As famous for the wooden acting of "Jon" and "Ponch" as the crudely staged motorcycle pursuits, the American tv show CHiPS was wildly popular during its long run and it’s no wonder that CHiPs trivia is a major part of the internet buzz to this day.
One of the most common questions is “what kind of motorcycles were used in CHiPs?” All of the motorcycle cops in the television series rode Kawasaki KZ-P machines just like the real California Highway Patrol officers of the era. So, what is a Kawasaki P model?
No surprise then that P stands for Police and the first of these public service machines was in fact the W1-P, Kawasaki’s 1960’s 650cc parallel twin supplied in white complete with flashing lights and wailing siren. The kudos of supplying machines to the police meant that when Kawasaki released the 903cc Z1 Super Four in 1972 it was a logical base to make a P model.
The machines used in the early series were Z1B models of 1975 vintage which integrated windshields, saddlebags, pursuit lights, folding floorboards, radio communications equipment, electronic sirens which the single front disc brake was supposed to stop – a tough ask considering that the lone disc brake was hardly up to slowing the standard machine.
The 1000cc model used in later series had more substantial chassis and suspension modifications to deal with the extra weight and other embellishments such as a restyled front mudguard, wider section wheel rims and tyres plus a specially calibrated speedometer which could be used as evidence in court.
Even though the modern remake of CHiPS used German motorcycles, the fondest memories remain of Larry Wilcox and Erik Estrada riding in the California sun on their iconic Kawasaki patrol bikes.
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issued: Wednesday, March 16, 2022
updated: Wednesday, March 16, 2022
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