Five Facts You Likely Never Knew About the Show ‘CHiPs’

There's a lot more to the popular TV series and its two lead actors, Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox, than many fans think

by Zachary Leeman | Updated 09 Oct 2017 at 11:49 AM

To truly grasp the enduring popularity of “CHiPs,” one needs only to look at the performance of the film reboot from earlier this year.

The movie dropped the original stars, Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox, in favor of Dax Shepard (who also wrote and directed) and Michael Peña. It turned a family-friendly show on its head and presented a crude and R-rated mockery of what it once was.

Original fans blasted the film on social media — and the flick disappeared in a matter of weeks.

The movie will be forgotten, but its underperformance and the backlash it inspired proved the original series never will.

Airing from 1977 to 1983 for a total of 139 episodes, "CHiPs" (for California Highway Patrol) followed the adventures of two highway patrol motorcycle officers. Filled with great stunts and a lot of laughs, it remains one of the most popular cop-centric programs ever.

Related: Barbara Eden Dishes on Her Career and 'I Dream of Jeannie'

Here's a look at five things you probably didn't know about "CHiPs."

1.) Estrada and Wilcox did not get along. Though the two appear chummy now at fan events, the lead actors of "CHiPs" had their issues with each other at one point.

Wilcox told People magazine in 1980 he made a point of not inviting Estrada to his wedding. "I thought it was asinine to pick someone just for being photogenic," he said of Estrada. "Erik and I are just totally different human beings, and I can't get a good relationship going."

He also said Estrada had an "ego problem."

2.) Caitlyn Jenner starred in the fifth season. Caitlyn Jenner (at the time Bruce Jenner) actually replaced Erik Estrada in the fifth season of the show. It was an unpopular move and not something many fans remember, as it only lasted seven episodes.

Estrada reportedly left the show over a salary dispute and Jenner was brought in as a new replacement character. When Estrada eventually reached an agreement with the studio — Jenner quickly moved out of frame.

3.) Estrada and Wilcox suffered for their work. The lead actors got dinged up plenty of times while shooting the series on motorcycles. In 1979 Estrada braked abruptly on a bike — and landed chest-first into a parked car. He broke eight ribs as well as his sternum, collarbone and wrist.

The studio, MGM, later gave him a $100,000 Rolls-Royce Corniche.

Wilcox flipped his motorcycle and ended up with a concussion the very next year.

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4.) There was already a "CHiPs" movie. Estrada and Wilcox beat Dax Shepard to the punch on a "CHiPs" movie. It's not mentioned often, but the two reunited for a TV movie in 1999 that aired on TNT.

"CHiPs '99" picked up 15 years after the original series ended — and found Estrada and Wilcox combating an automobile hijacking ring.

Wilcox served in the Marine Corps long before he rode a motorcycle on television.

5.) Estrada is a real cop. He's a reserve officer for the Muncie, Indiana, police force. He was deputized for the reality series "Armed and Famous" in 2006, but he takes the role seriously. He even returned after the series ended to work a night patrol shift.

Estrada revealed he wanted to be a cop before he ever thought of being an actor. "From the age of seven to 17, I wanted to be a New York City cop, but I got bit by the acting bug. Then 'CHiPs' came along, and I got to be known around the world as a cop on a bike with tight pants ... and big white teeth," he told TV Guide back in 2007.

Speaking of service, Wilcox served in the Marine Corps long before he rode a motorcycle on television. He even spent 13 months in Vietnam. "It shows the raw character when you're around death a lot. It really challenges your identity," Wilcox told "Entertainment Tonight" in 2014 about his military experience.

He added, "For me ... I'm just grateful, grateful to be here."

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