x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

My Car: a Knight's tale of his Pontiac Trans Am – just like KITT

Ever since he was a child, Jehanzeb Abbas's dream has been to own his own KITT, and his wish came true in 2007 when he imported his Pontiac from the US.

Jehanzeb Abbas is delighted to be able to drive the car of his childhood dreams and he now plans to modify his Trans Am to make it more like KITT from Knight Rider. Duncan Chard for The National
Jehanzeb Abbas is delighted to be able to drive the car of his childhood dreams and he now plans to modify his Trans Am to make it more like KITT from Knight Rider. Duncan Chard for The National

"A shadowy flight into the dangerous world of a man who does not exist. Michael Knight: a young loner on a crusade to champion the cause of the innocent, the helpless, the powerless, in a world of criminals who operate above the law."

Ring any bells? This evocative quote was from one of the most popular television car series of all time - Knight Rider - where self-made billionaire Wilton Knight rescues police detective Michael Long after a near-fatal gunshot to the face, giving him a new identity through plastic surgery and a new name: Michael Knight. The undoubted star of the series among automotive fanatics is the Knight Industries Two Thousand (KITT), a sleek, black car with numerous features including an almost indestructible frame, artificial intelligence, talking computer and, of course, a very cool red light scanner on the front bumper. The car used as KITT in the series was a customised 1982 Pontiac Trans Am, which is the same model that plays a central role in Jehanzeb Abbas's own car-obsessed life.

Originally from Pakistan, the 34-year-old product marketing manager for Etisalat Yellow Pages has lived in Dubai for more than 30 years and still can't believe his luck when he is driving his own version of KITT. "The TV KITT was, in all children's opinion, the most advanced car of its time, and I grew up watching it with admiration. This model of car still looks stunning, as it's got timeless lines and a shape that was way ahead of its generation," he says, beaming with pride.

Ever since he was a child, Abbas's dream has been to own his own KITT and his wish came true in 2007 when he imported his Pontiac from the US for $12,000 (Dh44,080). The car boasts a V8 engine and a three-speed automatic transmission. "My KITT may not be exactly the same as the movie star version, but it's very close, and the reaction from like-minded Knight Rider fans who immediately notice the car and are immediately transported back to their own childhoods with a mere glimpse make it quite a celebrity in itself."

And Abbas plans to carry out some modifications in order to make his car more KITT-like. "Budget allowing, I'm going to spend a bit on the car and make it a real Knight Rider replica, although I'm not sure where I'd buy the artificial intelligence unit - perhaps some of your readers might be able to help me," he laughs.

When he can be persuaded to take his prized possession out of the garage, Abbas heads to the open roads and beaches and has no issues adding to the current 45,000km count on the odometer, which is impressively low for a 30-year-old vehicle. For the time being, this aspiring hero will need to make do with some less adventurous missions than Michael Knight. "Well, I'm often asked to take it out on special occasions like weddings and parties; otherwise I drive it along the beach road in Sharjah and Dubai on weekends," he says. "Whenever I drive the car, it puts a smile on my face and also delights others, who constantly ask for pictures to be taken with it. Once, a gentleman politely enquired as to whether the car talked like KITT. He was checking it out from top to bottom and couldn't stop staring at it - I think he was serious," he exclaims.

Abbas concludes: "Owning the car of your childhood fantasies is not something everyone gets the chance to achieve and I'm very happy this has happened with me. In terms of modern cars, I'd quite fancy a Honda Integra Type R, but where people may talk about 'forever' houses - this Pontiac is definitely my forever car." So if you see Abbas, stop him for a picture with his very own KITT and make his day by attempting your very best impression of the famous phrase: "Yes, Michael."