Self-made billionaire Wilton Knight rescues police Detective Lieutenant Michael Arthur Long after a near fatal shot to the face, giving him a new identity (by plastic surgery) and a new name: Michael Knight. Wilton selects Michael to be the primary field agent in the pilot program of his public justice organization, the Foundation for Law and Government (FLAG). The other half of this pilot program is the Knight Industries Two Thousand (KITT), a heavily modified, technologically advanced Pontiac Firebird Trans Am with numerous features including an extremely durable shell and frame, controlled by a computer with artificial intelligence. Michael and KITT are brought in during situations where "direct action might provide the only feasible solution".
Heading FLAG is Devon Miles, who provides Michael with directives and guidance. Dr. Bonnie Barstow is the chief engineer in charge of KITT's care, as well as technical assistant to Devon (April Curtis fills this role in Season 2).
The car used as KITT in the series was a customized 1982 Pontiac Firebird sports model, that cost US$100,000 to build (equivalent to about $265,690.35 in 2018). Nose, dash and other interior of the car were designed by the design consultant Michael Scheffe.
The "Knight Rider Theme" was composed by Stu Phillips and Glen A. Larson. The series DVD bonus material contains an interview about this lead music, where Glen A. Larson says he remembers a theme out of a classical piece ("Marche Et Cortège De Bacchus" Act III - No. 14 from Sylvia written by French composer Léo Delibes) from which he took pieces for the "Knight Rider Theme".
The rest of the series music was composed by Stu Phillips for 13 episodes, Don Peake for 75 episodes, Glen A. Larson co-wrote music only for the "K.I.T.T. vs. K.A.R.R." episode and Morton Stevens who wrote music for the "Deadly Maneuvers" episode in the first season. Peake took over scoring duties at S1E14 in 1983, when Larson moved to Twentieth Century-Fox and Phillips was working there on his projects. Peake insisted as the only and main composer until the end of the series in 1986, exceptionally for the "K.I.T.T. vs. K.A.R.R." episode in third season, which he composed together with Stu Phillips and Glen A. Larson.