KITT versus KARA: One car can make a difference

Sometimes a play on words is just too good to pass up.

Since our children arrived, my parents have developed a habit of producing old toys that my brother and I once played with. From a battered old Millennium Falcon (with one broken leg and peeling decals) to an Earth Defense Directorate starfighter as seen in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (minus its yellow plastic missiles), ‘new’ toys have been revealed with regularity whenever we go to visit.

At a time when I’m constantly bemoaning the flimsy build quality of their modern equivalents, I’ve been pleased to see how well these 30-year-old-plus toys have withstood the test of time and provided pleasure to a second generation of Liew family children.

The old ones really are the best.

I don’t have any great emotional attachment to the majority of these toys. But when we opened a box one day and discovered our old Darda cars, that was a whole different ball-game.

Darda cars were little die-cast models housing a motor which you would wind up by pressing down on the rear of the car and pulling it backwards. When released, it would then spring forwards at up to 30mph, fast enough to loop the loop on specially constructed tracks.

Aside from the slight culture shock of seeing cigarette brand logos plastered all over miniature F1 cars – we were so innocent back then! – I was delighted to rediscover a small, black Pontiac Trans Am with a scratched red stripe across the front of its bonnet. Of course, it was a replica of KITT, the talking, self-driving, gadget-laden car from the 1980s series Knight Rider – the show that created the legend now known simply as ‘the Hoff’. You know, this programme …

Needless to say, I was soon helping the boys build ramps with books and bits of board. They looked slightly bemused when I kept going “whoo-whoo” (the sound made by KITT’s scanner) and muttering, “one man can make a difference, Isaac/Toby” before dissolving into fits of giggles, but what’s a 12-year-old boy in a 40-something-year-old’s body to do when presented with a chance to relive his childhood?

At some point, the Darda cars found their way back to our house – I have no idea how that happened, ahem – where they have been sitting quietly in a box in the playroom containing approximately eleventy gazillion other cars.

Until this week, when Kara took a shine to them – and, for some reason, to KITT in particular. Now our daughter can be a girly girl when she wants to be but she also loves to play with trains, cars and other so-called boys’ toys, so this is totally normal for her.

Kara and KITT

Which brings me back to the title of this post. In the best traditions of television cliché, KITT had an evil twin named KARR – indeed, one episode of the show was titled KITT vs KARR. And so a headline too good to resist was born.

Being the thoughtful father that I am, it has occurred to me that not only might our car-mad boys quite like Knight Rider but Kara might too, especially given that KITT’s engineers were both female and therefore suitable alternative role models for a girl with a tendency to model herself on Peppa Pig, Angelina Ballerina and Shimmer and Shine (who, as far as I can tell, are two hapless trainee genies).

One day maybe Kara will understand the cultural significance of Knight Rider, without which we would have been deprived of Baywatch, the unlikely but iconic sight of the Hoff singing Looking For Freedom at the fallen Berlin Wall and a million-and-one mobile phone ringtones of the equally iconic Knight Rider theme. The world would have been a much poorer place as a result.

So, all punnery aside, I’m now off to seek out the Knight Rider boxset on Amazon. Purely for the kids’ benefit, of course. One man can make a difference, at least when it comes to educating his children about pop-culture history.


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