Jon was among the first characters on a television series to be identified as a Vietnam Veteran. It was one of the few shows to portray Vietnam Veterans in a positive manner. Larry Wilcox had served in Vietnam as a U.S. Marine during the Tet Offensive.
In October 1981, two real-life California Highway Patrolmen were injured in the line of duty. The show's cast took time out to donate blood for the two officers. One survived.
Larry Wilcox and Erik Estrada were often said to frequently clash, and did not get along well with each other during the production of this show. This was reported to be a factor in Wilcox's decision to quit the series. Estrada was said to be similarly displeased working with Tom Reilly, who replaced Wilcox as Poncherello's partner Officer Bob "Bobby" Nelson.
On the Sam Brown (holster) belt, behind the holster, you'll see the officers wearing a rectangular pouch. This is not a part of CHP/Law Enforcement items. This case actually housed the battery for the wireless microphones the actors wore.
Various California Highway Patrol cars featured on this show, were used California Highway Patrol cruisers, bought at auction for the show. The age of the cars used tended to lag three or four years behind the actual cruisers used by the California Highway Patrol at the time. The years, makes, and models of the California Highway Patrol cruisers used during filming were: 1973 Dodge Polara (often used when a cruiser crash was needed), 1974 Dodge Monaco, 1975 Dodge Monaco, 1976 Dodge Coronet, 1977 Dodge Monaco, and 1978 Dodge Monaco.
When Larry Wilcox quit the series, it was explained that Jon had moved back home to Wyoming.
Early in season five, Erik Estrada briefly walked off the show, due to contract disputes. He was replaced by Bruce Jenner, playing Steve McLeish. During the absence, normal opening credits with Estrada's name and image continued to run, and Bruce Jenner's name was listed among the guest stars.
Erik Estrada suffered a very serious motorcycle accident while filming an episode. Until he recovered, he literally shot scenes from his hospital bed.
Final season regular Bruce Penhall had been a Motorcycle World Speedway Champion. His character Bruce Nelson was a World Speedway Champion transitioning to be a motorcycle Officer with the California Highway Patrol. Footage of Penhall competing in the 1982 World Speedway Championship was used in an episode portraying his character competing in the event.
Jon Baker (Larry Wilcox) was named after the nephew of the show's Creator, Rick Rosner. The boy had a small role in the first episode, as a boy stopped by Ponch and Jon for riding his bicycle on the highway.
Gwynne Gilford, who had a recurring role as Sergeant Getraer's wife, Betty, was the real-life wife of Robert Pine, who played Getraer.
In real-life, California Highway Patrol motorcycle Officers do not ride in pairs. In the first two seasons, this was explained away as being because Ponch was on probation, and Jon was his mentor. However, the viewing audience got so used to seeing them working together, that it stayed that way for the entire show's run, without any further objections.
In the opening credits, Jon Baker's badge number is shown as 8712 while he is riding the motorcycle, even for season six, when the character was gone.
Erik Estrada spent time, and went through training at the California Highway Patrol Academy, to see what it was like to be a Patrol Officer.
Randi Oakes played a car thief in a second season episode. The following season, she joined the cast as Bonnie Clark.
Jon and Ponch never drew their weapons during the series, but Baricza (Brodie Greer) did after getting beat up after fighting some car strippers.
The freeway chases and crash scenes were filmed on nearly-finished stretches of Southern California freeways in the northern areas of Greater Los Angeles. For the pilot, the Ronald Reagan Freeway (Highway 118) between Interstate 405 and the Balboa exit was used. In the first and second seasons, the production moved to the Glendale Freeway (Highway 2) and Interstate 210 intersection in La Cañada Flintridge, California, along with the section of Interstate 210 between the La Tuna Canyon and Sunland Boulevard exits in La Crescenta, California (about five miles to the west). For the third and subsequent seasons, about two miles of Interstate 210 near the interchange with the Ronald Reagan Freeway (Highway 118) in Sylmar, California were used extensively for the next three seasons. These sections of freeway were under construction for many years, allowing producers a large section of nearly finished freeway to use for the show. The 210 and 118 were opened in the early 1980s, forcing the freeway scenes for the last season to be shot in Long Beach, California and near the Imperial Highway next to Los Angeles International Airport.
Jon's radio call handle, "7-Mary-3", inspired the naming of a rock band of the same name.
Midway through the final season, Tom Reilly (Bobby) was arrested for drug possession. This resulted in his role being reduced, with Bruce Penhall having his role as Bobby's brother Bruce being increased. The California Highway Patrol also threatened to revoke the show's use of their badge and related imagery, over the bad publicity, due to the arrest.
Real California Highway Patrol Officers were sometimes on the scene, due to filming locations, which sometimes confused crew members as to who were actors, and who were real officers there for security and traffic control reasons.
In one episode, where Ponch and Jon were having issues with a paramedic, the engine company vehicle, to which the paramedic belonged, was Station 51. Squad 51, the vehicle, was used exclusively by the series Emergency! (1972). By then, that series had ended, however. This show had no relationship to the Jack Webb-spawned series.
Ponch was among the first leading characters on a dramatic series who was Latino. He's often cited as among the first positive or non-stereotypical portrayal of a Latino-American on a regular prime time drama series.
The word "Chippie", as slang for California Highway Patrol Officer, dates to the 1950s or earlier, but was rarely used, until popularized by this show. The word "CHiP" was coined by the producers, after the network balked at the name "Chippies".
Aside from Larry Wilcox's well publicized departure from the series prior to the final season, other cast changes were made for that season as well. The characters played by Michael Dorn, Brodie Greer, and Randi Oakes (Turner, Baricza, and Bonnie) were written off and replaced, with no explanation.
Michael Dorn, who spent three seasons on this show, with Robert Pine, would go on to be best known for playing Lieutenant Worf on Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987). Robert Pine's son Chris, would portray Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek (2009), Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), and Star Trek Beyond (2016).
The car stripper, on whom Bear (Brodie Greer) pulled his gun, was played by Danny Bonaduce.
The Kawasaki motorcycles, and Plymouth Fury cars, used in the show, were also used by the California Highway Patrol.
Throughout the show's run, the cast of supporting characters included one female Officer (Sindy, Bonnie, Kathy) and one African-American Officer (Fritz, Turner, Webster)
Baker's partner was originally written as an Italian-American named "Poncherelli". The "i" was changed to an "o" when Erik Estrada was cast.
Erik Estrada, Robert Pine, and Paul Linke were the only cast members featured throughout all six of the show's seasons.
Jon and Ponch's unit identification numbers were L.A. 15 Seven Mary Three and Seven Mary Four, respectively.
Despite CHiPs being authorized by the California Highway Patrol with a mission of promoting a positive image of the CHP and to promote highway and traffic safety, none of the actors wear seatbelts, and Ponch and Jon never properly strap on their motorcycle helmets; they just velcro the straps together .
Sergeant Joe Getraer (Robert Pine) was named after a college friend of Series Creator and Producer Rick Rosner.
According to Larry Wilcox, it was Erik Estrada who had him removed from the show, because he wanted to be the star. The network felt Estrada was more essential, to get that sixth year for syndication. So Officer Jon Baker went "back to Wyoming".
Lou Wagner and Erik Estrada are Airport disaster movie alumni. Wagner for Airport (1970) and Estrada for Airport 1975 (1974).
Throughout the second season, ambulances are routinely shown responding to accidents, but are staffed by Los Angeles County Fire Fighters. Los Angeles County Fire has never run their own ambulances.
The brown van you see to the right, during the introduction, belonged to The Children's Baptist Home in Ingelwood, California.
NBC originally wanted to replace Erik Estrada (I) with Bruce Jenner for the 7th season because he expressed interest in leaving the show for other projects. But since the TV show had declining ratings, NBC decided to completely cancel the entire series and decided not to do the 7th season.
The original CHP traffic patrol helicopter, N59539, that was used in the first season was later used in 2005 to look for lost barges on the Mississippi River in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The pilot lost control of his tail rotor and crashed into the river along with his 3 passengers. All passengers were able to swim to shore and only sustained minor injuries. The helicopter was never recovered.
According to series creator Rick Rosner, inspiration for the show occurred while working as a Sherriff's Department Reserve Deputy and he observed a pair of Motorcycle Officers pulling in to the parking lot of a diner to go on break.
During the sixth season, brothers Bobby and Bruce Nelson are introduced, played by Tom Reilly and Bruce Penhall respectively, with Bobby being the older brother. However in real life, Penhall is older than Reilly by two years and one month.
At the end of the pilot, Ponch attempts to pull over an elderly lady driving erratically on the highway. The lady drives off the embankment and crashes her car, claiming Ponch was instructing her to do so. She ended up being the wife of a Police Official in Sacramento. The end result was Ponch being put back on probation, and paired with Jon again.
Lou Wagner is also part of the Star Trek connection, having appeared on an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987).
Robert Pine played Jon and Ponch's stalwart sergeant, Joseph Getraer. Pine is Chris Pine's father; who plays James T Kirk in the rebooted Star Trek franchise.
In 1992, Estrada showed up in a commercial for Taco Bell, where he plays a Patrolman, who stops a girl in jeans, who's eating the latest offering from Taco Bell, and asks her if she has a license for her dangerously tasty new taco.
Early in season five, Erik Estrada briefly walked off the show, due to contract disputes. He was replaced by Bruce Jenner, playing Steve McLeish. Bruce Jenner would eventually come out of the closet as transgender; and transition into a new identity; Caitlyn Jenner.