Project: K.I.T.T. is the restoration & conversion of a 1983 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am into Knight Rider's KITT

KITT's Rear Bumper Video

posted May 6, 2017, 5:08 PM by Jonathan Imberi

Knox Rides In KARR

posted May 6, 2017, 1:51 PM by Jonathan Imberi

This week KARR had a special passenger. We dog-sat for our friend Jill's Dobermans. KARR took Knox and I to the dog park so Knox could burn off some of her puppy energy.

Today we took KARR back into to Troy's shop for his 1,000 mile tune-up and inspection. The engine still has a weird rattling sound between 1800 and 2200 RPMs.  Troy, along with every machine shop he talks to, is baffled as to what this can be. KARR also has been stuttering every once in a while right after starting it up and shifting into gear, almost like it is not getting enough fuel or air. I'm thinking this is a bad connection in the wiring somewhere. Troy is going to look it over this weekend and let me know what he finds.

Isn't Knox adorable though?

Five Year Anniversary, An Afterthought

posted Apr 14, 2017, 1:51 PM by Jonathan Imberi

What good is an anniversary if you forget about it? Yeah, that's what Sara said to me just the other day. So here it is three months late to the day...

We got KITT's 1983 Pontiac Trans Am body five years ago. Here is what he looked like on January 14, 2012...

Here is what he looked like four years ago on January 14, 2013...

Here is what he looked like three years ago on January 14, 2014...

Here is what he looked like two years ago on January 14, 2015...

Here is what he looked like one year ago on January 14, 2016.

and here is what he looks like today, January 14, 2017 April 14, 2017.

How I Spend Money

posted Apr 12, 2017, 7:29 PM by Jonathan Imberi   [ updated Apr 16, 2017, 10:06 AM ]

Owning a couple of classic 80s cars is a lot like having children, with one exception (I'll get to that in a bit). We spend an extraordinary amount of time with them. We can't imagine life without them. We post about every little thing they do on social media. They tend to consume all of our attention. We enjoy spending time playing with them and watching them slowly develop into everything we have always wanted for them. When they misbehave we're upset, but we still love them. We spend a lot of long nights up with (working on) them. When they get sick we do whatever it takes to fix them up. We remember fondly what it was like when it was just the two of us before they came into our life. Did I mention we spend an insane amount of money on them?

Now for that exception...
The one thing that really sets them apart from children is that other people are a lot less understanding and forgiving about the amount of time and money that you put into your car. In fact they are more likely to criticize you for it...but you know what? I wouldn't give them up for anything!'re probably wondering where is this all coming from and where the hell have I been the last 7 months? Suffice to say KARR was misbehaving, hurt himself, was taken to the mechanic, and ended up needing the equivalent of open heart surgery. There were complications which required parts that were not made anymore and KARR was on life support awaiting parts for the last 7 months.

This all started right after the Sizzlin' Summer Nights car show in late August of last year. Just as we were pulling into the show KARR decided to overheat...spewing coolant everywhere! This was just plain odd as it wasn't hot out and KARR had never exhibited any behavior like that before. After the show we checked the coolant level to make sure there was enough to drive home and there was, but the trip home was even more disturbing. 

KARR was running like absolute crap. I mean it was horrible...stuttering, shuddering, surging. I was in total disbelief and shock. Sara was worried we wouldn't make it home. I knew I had to get him into to the mechanic, and sooner rather than later. This was beyond devastating! We had poured so much of ourselves into KARR that year, and had just taken him on a long trip to Devil's Tower, WY that summer. How could this happen all at once, and when he was fine just the day before?

Once at Hub Auto, Troy was able to diagnose that the timing chain had started jumping. It would need to be replaced which meant that the engine would have to be pulled. I am glad we caught it right way as this could have spelled certain disaster for the engine. Not the best news we could have received, but not the worst either. With the engine coming out, now was the perfect time to have the transmission rebuilt, engine inspected and the seals and gaskets replaced to fix the small oil leak. You know how I love to blow money!

I was not planning on rebuilding the transmission, but it had worn syncros that needed to be replaced, so I was at least going to do that. Turns out it wasn't that simple. Troy was unable to find the kit he needed so he asked me if I just want to have it rebuilt. Like anyone with money to burn I said sure, go ahead! The process would actually take the guts from a newer albeit similar Getrag F23 and mate them with my Getrag 282 case. End result is a lower 1st gear and a higher 5th gear (2 through 4 remained the same) with a final gear ratio of 3.94:1. A new clutch and bearings would complete the package.

With the cradle dropped and the engine and transmission out we started to investigate other problem areas. All of the motor mounts needed to be replaced along with the motor dampener shock. It also needed new rear struts. The rear exhaust manifold was cracked and the previous owner's attempted repair hadn't held. I would have to see if I could find new exhaust manifolds. 

I was able to order the motor mounts and damper shock online along with the complete gasket set for the engine from The Fiero Store. Troy would take care of the struts and transmission mounts when the time came for reinstall. I searched all over for new exhaust manifolds, but they no longer made them. I started searching for used ones, but didn't have any luck there either. The rear manifold was easy to find used and in good shape, but the front was another story as they all faced the same issue with cracks. Troy had a few good leads and said he would follow-up on them and as a backup he was going to have a local welding shop see about a possible repair on the manifold. That was the end of September, one month without KARR.

Once everything was stripped from the cradle we took it home with us so we could treat it with POR-15. I gave it a good week's worth of cure time and then we took it back to the shop. We were just in time to see the newly rebuilt transmission. It looked brand new! Time to pay for that...see the above cartoon for visuals on me throwing money in the air. :)

Myron at Hub Auto had been doing all of the teardown on the engine, and once he had it completely torn down it was sent out to a machine shop to be gone over. It was discovered that the block was actually a 3.1L and not the original 2.8L. The previous owner had installed a performance cam, but didn't do any other work to the engine. The main and cam bearings were totally ovaled out.

Here's the list Troy gave me of everything that was done to the engine: 
  • Boiled the block
  • Pressure tested block and heads
  • Block and cam was line bored
  • Degreed the cam
  • Decked the block and heads
  • Resurfaced the intake
  • Machined the flywheel 
  • Replaced all bearings
  • Honed the cylinders
  • Balanced everything
  • New lifters and pushrods
  • New oil pump
  • Gaped piston rings
  • Bored .30 over
  • 10-10 rod and main bearings
  • New timing chain and gears (3 piece)
  • New head bolts
  • New soft plugs
  • Fel-Pro tri-metal head gaskets
  • Fel-Pro PermaDry gaskets
With the engine back in the shop, reassembly started, and I was getting ready to throw more money in the air!

This brings us to the end of October
, two months without KARR.

Troy had the valve covers and intake manifold powdercoated like the original red. My valve covers were starting to look rather dull and my intake had a few chips in the finish. Now they look like new!

Time to get them installed! You can see the transmission has been bolted on as well. It was about this time that I really started getting anxious to have KARR back. Troy was insistent that he could either find a used manifold or that the welding shop could fix the originals. He was still waiting to hear back from his sources.

I waited another week or so and then asked if he had heard anything yet. With an answer of not yet, I asked if headers were a possibility. I really did not want to have to go that route, but if it was the only option then so be it. Troy said he had not looked into that, but someone may have made them for the Fieros. I told him I would start researching that and see what I could find.
It ended up taking me a few days worth of searching and a lot of patience. In the end I came across West Coast Fiero. Not only did they sell headers, but listed under headers were new and improved stock manifolds. I couldn't believe it! I promptly threw several more large bills at them and got them ordered. That was on the 28th of November, three months without KARR.

There wasn't anything in the way of an expected ship date when I ordered them, so I called on December 2nd to check the status. I was told the manifolds were fabricated when ordered, and that they would ship out next week. This stretched on and on, week after week. Meanwhile, Troy continued to get the engine and transmission mounted back on the cradle.

We reached the end of December, four months without KARR.

I continued to call West Coast Fiero at least twice a week to check on the status. I was always reassured that they were working on them, but that they were only a two person shop and it just took time. I was beyond frustrated not having a car by this point! I realize that being without my car for four months was not their fault, but it still seemed like things were just cursed. They just needed to say something on their website to indicate that these are fabricated from scratch and that it would be weeks or even months.

The manifolds finally arrived on Sara's birthday, January 23rd. They looked awesome and I couldn't wait to get them to Troy for install. We took them to the shop the next day.

Troy ended up having a full schedule through the end of January, which now made it five months without KARR.

What happened during February was a mixture of me being super busy at work and also not wanting to nag Troy to finish the car. I figured it was sitting there using up one of his bays, so he had to want it out of there just as bad as I wanted it back. I checked in a couple of times that month, but for the most part just let him be. He had told me during one conversation that I was missing some bolts for the pulley (they had broken when they tried to remove them). They were an odd size but he had sourced and ordered them. I was so far beyond frustrated at how long I had gone without a car at this point that I had become detached and even a little desensitized to it all. When friends would ask about it I just didn't even know what to say anymore. End of February, six months without KARR.

I had planned on putting on the pressure with the beginning of March, but I was hit with kidney stones. :( Horrible pain! I would not wish that on my worst enemy. Needless to say my mind was focused on getting through the pain and not so much on my car. I did find out during this time that Troy's hydraulic lift line had burst one day when he went to work on KARR. This sprayed hydraulic fluid all over the place. KARR was not hurt, but it did mean he had to get a replacement line for the lift.

On March 15th I asked for an update and Troy sent me the following pictures and said it would be done Saturday the 18th.

Saturday came and went, and still no car. I tried to contact Troy but found out that he had gotten sick over the weekend and had closed up the shop that next Monday. That Wednesday I had to have been asked by at least 30 people if I had my car back yet...I just lost it! It was coming up on seven months without a car! I told Troy that I would be at the shop on Saturday and Sunday to help him finish it. I wanted my car back!

I spent 15.5 hours working on it between Saturday and Sunday, but we got it finished. It wasn't until I was there helping Troy that I actually understood why it was taking so long. Myron, who used to work for Troy and has done tons of work on KITT's engine and tranny, had done the full disassembly on KARR by himself. That was six and a half months ago, and he is no longer at Hub Auto. Myron is an awesome mechanic and is meticulous about everything. He had a method of organization that worked for him, but did not necessarily translate to anyone else being able to make sense of it. 

Troy was basically having to search for all the parts that were needed to finish assembly. I did not truly appreciate how time consuming this was until I spent that weekend helping him. It was like trying to put a puzzle together while not being able to look at the picture. On top of that someone had sorted the puzzle pieces into piles that were everywhere.

Here are some pictures I took while we were working that weekend. It's hard to get good pictures while you are also wrenching on the car, so I will try to summarize what the pictures were taken of. Starting out these first few are just showing the state of things when I got there.

New rear exhaust manifold.

Routing and connecting the vacuum lines.

Installing the brackets and attaching the gear selector and clutch cables.

Installing the vacuum canister and cooling pipes for the ignition coil and alternator. If you are not familiar with V6 Fieros they have a rear blower that pushes air through the silver pipes seen below. They direct the air at the ignition coil and alternator to help keep them cool.

Reattaching the chassis ground wire to the engine block.

Intake installed!

Routing throttle cable and cruise control cables.

Time to install the rear axle.

Parking brake needs to be hooked up as well.

Disconnecting the brake line brackets so we can replace the struts.

I took these pictures just to show how filthy KARR had gotten sitting in the shop for six months.

You can see the hydraulic fluid that sprayed on the passenger side window.

Unfortunately the front hood sat open the entire time the car was in the shop. Everything in the front trunk was as filthy as the car. :(

The driver side window was also half way open. You can see my fingerprint on the gullwing.

We had to compress the springs to remove and install the new struts.

Once the struts were installed I was able to put the rear wheels back on.

I filled the engine and transmission with oil while Troy put in the coolant.

The coolant immediately started pouring out from underneath the engine. All I could hear was Geordi from Star Trek yelling, "Coolant leak! We have a coolant leak everybody! Let's go! Let's get out of here. Everybody out!" I had to chuckle to myself even though there really was nothing funny about it. It turned out that one of the bolts securing the water pump was bottoming out on the engine block. Apparently one of the stock bolts needed to be an 1/8th of an inch shorter to work with the 3100 engine block. We added a washer and solved the issue.

Time to get the spark plug wires on and fire it up. It started right up! With no exhaust it was loud as hell, but it was so awesome just to have it running again!

I backed it out of the side bay and pulled it around to the front bay, so we could get it up in the air and install the exhaust.

Just some random pictures of the underside before we mounted the exhaust.

You can see the end of the Y pipe on the top right corner of this picture.

With the exhaust mounted, all that was left was to adjust the timing.

We sprayed it off to get as much of the dirt and grime off as we could.

KARR is finally home!

This was an insane ordeal that I don't ever want to have to go through again! Like I said at the beginning of this post, people have a hard time understanding why anyone would put the amount of time and money that I have into an old car. The answer is simple: I love my car!

I want to throw out a special thank you to my friends Janean and Jill! They were kind enough to let me carpool with them during the last six months. I'd have been lost without you both! :)

The engine and transmission still need to get through the initial break in period, and there are various odd behaviors and noises to track down. I will have an update on that in the near future. For now just remember, Life is a Highway!

Happy 34th Birthday KITT!

posted Sep 26, 2016, 4:28 AM by Jonathan Imberi

Knight Rider debuted on September 26, 1982 and as a result KITT was born!

KITT will always be the original smart car! Happy Birthday Buddy!

Join us tonight in watching the pilot episode "Knight of the Phoenix" in honor of KITT's birthday: 

Installing KITT's Engine & Transmission

posted Sep 15, 2016, 7:55 PM by Jonathan Imberi   [ updated Sep 15, 2016, 7:56 PM ]

Here is a slideshow of KITT's engine and transmission being installed. A special shout out and thank you to Troy, Joel, Myron and Rudie at Hub Auto! I couldn't do this without you guys! I was not able to be there for the install but Troy's wife Kerri took all of these pictures for me. Thanks Kerri!

Sizzlin' Summer Nights 2016

posted Aug 28, 2016, 5:36 PM by Jonathan Imberi   [ updated Aug 28, 2016, 5:59 PM ]

We entered KARR in the local car show in Aberdeen yesterday. They estimated there were between 7,000 and 8,000 people in attendance. KARR was a hit and I got to talk a lot about Project: K.I.T.T

KARR was his usual mouthy self and randomly muttered his classic lines. One gentleman was talking to me about the Fiero when KARR asked, "Now, may I take you somewhere for food?" and the guy laughed and said "Sure, I would like a Big Mac, a large fry and a Coke". We continued to talk when KARR interjected, "I have no eggs.  Perhaps you can direct me to a chicken." The guy chuckled and said, "Your car may talk, but it's not very bright. Big Macs don't need eggs." We both laughed to which KARR replied, "There, did you hear.  He is becoming abusive." I thought the guy was going to pee his pants he laughed so hard!

There were a ton of kids that loved KARR and took a lot of pictures and videos. One little boy with a disposable camera used the entire camera taking pictures of KARR!

There were also a couple of young women that asked if they could sit in KARR and have their picture taken. I was shocked, but agreed. :)

The show was a lot of fun, and I cannot wait until the day KITT is able to make an appearance...who knows, maybe KITT and KARR will face off!

KARR's First Car Show

posted Aug 27, 2016, 8:50 AM by Jonathan Imberi   [ updated Aug 28, 2016, 6:00 PM ]

If you are in the area today, KARR will be on display on Main Street in Aberdeen, SD for the Sizzlin' Summer Nights car show. We are just finishing up prepping him now. The show starts at 2PM and runs until 8PM. We have a spot reserved in front of the Ward Hotel. We'd love to see you there!

Southern Knights Atlanta 2016 Pictures

posted Aug 16, 2016, 7:23 PM by Jonathan Imberi   [ updated Aug 16, 2016, 7:44 PM ]

I took a ton of pictures at Southern Knights Atlanta, so advance warning: this post is very image-intensive.

These were the signs directing us to the convention:

Friday evening, August 5th, was a meet and greet, but we lucked out and got a sneak peek at some of the replicas and the Knight Rider Historians' screen-used KITT.

Here are some pictures of the screen-used KITT:

While we were outside, Danny Nasif arrived with his F.L.A.G. Mobile Command Unit semi replica.

Here's Danny talking to Michael Scheffe, the man who designed KITT, about the design of the F.L.A.G. semi and his plans for his replica.

My turn to talk with Michael Scheffe.  He was talking about how the design of the '82 Firebird is timeless and about Glen Larson's reasons for choosing that particular car for KITT's body.

This is Joe Huth of the Knight Rider Historians checking out the interior of Danny's semi.

Later that evening we went to Olive Garden for dinner.

Here is the crew of The Three Hour Tour.

(These are such things from which songs are made...)

Saturday, August 6th was the convention. Here we are with our name badges.

Here is Scott Edmondson's collection of Knight Rider props, including Jack Sessums's miniature of KITT used in a few episodes of Knight Rider, and the chemical analyzer featured in the 3rd and 4th seasons.

"One man can make a difference" sign at the convention:

Mark Puette had a table of his collectibles for sale. I picked up a couple of patches and another KNIGHT plate (that got scratched on the plane trip home). Grr.

Alessandro Zagni of ZA Elettronica had a set of his season 1/2 electronics at the convention. This guy is amazing, and these electronics do everything! I am definitely going to wait for his season 3/4 set!

The Knight Rider Historians, Joe Huth and AJ Palmgren, brought their collection of screen-used props, scripts, and memorabilia to the convention.

This is the Knight Rider Historians' replica of the blind-drive seat in KITT.

Some of the items on this table were actually out of the screen-used KITT, for example, the fog lights and spark plugs. You can also see the blind-drive steering wheel and some license plates used in the series.

This "rock" was found inside the fender of the screen-used KITT. KITT smashed through a lot of walls on Knight Rider... :)

Back to the actual convention... Mark Puette kicked off Southern Knights Atlanta by introducing the first guest speaker...

Alessandro Zagni from ZA Elettronica from Italy.

These four gentlemen were ZA Elettronica's first US customers.

Next up were the Knight Rider Historians, Joe Huth and AJ Palmgren. They told us about their screen-used KITT and gave a private screening of the documentary about their car.

We took a short break, and I took a few more pictures of the Knight Rider Historians' collection.

Next, Michael Scheffe, the man who designed KITT, took the stage.

After Michael Scheffe's presentation we took a lunch break, and I took more pictures.

Here is another poster from the Knight Rider Historians' collection.

More pictures of Scott Edmondson's collection.

Nick Nugent had a 12" figure on display. He also sold some of his artwork. I picked up 8x10 artwork of KITT, KARR, and KITT's schematics.

More pictures from the Knight Rider Historians' collection.

Here we are posing at the convention.

One more picture of the chemical analyzer. It is pretty awesome.

After lunch, Ann Turkel took the stage. Ann appeared in the Knight Rider episodes Soul Survivor, Goliath Returns, and Knight in Retreat.

Our last speaker was Jack Gill, who was the stunt coordinator and blind driver throughout the series.

Here Jack Gill is talking about the blind-drive seat. He said the Knight Rider Historians' blind-drive seat was spot-on.

After the speakers were finished with their presentations we all got autographs.  Our friend Julie brought her hatch trim for the celebrities to sign.

Meeting Jack Gill:

Meeting Ann Turkel (and her dog Tess):

Michael Scheffe took time to study my Project: K.I.T.T. logo before writing a special message for me.

This is Jack Gill seeing and validating the screen-used KITT.

Jack said, "There is no doubt about it, I was in this car." Pretty sweet!

Under the hood of the screen-used KITT (now declassified!)

Marc Brown's KITT replica. The paint job on Marc's car is amazing! This is a great example of how I want my KITT's paint to look.

Back to the screen-used KITT.

We got to sit in the real KITT!

Danny and I with the F.L.A.G. semi.

The real KITT with the F.L.A.G. semi.

Proof that KITT still has it after 30 years.

These are skid marks from the real KITT with his 30-year-old Eagle GT tires.

Joe and AJ had a lot of fun showing off in the real KITT.

The real KITT, with an inferior production-line copy of the real KARR. ;)

It's a really nice KARR replica. Sara had a lot of fun looking at it and talking to Jack Gill about KARR.

We had a blast at Southern Knights Atlanta 2016!

Southern Knights Atlanta 2016 - The Real KITT Showing Off 30 Years Later

posted Aug 13, 2016, 7:49 AM by Jonathan Imberi   [ updated Aug 13, 2016, 7:55 AM ]

The Knight Rider Historians, Joe Huth & AJ Palmgren, decided to let KITT stretch his wheels after 30 years and let him show off a bit. KITT still has it! 
Video Link

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