Project: K.I.T.T. is the restoration & conversion of a 1983 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am into Knight Rider's KITT.
Thank you to everyone that voted and helped me choose between LED and halogen. The overwhelming response was that the halogen could not be beat. In one last attempt to give the LEDs another shot, I disassembled all of the surface mounted LEDs on one of the LED replacements and re-soldered them as one front facing board. You can see in the picture below that the overall brightness increased, but still cannot compare to the one halogen bulb two chambers over. There just is not enough light to fill the chamber the way the halogen bulb does. Halogen it is, or as one follower put it "Halogen For The Win"!
I decided to try the last two methods suggested for removing the primer. Zip Strip was suggested to cut through the primer.
I brushed it on as indicated by the directions.
After allowing it to sit 20 minutes I used a putty knife as we had done previously when we removed the factory paint from the wheel wells. The primer had not bubbled up as the factory paint had, so the putty knife did not really work. I ended up using heavy grade steel wool and really scrubbed the area. The Zip Strip actually penetrated the POR-15 in a couple of areas, which was something I was worried about. POR-Strip (a POR-15 product) is a very similar although stronger formula and that is the only chemical they say will remove POR-15. Even though the Zip Strip did remove more of the primer than anything else so far, the potential damage to the underlying POR-15 and the sheer amount of effort still needed does not leave me enthused.
My friend Jessica makes a homemade citrus cleaner consisting of d-limonene with a vinegar base. This stuff is very strong and she was hoping it would remove the primer.
It did better than some of the other chemicals we tried, but still failed to remove the primer easily. What it did remove still had to be done with considerable effort. I think it will come in handy on the red parts and some of the areas where there is more of a dusting of primer that adhered. It will definitely get used. Thanks Jessica!
Therefore, I have reluctantly decided to abandon the idea of having the only KITT with gloss black wheel wells and instead apply POR-15 Rubberized Under Coating directly over the existing POR-15 and primer. It is a flexible, paintable, black coating that will protect against moisture, dust, heat, and cold. It is the only under coating that contains the POR-15 technology. Applying it over the existing POR-15 in the wheel wells should provide for protection with the added benefit of sound deadening.
After deciding what to do with the wheel wells, we moved on to the underbody disaster. We put the car back up on jack stands so we could get a really good look at what we are up against. KITT will be up on jack stands now until we get the underbody repaired.
Here is what we are looking at. We plan to clean as much of the primer off as we can, and then paint over all the black areas with POR-15 black again. This will mean the floor pans will end up with four or five coats of POR-15 black. We cannot paint the red parts, so we are just going to do our very best to clean the primer off.
Even the storage area in the back got coated. :(
Here is a closer look at the dent in the rocker panel on the driver side.
You can see the channel between the rocker panel and the pinch weld did not get primed, nor was the previous paint removed. This was something I specifically asked Mario about because I did not treat this with POR-15 when I did the underbody.
I also discovered a much larger dent when I moved forward on the driver side rocker panel.
The H3 halogen replacement LEDs and capacitors I ordered for the scanner arrived yesterday. I decided to do a direct side comparison since I could not find where anyone online had done that. I replaced four of the eight bulbs with their LED equivalents and wired the capacitors inline to provide the proper fade out and trailing effect.
The LEDs ended up being disappointingly dim compared to the halogens. I also did not care for the the trailing effect in comparison to the halogens. There is just something artificial about it. Here is a video
comparing the H3 halogen replacement LEDs versus halogens.
The sun came out just as I finished up the first video, so I made another quick video
with the bar in direct sunlight from the open garage door.
In my opinion there is no comparison, as all around I think the halogens look way better! It is just a completely different look altogether. I will just have to find a way to deal with the heat.
I want to know what you think though, so head on over to our Google+ Page
or YouTube Channel
and vote in the comments for either the LEDs or the halogens.
I know it seems like ages ago that I promised a video of KITT's scanner, but for those that have been patiently waiting...the wait is over. This scanner looks fantastic, especially with the screen accurate scanner bar!
Before we jump to the video I wanted to share some observations about the halogen bulbs. They are insanely bright, equally as hot, and eat your battery for a afternoon snack. I had not given any thought to the heat these bulbs would generate. After just a few minutes with the scanner on, the bar is almost too hot to touch and definitely too hot to hold comfortably. It is so hot that it honestly has me concerned about safety while operating the scanner in the summer.
I searched online for others who may have had issues with heat or documented how hot these scanners get, but I could not find anything. I decided to take some temperature readings of the bar at 5 minute intervals while in use over a period of 15 minutes. I took these temperature readings with an infrared temperature gun in our heated garage. The temperature in the garage was 61°F with 24% humidity. Here are the results:
| Scanner State
| Powered Off
| Five minutes of runtime
| Ten minutes of runtime
| Fifteen minutes of runtime
| Five minutes powered off
| Ten minutes powered off
| Fifteen minutes powered off
You can clearly see that the bar gets quite hot and the temperature was continuing to climb. I stopped the experiment at 15 minutes. The drain on the battery after just 15 minutes of use is considerable. I would not want to let it run more than 20 minutes without having the car running.
I love the look of the halogen powered scanner, but I am not happy with the how hot it gets and how hard it is on the battery. I have ordered some halogen replacement LEDs and capacitors to help simulate the fade out. I will be doing a couple more videos comparing the LEDs versus the halogens.
Here is a video demonstrating KITT's scanner powered by eight H3 55 Watt halogen bulbs.
Mark's Custom Kits Inc. (Mark Scrivani) has changed their focus and is no longer going to be in the Knight Rider replica business. As a result the large collection of Trans Am restoration parts they have amassed over the years is up for sale.
I ordered the following from Mark: Tan rear passenger roof trim, a lower dash trim panel without cutouts, a headlight switch, a New Old Stock (NOS) Glove box cover, and a new turn-signal, cruise stem, with wiper delay. The parts arrived on Monday.
Mark was very careful and packaged everything very well.
Everything was just as he described and now I can cross all these items off KITT's wish list. :)
The NOS glove box or center console cover looks amazing!
The turn signal lever is the new 4 wire design found on 1984 and newer Trans Ams, but I believe Mark and I have figured out how to properly wire it so that it will match up to the three wire design used on the 1982 and 83 model year Trans Ams. This was a new piece so it is in perfect shape.
The headlight switch is used and shows some minor wear, but since the original one in my Trans Am had developed a short this will be a big improvement. That is until I get all of KITT's electronics switched over and under his control.
This is the lower dash trim panel without any of the cutouts for the rear hatch release and rear defrost. This trim piece had various non-factory cutouts when I got the car, and since KITT will be getting a new dash and all new electronics the original switches will no longer be located in this panel. Now it will have a nice clean look.
I will be spending the next few days in the garage, picking up and organizing my tools, and getting any extra car parts out of the garage and into storage. I am excited to get back to work on KITT, but it will be so much easier with everything organized.
I dug out KITT's schematics from where they have been packed since we insulated the garage and hung them back on the garage wall. You know what that means... It is time for Project: K.I.T.T. to get serious again. No more anger, no more moping, and no more excuses.
I will admit that I have not been very interested in anything KITT related lately. Every time I would attempt to work on something I would let my anger get the better of me and as a result I used that as an excuse to mope around and not do anything about it. The bottom line is that I screwed up. I needed to do more research before just choosing a painter and above that I needed to be more literal about what exactly I wanted done. Lesson learned. Now it is time to move on.
The shear amount of work it is going to take to restore the underbody to its previous condition (and not just cover it up with paint) has been overwhelming me. It was during a post on the Knight Rider Revolution board that I happened to notice the quote in my signature line. It has always been there, but for some reason it hit me differently this time.
"No one ever suggested that what we do is easy. Nothing worthwhile ever is."
- Devon Miles
I think that about says it all. I am officially over this bump in the road, and to celebrate I have revised the video
trailer for our YouTube channel
Since today was the warmest day in quite a while, Sara and I checked out the extent of the overspraying damage.
First though, we got rid of the old back glass. We need the room to work.
We used foaming cleaner and cleaned the dust off the door jambs and trunk area so we could get a better look at the paint job.
This is the paint drip that started it all. This is on the driver side rocker panel, towards the front of the car.
There is also a series of drips on the driver side rocker panel towards the back of the car.
Question for anyone that knows: I did not treat the area between the pinch welds and the rocker panel with POR-15 as I did the underbody, because I thought this would be painted with the car. Is it normal for this not to be painted?
Question for anyone that knows: Should I be concerned about the dent in the center of this picture at the bottom of the rocker panel? Should I have him fix this and smooth it out?
Here is the overspray on the driver side rear wheel well. Even the fuel filler neck got coated. These were treated with POR-15 and were gloss black. I wanted the distinction of having the only KITT (that I know of) with gloss black wheel wells. I am going to demand that he paint these gloss black with the body of the car now. He knew I wanted the wheel wells gloss black, so I am especially ticked off about this.
Here is the top part of the hatch.
I chose not to have the front windshield removed for paint. This is how he primed this area for paint. Please let me know if you see anything amiss.
The orientation is a little weird on this picture, but this is the driver side A-pillar.
The orientation is a little weird on this picture, but this is the passenger side A-pillar.
Passenger side rocker panel. This is how I expect the driver side to look. Please let me know if you see anything I missed.
This is the passenger side wheel well. This goes beyond overspray to the point of being solid gray.
Sara and I moved the car to the middle of the garage and I jacked up the passenger side first.
Here are pictures of the overspray on the passenger side, starting from the back and working my way towards the front of the car.
You can see in this picture that the overspray did not make it as far as the transmission tunnel. Although it is dusty, you can see the transmission tunnel is still gloss black. The ENTIRE underbody was gloss black like this.
Even my new polyurethane end links are coated!
This picture was taken just behind the driver side front wheel, looking down the underbody of the car.
Over the last week I gathered suggestions of what to use to remove the oversprayed primer. I tried five methods suggested to me. The first was brake cleaner.
Here is the result of applying, letting the brake cleaner sit for a minute, and then scrubbing.
Next I tried rubber rejuvenator.
Here is the result of applying, letting the rubber rejuvenator sit for a minute, and then scrubbing.
Mario told me use my wife's nail polish remover. So Sara ran upstairs and got her extra moisturizing nail polish remover, along with a few cotton balls for effect.
Here is the result of applying, letting the nail polish remover sit for a minute, and then scrubbing.
Up next, lacquer thinner.
Here is the result of applying, letting the lacquer thinner sit for a minute, and then scrubbing.
Finally, Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.
After I scrubbed vigorously with the Magic Eraser, the primer is very, very clean, but definitely still there. I also tried this on one of the red parts with no success.
Here's our lineup. The brake cleaner and the nail polish remover worked the best. I think I may actually try acetone. On a side note, today is probably going to be the only day in a while warm enough to open the garage so I do not asphyxiate myself. Having the car primed in the winter turned out to be a super bad idea.
I figure based on what I have seen so far Mario caused a minimum of $2,500 worth of damage, based on POR-15, special order parts, supplies, and labor. Not to mention the heartache and stress. Sara almost cried when she saw all her hard work ruined by his [insert expletive here] actions.
I got KITT two years ago today. Here is what he looked like on January 14, 2012...
and here is what he looked like one year ago today, January 14, 2013...
and here is what he looks like today, January 14, 2014.
I never dreamed I would be going backwards in progress, but in light of my discovery last night with the primer overspray on the underbody it would appear that we are. Sorry KITT, it's not the kind of birthday present I would want either!
(Interjection here from Sara: "Oh I wish KITT was still up in the air like he is in the second picture! Then it would not be that hard to get underneath him to start scrubbing primer off all our hard work!")
Just as I finished the door hinge bolts and was putting stuff away I noticed what I thought was a paint run on the driver's side rocker panel.
Sure enough, it is a paint run.
Just as I was thinking to myself that I would have to let Mario know so that he could fix it...my eyes drifted a bit lower and what I saw made my face do this:
[In case you are wondering that translates roughly, mind you, to OMG, WTF!]
Mario did not mask off the underbody before he he primed the car! Months of work cleaning and detailing the underbody of the car is now covered and defaced by overspray! The lower control arms and subframe connectors that I had special ordered in powder-coat red are now half grey! I want to cry...
I called Mario, and his response was that it is not normal for a body shop to mask off the underbody or the wheel wells on a car, and because I did not specifically tell him to do so, he did not. He also said it would cost a lot more than I am paying him to get a body shop to go through the extra work of masking off the underbody. This just seems wrong to me. I find it very hard to believe there are cars driving around with their underbody skunk striped with their body color. Mario's only suggestion was to use lacquer thinner or fingernail polish remover to remove the primer overspray.
I have not examined the passenger side yet (it is currently very close to the garage wall), but I can only assume that it is as bad as the driver side. I am looking for suggestions on what I can do to salvage all the hard work we have put into making the underbody look great. The entire underbody has three coats of high gloss POR-15 and I had chosen red as an accent color for all the upgraded parts I installed. These parts were all powder-coated red. Does anyone know what I can do? Looking at these pictures and thinking about all the hard work and time that went into it seriously makes me want to cry.
Any advice is greatly appreciated. Sara and I are both pretty sick about this.
Today after work I was determined to get back to KITT. The next thing I want to do is get the doors, fenders, and hood back on the car. With those back on the car it will allow us to clean up and reorganize the garage. Frankly it has been a pain trying to work around these parts. We also have an indoor storage now, so we are going to move some of the parts from the garage into that. We love organizing, if you have not figured it out by now. ;)
I started by cleaning up the hinge bolts for the doors. They needed to be wire brushed to remove some mild surface rust. You can see that I left all of the door hinge bolts turned into their respective spots (I had already removed one before taking this picture).
The only thing I was missing was the four interior door hinge bolts. Just another one of the many reason I love my wife... Sara was so good about organizing that I did not even have to think about where the inner door hinge bolts would be. Of course they are in a bag that is labeled "lower inside door hinge bolts" which was stored nicely in the drawer marked "interior". I love you Sara!
If you guys out there do not have a wife, I would highly suggest finding one. Just make sure she is one of the good ones, like mine. ;) They are invaluable!
Now that these are cleaned up and soaking in a WD-40 bath, the next step is installing the doors!