In the 1970s there were no biggest TV stars than Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox. The pair played everyone’s favorite California Highway Patrol motorcycle cops, Ponch and John, for several years on the top rated drama “CHiPs.”
Mr. Wilcox spoke about his classic show and how he went from actor to technology innovator.
Question: When you do autograph shows, do you always do them with former co-star Erik Estrada?
Answer: Almost always. Sometimes he’s not available. Sometimes I’m not available. To be honest with you, it’s better when we both are here. When we do it alone, it’s not as good.
Q: What is the most common thing fans say when they meet you?
A: It’s a combination. It’s interesting to see the transition psychologically. You’ll see a lady who is 45 years old become a 12-year-old girl. There is a sensitive fine line because her husband is standing there.
Q: Does he turn 12 as well?
A: No. he’s pissed off. [laughs] So you have to be a gentleman about that.
We also have lots of policemen who come up and say they became policemen because of “CHiPs,” and that’s always a nice compliment. Especially in today’s world where policemen are vulnerable, to say the least.
Q: Did you know how to ride a motorcycle before you did “CHiPs”?
A: Yeah, I loved motorcycles most of my life. To be honest with you, before we started I took training from the CHP [California Highway Patrol] with Erik. Erik learned on the show too, I think.
In a way it was better to learn on the show because it’s a big, heavy bike.
Q: Looking back, what do you think the lasting appeal of the show was?
A: First of all I think they continue to love it today because it had good values. It didn’t have violence or sexual and emotional abuse. It was a clean show still representative of times of hope and faith.
Secondly, I think they liked it because of the action and the motorcycles. I used to say that the motorcycles were really the stars — Eric Estrada and Larry Wilcox later became stars.
It is in reruns today and is very successful on MeTV, relatively speaking. But I don’t think it would work as a series that you would try to sell to networks today.
Q: Rumor has it a big-screen reboot is in the works. How do you feel about that?
A: Warner Brothers is doing a feature film with [Dax Shepard and Michael Pena]. Who knows? I don’t know. We’ll see if it works or not. It may or may not.
I think it’s an iconic show. What people don’t realize is we were really, really fortunate. There were only three networks: ABC, NBC and CBS. We had ratings in the high 18s, 19s and 20s, which are unheard of today. We did a “CHiPs” reunion years later for TNT, and it was the highest-rated show they ever had.
Q: Will you and Eric be involved?
A: Maybe, if they ask us. I would imagine a cameo is something we’d do.
Q: You left acting behind and turned your attention to technology. What are you working on?
A: My focus is on technology. My company does retrofitting for cities — we do complete energy retrofitting. They usually don’t have any money, so we fund the city.
In addition to that we have a new product called OPTECmpg, which is really needed [for car emissions]. We took a brand-new Volkswagen and we put a probe in the tailpipe. With what they are doing, cheating on the computer, the results came out really dirty. Then we took our OPTECmpg device on it, and in 30 minutes we took a 94 to zero. Zero emissions. Put your nose on the tailpipe and there is no emission whatsoever.
Q: What is stopping all the car companies from using the technology?
A: It’s brand-new. They don’t know about it. Instead of the car companies, which is a very slow sale cycle, we’re focusing on fleets. Truck lines. Buses. Increase their miles per gallon from 25 to 50 percent, all with zero emissions. And increase the torque.
The bottom line is you help the planet and save yourself money. Most people are only worried about the money. Too much greed.
Q: Where can people find you online?
A: LarryWilcox.net is my fan site. Then OPTECmpg is a company I own a small portion of. We also have company called Enable, which is digital distribution of content to any device in the world. We do the Olympics, United Nations, Stamford, pro soccer teams, etc.