KARR (Knight Rider)

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Knight Rider character
KARR from the original series episode "K.I.T.T. vs. K.A.R.R."
First appearanceTrust Doesn't Rust (November 19, 1982)
Created byWilton Knight/Knight Industries
Portrayed byPontiac Trans Am
Voiced byPeter Cullen (1982 and 2008–2009 series)
Paul Frees (1984) (uncredited)

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KARR (Knight Automated Roving Robot) is the name of a fictional, automated, prototype vehicle featured as a major antagonist of KITT (Knight Industries Two Thousand), in two episodes of the television series Knight Rider, and was part of a multi-episode story arc in the 2008 revived series.

Origin and background[edit]

It was originally designed by Wilton Knight and built by Knight Industries for military purposes for the Washington Department of Defense. After the completion of the vehicle, the KARR processor was installed and activated. However, a programming error caused the computer to be unstable and potentially dangerous. The project was suspended and KARR was stored until a solution could be found.

Unlike KITT, whose primary directive is to protect human life, KARR was programmed for self-preservation, making it a ruthless and unpredictable threat. It does not appear as streetwise as KITT, being very naïve and inexperienced and having a childlike perception of the world. This has occasionally allowed people to take advantage of its remarkable capabilities for their own gain; however, due to its ruthless nature, it sometimes uses people's weaknesses and greed as a way to manipulate them for its own goals. Despite this, it does ultimately consider itself superior (always referring to KITT as "the inferior production line model") as well as unstoppable, and due to its programming, the villains don't usually get very far. KARR demonstrates a complete lack of respect or loyalty – on one occasion ejecting its passenger to reduce weight and increase its chances of escape.

KARR first appeared in "Trust Doesn't Rust" aired on NBC on November 19, 1982, where it seemingly met its demise at the end. However, it was so popular with viewers that it was brought back again in "K.I.T.T. vs. K.A.R.R.", for a second time which aired on NBC on November 4, 1984 and then brought back in 2009 for "Knight to King's Pawn" of the new "Knight Rider" series of 2008–2009 for a third time (marking it as one of the very few villains in the original series and the new series to make a return appearance).

KARR 1.0 in Knight Rider 1982–1984[edit]

"Trust Doesn't Rust" – Season 1, Episode 9[edit]

Once KITT was constructed, it was presumed that its prototype KARR (voiced by Peter Cullen) had been deactivated and dismantled. However, the latter did not occur and KARR was placed in storage and forgotten following the death of Wilton Knight. When two thieves, Tony (Michael MacRae) and the Rev (William Sanderson), break into the warehouse where KARR – who is entirely identical to KITT with the exception of the yellow/green voice module on its dashboard – is "sleeping", they unwittingly reactivate it, and KARR escapes.

When the two thieves realize how useful the vehicle could be, they use KARR to go on a crime spree, whilst Michael and KITT frantically try to catch up with KARR and stop it before anyone is seriously hurt. Bonnie devises a high-powered laser, the only known way to stop KARR, which must be fired from KITT directly into KARR's scanner. However, when KARR needs maintenance, Tony kidnaps Bonnie before the laser can fully be calibrated. Although Michael rescues Bonnie, she is unable to get a clear shot at KARR with the laser and it escapes.

KARR's only weakness is its primary directive of self-preservation and Michael uses this to his advantage. When KARR threatens to destroy KITT in a head-on collision, Michael plays chicken with it, on a hunch that KARR will veer out of KITT's path in order to protect itself. KARR indeed swerves out of the way, but unable to stop in time: it drives off a cliff and seemingly explodes in the ocean (using footage of the climactic scene from the 1977 film The Car, footage that was also used for KITT on a couple of other occasions).

Trust Doesn't Rust was also printed in book form, written by Roger Hill and Glen A. Larson, following the story and general script of the original television episode, expanding some areas of the plot and adding several extra secondary characters.[1]

"K.I.T.T. vs. K.A.R.R." – Season 3, Episode 6[edit]

KARR (now voiced by Paul Frees) was only believed to have been destroyed. It was damaged and ended up buried in the sand on the beach below the cliffs. When the tide had gone out, a young couple, John and Mandy, stumble upon the partially buried car, dug it out, and reactivate it. This time, KARR is furious and has only one clear motive: revenge against Michael and KITT.

KARR is still damaged after the last encounter with KITT and forces John to serve as its driver while also carrying out some cosmetic modifications to its paintwork in order to differ from KITT. KARR challenges Michael and KITT to a final showdown. After releasing the young couple, KARR fires a stolen laser and damages KITT. However, Michael and KITT destroy KARR's laser by reflecting the beam back to the emitter. Damaged, KARR prepares for another attack. KITT and KARR both turbo boost and collide in mid-air. KARR is blown to pieces, but Michael and KITT survive the impact. At the end of the episode, however, KARR's motherboard — i.e. KARR itself — can be seen lying undamaged on the ground amongst the wreckage, its LED's still blinking – suggesting to the viewers that KARR is still "alive".


Originally, KARR appeared entirely identical to KITT (all black with a red scan bar), with the only physical difference being a greenish-yellow LED voice modulator on its Knight Industries dash (for the first half of the first season, KITT's voice modulator is a red square that blinks on and off as it talks; KARR's voice modulator is the prototype to the one seen on KITT from the mid first season onwards, after it was received well by viewers) and the only other difference being the evil voice. When KARR returns in "K.I.T.T. vs. K.A.R.R.", KARR's scan bar is now amber/yellow and is now very similar to KITT's, and is still 100% black like KITT for the first half of the episode.

KARR later gets a brand new black and silver two-tone paint job incorporating a silver lower body into its familiar 100% all-black finish. KARR's scanner originally made a low droning noise, but in the comeback episode it sounds similar to KITT's but with a slight reverb audio effect added to it. The sound of KARR's engine, originally sounding rough and "fierce", here sounds similar to KITT's, again effected by a reverb. In "Trust Doesn't Rust," KARR had no license plates. In KARR's second appearance, it had a California license plate that read "KARR." Despite various other changes, KARR's dashboard remains correct with continuity – it still has the earlier version of the dashboard as previously seen on KITT in season 1–2, whereas by the time of 'KITT Vs KARR', Bonnie had updated all of KITT's dash and various functions at the start of the third season.

KARR's evil personality is also somewhat different in the comeback episode. Its childlike perceptions are diminished into a more devious personality, completely cold and bent on revenge. Its self-preservation directive is no longer in play. When KARR is close to exploding after receiving severe damage; it willingly turbo-jumps into a mid-air collision with KITT, hoping that its own destruction would also spell its counterpart's. Even KARR's modus operandi is different; servicing enough in the first episode, it aims to actually make use of other people to serve its own needs. One explanation of this change could be as a result of the damage it received after falling over the cliff at the end of "Trust Doesn't Rust", causing further malfunctions in its programming. Indeed, KITT itself is seen to malfunction and suffer change of personality as a result of damage in several other episodes.

In "Trust Doesn't Rust"and the 2008–2009 series episode "Knight to King's Pawn", the voice of KARR was once again provided by voice actor Peter Cullen. Cullen is better known as the voice of Optimus Prime in both the G1 Transformers series plus Transformers Prime TV Series, and had had a previous working relationship with series creator Glen A. Larson after voicing several Cylon characters in the original Battlestar Galactica. In "K.I.T.T. vs K.A.R.R.", KARR was voiced by voice actor Paul Frees, known as the voice of Boris Badenov in the popular series The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show and the voice of Ludwig Von Drake in the popular anthology series, Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color as well as being the first voice of Ghost Host in the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland. Like William Daniels, the voice of KITT, who was never credited on-screen, Frees was also uncredited on-screen for his role.

KARR 2.0 in Knight Rider 2008–2009[edit]

Knight Auto-cybernetic Roving Robotic-exoskeleton (KARR 2.0)
Knight Rider character
KARR 2.0 as it appeared on the schematic display in "Knight of the Living Dead"
First appearanceKnight of the Living Dead
Created byGlen A. Larson
Portrayed byFord Mustang Shelby GT500 KR
Voiced byPeter Cullen

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"Knight of the Living Dead" – Season 1, Episode 6[edit]

KARR 2.0 (Peter Cullen) is mentioned in the new Knight Rider series episode "Knight of the Living Dead", and is said to be a prototype of KITT (Knight Industries Three Thousand). The new KARR acronym was changed to "Knight Auto-cybernetic Roving Robotic-exoskeleton". Instead of an automobile, a schematic display shows a heavily armed humanoid-looking robot with wheeled legs that converts into an ambiguous off-road vehicle.

In the episode, a spy infiltrates the SSC and activates a self-destruct program within KITT, placed there secretly by Dr. Graiman. In order to save KITT's operating system (which is given priority over its memories), Michael and Sarah transmit the files to the back-up computer at the headquarters, but the transmission is also intercepted by an unknown third party. It is stated that KITT, KARR, and the base's back-up computer are the only systems able to run the program, and leaves Dr. Graiman with only one conclusion: KARR is still out there, and someone is trying to reactivate it.[2]

"Knight to King's Pawn" – Season 1, Episode 12[edit]

When KARR finally appears again in the episode "Knight to King's Pawn", it takes a form once again similar to KITT as a 2008 Ford Shelby Mustang GT500KR, but has a yellow scanner and 100% yellow color voice module and is once again 100% black like KITT. Once again, similar to the original character, this entirely different "KARR" project (2.0) had an A.I. that was programmed for self-preservation, and it was deactivated and placed in storage after it reprogrammed itself and killed seven people.

KARR returns in the episode "Knight to King's Pawn", with Peter Cullen reprising his vocal role using his Optimus Prime/Nemesis Prime voice from Transformers. A pre-recorded message from Dr. Graiman reveals that Michael was KARR's driver and his memories were erased after KARR became uncontrollable. He says that he knew of and opposed Alex Torres and the NSA's plans to reactivate KARR, as they wrongfully believe KITT's artificial intelligence will overwrite KARR's programming flaws. During the dismantling of the SSC (FLAG's control centre), KITT's A.I. chip is removed and delivered by Torres to the NSA, where it is installed into KARR. Michael vows to end this once and for all, and infiltrates Area 51 to rescue KITT, using another chip built by Billy. KARR activates itself, viewing the reactivated KITT as a threat that must be terminated. Alex states that he is now in charge and KARR must take his orders; KARR agrees, but then merges Alex with him as a driver to seek out Michael.

KARR seems to believe that it is its destiny to merge with Michael as before, and comes after KITT to destroy it and get Michael back. Despite KITT lacking its transformation protocols and weapons, Michael takes it into battle anyway. Using a grappling hook, Michael and KITT pull out KARR's chest plate, freeing Alex, and Turbo Boost through its body, destroying it in a manner similar to the destruction of KARR in the original series. Given the short nature of the battle and the ambiguity of KARR's fate, it is possible that the new KARR might return yet again, although in the following episode entitled "Exit Light, Enter Knight" Michael is told that the KARR project has been permanently abandoned.

KARR is once again similar to KITT, also a 2009 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500KR based on the Knight 3000 and is once again 100% all Black like KITT. The main difference is that KARR has a yellow scanner (in the original series it was more amber/yellow) and the scanner noise is lower in sound with more of an echo. The sound difference is especially notable when KITT is racing toward KARR while KARR is still in Mustang mode and KARR's voice module originally yellow/green is now 100% yellow color.


In "Knight of the Living Dead" a schematic display shows KARR as a heavily armed humanoid-looking robot with wheeled legs that converts into an ambiguous off-road vehicle, but when KARR returns in 2009 for its third appearance in "Knight to King's Pawn" it is once again similar to KITT and is once again 100% all black like KITT. KARR is now a 2009 Ford Mustang GT 500 KR, like KITT 3000; the only difference is that it has a yellow scan light bar. In the original series it was more amber/yellow, and KARR's voice module originally yellow-green in the original series. It is now 100% yellow color and KARR's scanner sounds much lower with much more of an echo. The sound is especially noticeable when KARR is chasing down KITT while it is still in Ford Mustang mode. Peter Cullen reprised his role as the voice of KARR in the 2009 Knight Rider episode, "Knight to King's Pawn."

Video games[edit]

KARR is in both Knight Rider: The Game and its sequel. In the first one it is teamed with Garthe Knight, but at the end of the game is caught in an explosion and falls into the sea. In the second it is again teamed with Garthe; however, KITT damages KARR's systems and drives it into a fire. In the sequel, it is once again teamed with Garthe, as he didn't abandon it like the Foundation did. Garthe outfitted KARR with new weapons and copied its processor for an army of robotic enemies, culminating in a rocket armed with a laser that could kill thousands. KARR also appears in the Knight Rider World in Lego Dimensions, with its mission involving finding it while it is hiding.


Mattel has released two die-cast metal models of KARR. A 1:18 scale model as part of the Hot Wheels Elite collection and a 1:64 scale model as part of the Hot Wheels Retro Nostalgia Entertainment collection. They both resemble KARR's appearance from KITT vs. KARR with silver paint around the bottom half of the vehicle. The small one however lacks the amber scanner light and instead retains the red scanner from KARR's appearance in Trust Doesn't Rust and there is also a KITT which is completely identical to KARR in its first episode in Trust Doesn't Rust.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

  • Pontiac Firebird
  • Shelby Mustang


  1. Trust Doesn't Rust Archived 2013-08-27 at the Wayback Machine paperback novel on iblist.com
  2. "Knight of the Living Dead". Knight Rider. Season 1. Episode 6. 32:55 minutes in. NBC.

External links[edit]

de:Knight Rider#K.I.T.T.

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