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updated: 6/26/2016 4:21 PM

Meet the cop who's a "Knight Rider" fan with his own KITT car

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  • Video: Officer and KITT car owner

  • Eric Wang drives his KITT car through Buffalo Grove as other drivers do a double-take.

      Eric Wang drives his KITT car through Buffalo Grove as other drivers do a double-take.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Officer Eric Wang patrols the streets of Schaumburg in the early morning hours of his work shift. But his hobby and passion outside of work is his KITT car, which is just like the one in the 1980s TV show "Knight Rider."

      Officer Eric Wang patrols the streets of Schaumburg in the early morning hours of his work shift. But his hobby and passion outside of work is his KITT car, which is just like the one in the 1980s TV show "Knight Rider."
    photos by Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Schaumburg police officer Eric Wang's autographed photo from the Knight Rider television series.

    Schaumburg police officer Eric Wang's autographed photo from the Knight Rider television series.
    Courtesy of Eric Wang

  • Eric Wang of Chicago, who has been with the Schaumburg Police Department for just under two years, is also a hostage negotiator with the regional SWAT team. In the early morning hours Wang checks his gear as he heads out to patrol the streets of Schaumburg.

      Eric Wang of Chicago, who has been with the Schaumburg Police Department for just under two years, is also a hostage negotiator with the regional SWAT team. In the early morning hours Wang checks his gear as he heads out to patrol the streets of Schaumburg.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Eric Wang's 1983 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am is shown in the early stages of being rebuilt into a KITT car, like the one from "Knight Rider."

    Eric Wang's 1983 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am is shown in the early stages of being rebuilt into a KITT car, like the one from "Knight Rider."
    Courtesy of Eric Wang

  • Eric Wang's passion outside of law enforcement is the construction of his KITT car.

      Eric Wang's passion outside of law enforcement is the construction of his KITT car.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Eric Wang pulls KITT out of his parents' home in Buffalo Grove, which is where he stores it for the winter.

      Eric Wang pulls KITT out of his parents' home in Buffalo Grove, which is where he stores it for the winter.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Eric Wang's 1983 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am "KITT car" sits with its custom dashboard glowing after many months of rebuilding.

    Eric Wang's 1983 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am "KITT car" sits with its custom dashboard glowing after many months of rebuilding.
    Courtesy of Eric Wang

 
 

As a child, Eric Wang was taken with the 1980s TV show "Knight Rider" and its message: "One man can make a difference."

The show, which featured David Hasselhoff as Michael Knight, who fought crime with the assistance of his technologically advanced KITT car, made such an impression on Wang that he followed a similar path.

Wang, now 37, has been an officer with the Schaumburg Police Department for the past two years. He is also a hostage negotiator and regional S.W.A.T. team member. And he is the proud owner of his own KITT car.

"I always thought that KITT was the coolest car in the world," Wang said. "Owning KITT is a tangible way that allows a person to live out that inner dream of being a real-life superhero."

His fellow officers, Wang said, get a kick out of seeing his KITT (Knight Industries Two Thousand) car parked at the station.

"They always ask if the red scanner on the front lights up. When I turn it on, you should see their faces light up."

But Wang doesn't use his KITT car to chase down bad guys on the job; he uses it to promote law enforcement at police activities like National Night Out.

Wang recalled one time he happened to drive the KITT car to church, only to receive an unexpected S.W.A.T call-out response. Wang had all of his equipment in the car, so that is what he drove to the scene.

The car is a 1983 Pontiac Trans Am convertible which he purchased in 2001. Its famous iconic red scanner light that was designed and built using schematics of the original of the show shines brightly in your rear view mirror as he pulls up behind drivers in traffic -- off duty, of course.

Wang had always wanted to own a replica of KITT. Through the internet he found out that there were actually guys out there building them. So Wang set out on a mission. Over the course of 15 years of researching, building and visiting junk yards for parts, his efforts paid off. It cost him about $25,000 to $30,000 to build his own KITT car. Most of the major cosmetic work was finished by 2007.

In keeping with the original theme of "Knight Rider," Wang said the car serves as a constant motivator for him to make a difference with his job -- "even if it's just a small one."

At events, when Wang lets people sit in or take pictures with his KITT car, he likes to feel he is having an impact on someone's life.

"I know it only takes one gesture, one act of service, one interaction to change a person's life forever. I want to be a change agent and affect the community around me and to those I come in contact with."

During his off-duty moments, Wang enjoys his car and the way other drivers react to it.

"It never ceases to amaze me, after all these years (since) the show has been canceled, I drive around the (KITT) car and people will pull up to me, honking their horns giving me the thumbs-up, yelling out their windows, 'Hey, man! Cool car!'"

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