Celebrity Drive: CHIPS Star Dax Shepard


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Quick Stats: Dax Shepard, actor/writer/director
Daily Driver: Ducati Multistrada (Dax’s rating: 10 on a scale of 1 to 10)
Other cars: see below
Favorite road trip: Upper Peninsula of Michigan to L.A.
Car he learned to drive in: 1980s Chevrolet Celebrity
First car bought: 1976 Pontiac Catalina

Dax Shepard is an actor, writer, and director by profession, but at his core he’s a genuine car and motorcycle fanatic. The opportunity to combine his love of motorsports and comedy drove him to pursue his latest film, CHIPS, which Shepard wrote, directed, and starred in.

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The gearhead bug bit him at an early age. So early that Shepard, who’s now 42, can’t recall a time he wasn’t afflicted. “I can’t actually remember a moment in life when I wasn’t into cars,” he says. “I don’t think there was a specific thing. I just immediately loved them.”

His mother might have played a role. Shepard says she let him pull their Chevy Celebrity out of the driveway and drive around the mall parking lot when he was between 8 and 9 years old. From there, he literally couldn’t wait until he could legally drive.

“The first car I actually purchased was a 1976 Pontiac Catalina that I got on the side of the road in northern Michigan for $400,” he says. “I was actually 15 at the time, but I was going to turn 16 in a month or two, so I just chanced it and drove it home. I neither got pulled over, nor did it break, but it did break shortly after that.”

Besides the Pontiac’s price, Shepard was drawn to the Catalina because it was “a gigantic big-block V-8 sedan.” This would become a recurring theme throughout his life, but next he moved on to something a bit smaller. “Then I got a Fox-body [Ford Mustang] in high school,” he says. “I probably had [the Pontiac] for a year and then I bought an ’84 Mustang GT that I rebuilt the engine on and used to drag race.”

“I have fantasies of getting another one,” he adds, “but I know it’s a fool’s errand.” He explains that although they’re light and handle pretty well, they don’t hold their value even after you dump thousands of dollars into one.

But Shepard’s obsession with motorcycles might predate his love of cars. He rode a dirt bike for the first time at around 5 years old. He owned a Honda Spree motor scooter at 12 and upgraded to a Honda Elite 80 at 14. When he turned 16, he got a Suzuki Katana 600. When he first moved to L.A., he worked as a motorcycle messenger for a year. “I spent a lot of time [on bikes],” he says. “It’s the only way to get around Los Angeles.”

His Garage

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Shepard’s pride and joy is his 1967 Lincoln Continental, which he’s owned for 22 years. Unlike most other Continentals you’ve probably seen, Shepard’s is modified in a Pro Touring style with big wheels, Wilwood high-performance brakes, a coilover suspension, upgraded anti-roll bars, and much more. Under the hood is a built Ford Racing crate motor running Mass-Flo Pro-M fuel injection. When asked what rating between 1 and 10 he would give the Lincoln, he would only say:

“Look, it’s the love of my life, that car. I named my daughter after it. But is it a handful to drive? **** yes. It still has the 1967 steering box in it, so I’ve got all this rubber and all this stopping power and all this horsepower, and then, you know, it’s a handful.”

Handful or not, there’s no doubt the full-size muscle sedan is among the actor’s most cherished possessions. The Continental was prominently featured in the 2012 film Hit and Run, which Shepard also starred in, wrote, and co-directed. And he’s not kidding; his first-born daughter is named Lincoln Shepard.

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A non-modified 1993 Buick Roadmaster wagon is shown here.

Another favorite in Shepard’s garage is his 1994 Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon. “I looked for a year for that car,” he says. “I love B bodies. I love the wagons, and that car had 20,000 miles when I bought it, and it’s like stepping into a brand-new Escalade. It smells great. There’s not a single squeak or rattle. It drives perfect. It’s amazing.”

The car has the original wood-grain trim, but it’s definitely nothing like your grandmother’s Buick. A 6.2-liter supercharged LSA crate engine serves as the Buick’s new beating heart. Helping it turn and stop are Wilwood brakes, a coilover suspension, and larger front and rear anti-roll bars. What does Shepard give it? “That car is a 10,” he says.

The Roadmaster isn’t the only wagon in the stable. “I also have an E63 AMG station wagon,” he says. “A twin-turbo station wagon.” Shepard rates the D-pillared, late-model AMG a 10, as well. “It’s the best car I’ve ever owned. It’s unbelievable. I raced for Lamborghini for a year [in the Super Trofeo series], and I have to say that the gearbox that’s in this wagon is the best multiclutch trans I’ve ever felt. Unbelievable.”

A 2014 Mercedes E63 wagon is shown here

By now you’ve probably noticed a pattern. All of Shepard’s favorite four-wheeled vehicles have four doors. “I’ve just always loved fast sleeper sedans, my [AMG] wagon being the sleepiest of all,” he says. That love goes way back, possibly even as far back as his first Pontiac, but there’s one surprising car that sticks out in his memory. “I think my very favorite car of all time was when the ’92 or ’93 [Cadillac Seville] STS came out, and it had the Northstar [V-8]. I just loved that there was a sedan that went 150 mph.”

Besides fast four-doors, Shepard owns a Chevy Silverado Duramax diesel, which he uses to tow his twin-turbo LS3-powered four-seat Tatum sand car out to the desert. He also has three Ducati road bikes, a Suzuki GSX-R1000 track bike, and a shifter kart that he gets to enjoy at Willow Springs raceway once in a while. Shepard says he drives all of his vehicles regularly. “They’re all at my house, so I just kind of cycle through them. Everything probably gets driven once a week.” He drives the E63 wagon the most, but he says his true “daily driver” is his Ducati Multistrada dual-sport bike.

Road Trips

When he’s not working, Shepard loves to get out on the road—whether it be on two wheels or four.

“The Roadmaster has gone back and forth to Oregon a couple times with the family,” he says. “The truck is constantly hauling the trailer across the country. I’ve taken the sand car up to Idaho dunes and Jackson Hole. I do quite a bit of driving.”

Shepard grew up around cars in Detroit, and one of his first gigs involved driving cars for GM cross-country. “I’ve driven back and forth from Detroit to L.A. probably 60 times, which is far from my favorite trip but just one that I’ve done a million times.”

Although he’s not crazy about the direct route from Michigan to California, things change when you throw in a Harley-Davidson and some scenic detours. “I guess my favorite trip that I’ve taken was probably on my Electra Glide,” he says. “In 2000 I drove from Michigan to California, but I went the Northern route through the Upper Peninsula and across South Dakota and Northern Wisconsin. That was like a 10-day trip. I did about 300 miles a day. On a motorcycle that’s about the limit where it stops being fun.”

On Filming CHIPS

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Shepard’s latest film, CHIPS, is a comedic reboot of the 1970s television show of the same name. The classic cop show was on the air from 1977 to 1983 and starred Larry Wilcox as officer Jon Baker and Erik Estrada as officer Francis “Ponch” Poncherello. Shepard cast himself as Jon Baker in the new movie, and Michael Peña plays Ponch. When asked what drew him to the CHIPS project, Shepard said:

“The motorcycles. That’s all I care about. Anything that can combine motorsports and comedy I’m up for, so this was a great opportunity where there was this show where two of the stars were motorcyclists. What I liked is that it was California and motorcycles, and Jon and Ponch are what made the show great.”

The reboot is heavier on the (raunchy) comedy than the original show, but it doesn’t skimp on the action. There are a number of chase scenes where Shepard did his own stunts.

“I did [do a lot of the stunts], yeah,” he says. “I did a front-endo on a big cop bike, I rode wheelies, went up and down staircases, rode on the beach, did hill climbs.”

But as competent a rider as he is, there were a few stunts he left to the pro stuntmen. “I did not jump the 100-foot gap, as I am not qualified to do that,” he says, laughing as he continues. “I didn’t think the film set was the best place to try new things.”

You can catch Dax Shepard in CHIPS playing in theaters now.


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