KITT and Dawn
Written by Jim Suva
In the 1980’s a TV series called Knight Rider hit the airways. It was an instant success, starring David Hasselhoff, as Michael Knight. But one of the other stars in the show wasn’t human! It was the Knight Industries Two Thousand, which we know as KITT, a black Pontiac Trans Am.
About 14 years ago the Volo Auto Museum started collecting Star Cars. Their first three Star Cars were the Batmobile, the General Lee, from the Dukes of Hazard, and KITT. The Volo Museum’s KITT is a 1983 Trans Am, a replica of the KITT used on the original TV series. About two years ago the museum purchased a Super Pursuit Mode KITT to add to their collection. That version of KITT was used at different times during the 4th and final season of the TV series. Volo’s first KITT was temporarily put into storage, to make room for the newer version. Recently the museum decided to auction off several of their TV/movie cars at an online auction site, including their first KITT.
While the auction was ongoing, a young lady named Dawn, and her mother Naomi Kennson, were planning to visit the museum and KITT. Dawn has had to cope with the limitations of cerebral palsy and spastic quadriplegia her whole life. Coming to see KITT always made her feel better, especially when times were especially challenging for her. Naomi called ahead to make sure that Dawn’s favorite car was still on display. She was told that KITT was being auctioned off. This was going to be very distressing news to Dawn, so Naomi asked about buying KITT for Dawn, even though she knew that this was not financially possible.
It was especially difficult for Dawn, who has a special bond with KITT. Naomi told us, “[Dawn] has struggled in the last few years to receive opportunities for education, and struggled to see her needs met for the specialized wheelchair, which you can see her using today. She received this chair in early August, roughly two years after applying for its coverage through Medicaid.” Losing the opportunity to see KITT regularly was difficult.
“Dawn was introduced to the original Knight Rider TV series from the 1980’s. KITT’s character was developed largely by its voice actor, William Daniels. The character represented by this replica, stood in the show as a standard for fairness, justice and protection of weaker members of society. The integrity of the character resonated with Dawn, who by the very nature of her disability, has been subjected to limitations imposed upon her not only by her physical disability, but also through the unfairness of discrimination.”
Talking with Museum Director Brian Grams, he made arrangements for Dawn and her mother to come to the museum to see KITT up close. At the time, the auction already had a bid of $20,000. Brian knew that the auction could bring the museum somewhere between $30,000 to possible more than $40,000, a price the Kennison family could not afford. Brian, seeing the deep attachment Dawn had for KITT and how emotional she was, asked if the Grams family pulled KITT from the auction and put it back on display, would that work for them?
Needless to say Dawn and Naomi loved the idea! The Grams family not only pulled KITT from the auction, they rededicated the new display in Dawn’s honor. So on Wednesday November 20th, Brian Grams also gave a lifetime membership pass to Dawn and her mother Naomi, so that they can come to visit KITT anytime they want to. Brian also gave Dawn a ride in her favorite car around the museum property. When she returned from her ride, she was asked how it was. She said: “It’s a little rickety, but you would expect that with the age of the car.” I asked her which KITT she preferred, the original KITT or the Super Pursuit Mode version. Just like a good politician, Dawn said, “I like them both, because they are part of the same character.”
Just like the motto of the original TV series, “One man can make a difference,” I guess one car can make a difference.