Jon was among the first characters on a TV series to be identified as a Vietnam Veteran. The portrayal was also among the few at that time to show a Vietnam Veteran in a positive manner. Larry Wilcox who played Jon had actually done service in Vietnam as a U.S. Marine during the Tet Offensive.
Larry Wilcox and Erik Estrada were often said to frequently clash and did not get along well with each other during production of CHiPs. 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 microphone the actors wore.
Larry Wilcox's character, Jon Baker, 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 bike on the highway.
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.
Various California Highway Patrol cars featured in "CHiPs" were actual "used" CHP 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 CHP at the time. Some of the years, makes, and models of the CHP cruisers used: 1973 Dodge Polara, 1975 Dodge Monaco, 1976 Dodge Coronet, 1977 Dodge Monaco, 1978 Dodge Monaco, 1979 Dodge St. Regis, 1980 Dodge Diplomat.
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 CHP. Actual footage of Penhall competing in the 1982 World Speedway Championship was used in an episode portraying his character's competing in the event.
In real life, CHP 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.
Real CHP 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.
Michael Dorn who spent 3 seasons on CHiPs with Robert Pine, would go on to be best known for playing Lt. Worf on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Robert Pine's son Chris Pine would become Captain James T. Kirk in the Star Trek (2009) reboot.
The freeway chases and crash scenes were filmed on nearly-finished stretches of Southern California freeways. For the first season, the Glendale Freeway (Highway 2) in Montrose, California was used. For the second and subsequent seasons, the intersection of the Foothill Freeway (Interstate 210) and the Simi Valley Freeway (Highway 118) in Sylmar, California were used. These sections of freeway were under construction for many years, allowing producers about a mile of finished freeway section 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.
Midway through the final season, Tom Reilly was arrested for drug possession. This resulted in his character Bobby having his role reduced, with Bruce Penhall having his role as Bobby's brother Bruce being elevated. The CHP also threatened to revoke the show's use of their badge and related imagery over the bad publicity due to the arrest.
Ponch was among the first leading characters on a dramatic series whose ethnicity was Latino. He's often cited as among the first positive or non stereotypical portrayal of a Hispanic American on a regular prime time drama series.
In one episode where Ponch and Jon were having issues with a paramedic, the engine company vehicle to which the paramedic belonged was none other than Station 51. Squad 51, the vehicle, was used exclusively by the series "Emergency!". By then, that series had ended, however. "CHiPs" had no relationship to the Jack Webb-spawned series.
Aside from Larry Wilcox's well publicized departure from the series prior to the final season, a number of 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.
The word "Chippie" as slang for CHP 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".
At the end of the pilot, Ponch attempts to pull over and elderly lady driving erratically on the highway. Ponch tells her to pull over often enough the lady drives off the embankment and crashes her car blaming Ponch was instructing her to do so. The elderly lady ended up being the wife to another police official in Sacramento. The end result was Ponch being put back on probation and paired with Jon again.
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 6th year for syndication. So Officer Jon Baker went "back to Wyoming."