Gumball 3000 Rally: ‘Knight Rider’ car breaks down in Hollywood


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The arrival of the badly bruised ‘Knight Rider’ car on Hollywood Boulevard on Saturday night seemed to highlight the sad reality facing Generation Xers: We’re all getting older.

‘What’s wrong with KITT?’ asked one concerned thirtysomething passerby as a group of people were pushing TV’s legendary 1982 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am.


The car had broken down when it was coming off the highway into Hollywood, said George Fechter, one of three KITT drivers on the Gumball 3000 Rally. About 25 men, including street performers dressed as King Kong and Iron Man, pushed the car about three miles from the offramp, Fechter said.

Many had expected ‘Knight Rider’ star David Hasselhoff to be at KITT’s helm. As a crowd of photographers and reporters quietly waited for his arrival, one Gumball media relations representative said excitedly, ‘You must keep calm. The Hoff is almost here, but you must keep calm!’ He seemed more excited than we were.

But when Hasselhoff finally rolled up in his Audi R8 to cheers and flashbulbs (shown in the video), he said the unexpected change was because ‘that is the old; this is the new.’ Fechter said Hasselhoff had intended to make his appearance behind the wheel of KITT but remained in his R8 because he didn’t want to hold up the ceremony while waiting for the car to arrive.

KITT showed up while I was interviewing Hasselhoff, who pulled me out of the way of the oncoming vehicle -- classic Hasselhoff heroism. ‘The Hoff’ discussed his off-road adventures, including riding alongside rally cars filled with Russians and a Range Rover with ‘Arab sheiks’ while they were ‘driving pretty fast’ off-road. His ‘need for speed’ might explain why he chose to pilot the R8 instead of the aging Firebird, which ‘half the time ... couldn’t break the speed limit,’ said Gumball Rally 3000 founder Maximillion Cooper.

The fuel pump problems that sidelined the vehicle weren’t the first for the car, which was flown in from Austria. Its right mirror was broken off as it was being unloaded from a truck in San Francisco, and it was nearly totaled only a few minutes into the drive, Fechter said. A problem with the steering wheel caused it to lock, sending the car swerving into two lanes of traffic on the freeway and toward the guardrail, he said.

‘We’re in the middle of the San Francisco highway,’ Fechter said. ‘And it almost killed us and KITT.’ Another obstacle Fechter had to face was KITT’s unusual steering wheel, which drivers must forcefully realign because it doesn’t naturally return to a central position, he said.


Totaling KITT would be a little more serious than losing most 27-year-old cars. The vehicle recently had $40,000 in upgrades and repairs -- including a newly installed Alpine GPS system and DVD player -- not to mention the car’s ‘childhood relic’ status.

The once-sleek sports car, infused with an artificial intelligence microchip, as the story goes, couldn’t avoid the usual Gumball treatment. Lamented by some, decals promoting Puma and Spy Optic sunglasses covered the vehicle’s exterior. Hasselhoff’s Audi managed to avoid much of the intrusive advertising, sporting only a few decals promoting his own website -- not to mention his T-shirt reading, ‘You can hassel me at’

So how does one go about getting a childhood dream gig driving the ‘Knight Rider’ car? It’s not easy. Fechter’s father promoted Hasselhoff’s European music tour; and after his parents, Fecther said, the Hoff was the first person to hold him as a baby.

For a look at a sickly KITT and a tour of its interior, check out the video below.

-- Mark Milian