yellow convertible in 'HOLLYWOOD ON WHEELS II' and many collectors consider it to be one of the best JL castings to date.
Many believe JL did almost as good a job in their copy of the multi-colored
bus used to transport Shirley Jones, David Cassidy, Susan Dey, and others
in the clan on "The Partridge Family" (1970-1974) in the
first release of that JL series.
"Riptide" (1984-1986), a formulaic crime show starring
Joe Penny and Perry King, featured a 1960 Corvette convertible. Given Ertl's
reputation I would not doubt it replica's authenticity. Ertl, also, produced
the only vehicle replicated from "Simon & Simon" (1981-1988)
with Gerald McRaney and Jameson Parker. The red 1981 Camaro appears genuine
What the famous James bond movie "Goldfinger" (1964) did for
the Ford Mustang, "The Saint" (1962-1969) may have done
for the Volvo P1800 2-seater sports car. In fact, the television show is
reputed to have helped make the Swedish auto manufacturer a household name.
Whereas the Mustang went on to break sales records, Volvo achieved precious
marketability by readily supplying vehicles to the show for free, a shrewd
gesture that Jaguar had declined to do. Having the handsome Roger Moore,
who later held the role of James Bond, drive the first Jensen-built Volvo
on the popular series helped catapult interest in Volvo automobiles across
America. Corgi Juniors made a replica of both Moore's P1800 and the Jaguar
XJS, also seen on the show, though apparently at considerable expense to
ITC, producer of the TV show.
Corgi Juniors was the first to copy the Ford Torino driven by David Soul and Michael Glaser on "Starski & Hutch" (1975-1979). I discovered that Corgi also repackaged and repainted its 1975 Buick casting from "Kojak" as a "Starski & Hutch" police cruiser. More recently, JL released in its 'HOLLYWOOD ON WHEELS' series its rendering of the famous red Ford Torino with the bold white stripe. Pilen, making toys in Spain from the late seventies to early nineties, cast its version of this Torino and it should be very difficult to find here in America.
Until I researched this article, I knew there was a Special Weapons and Tactics unit but I had never seen it. After a few emails back and forth, a collector surprised me with a slightly out-of-focus picture. It was of a blue van made by LJN Road Stars in 1979 and used by Steve Forrest, Rod Perry, and others on "S.W.A.T." (1975-1976).
Danny DeVito, Tony Danza, Marilu Henner and others were very entertaining in the comedy "Taxi" (1978-1983). In 1998 MBX released its 1980 Ford LTD taxi as one of the taxis from the half-hour show.
Next month's article should be a lot of fun. I will comment on some of the new promotional pieces, give advice on pricing, list some items from television and movies shows that many of us would like to see appear on our local shelves, and add new findings. It's not too late to email your questions or submissions to me at email@example.com before Christmas. Hope you will join us in January.