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Supernatural: A Deeper Look At The Metallicar

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In honor of Impala die-cast miniatures going out this week with the Supernatural season three DVD set at Best Buy, I’m devoting space this week to gush over the third main cast member, the always dependable car of Dean Winchester, a.k.a. the Metallicar.

But first, I have some pretty exciting fan news. I’ve been getting updates on how various projects are going. Lindsay at Support Supernatural informed me that they met their goal for PETA ($570) and the HSUS ($535) in the name of Jared Padalecki and his two dogs, Harley and Sadie, for a total of $1,105. Next they are taking collections for Young Life on behalf of Jensen Ackles. The goal is $1000. All information on where to donate can be found on their website. Great job guys!

Janglyjewels (aka Becky) informed me that the final tally for the Jared Photobook Project was 207 pictures and over $5000 in donations (thanks to a last minute generous donor) to give to the Animal Rescue Site. That’s some fantastic numbers! That’s going to be one exciting presentation at EyeCon. Congratulations to everyone involved.

The Impala

I’m sure there’s a few of you going, “How can you do a character breakdown of an inanimate object?” There’s no character growth or evolution, just a thing. The answer is because the creative minds of this show have given the Impala/Metallicar life. She’s (yes, Dean said "her" a few times) as vital to the Winchester family as Sam and Dean, and still going strong when most others from that year are scrap in junkyards.

The Impala caters to our romantic notions of cruising cross country in an awesome classic car. We love the car because it’s as pretty as the men riding in it and together, they rock.

Before I go on, a random Impala trivia question. The person with the first correct answer gets the honor of taunting their friends in superiority.

What were the two episodes in which the Impala did not appear?


Besides the fact she’s a fine looking vehicle, how much do you know about the Impala? Here’s some general facts:

The Winchester family vehicle was constructed in 1967, and is the four-door sedan model. The four-door option is rare, for that usually was ordered with the station wagon. The four-door models were also used as cop cars, which is what the first Supernatural Impala was before being pulled off a studio backlot and repainted black. Standard models came with only two doors, which is likely why die-cast models of a 1967 Impala only have two doors.

The Impala was part of the large vehicle class, with a 119-inch wheelbase, four inches longer than the more popular mid-sized Chevelle. I saw an Impala and a Chevelle side by side at the Woodward Dream Cruise in Michigan, and the Impala looked like a massive tank in comparison.

The Metallicar is the regular model, and not the SS (Super Sport) that has been Chevrolet’s high performance package since 1961. For the record, Bobby’s Chevelle is an SS, for the logo appears in the middle of the front grill and in the center of the trunk lid.

The Impala was ranked at the time by Chevrolet as just below the top luxury brand (Caprice). 575,600 cars were made that year, ranging from $2740 to $3234 in price.

The Impala weighs around 3800 to 3900 lbs, but include a trunk full of weapons and two large Winchester brothers, and she’s really packing some weight.

The transmission is automatic, with the gear selector on the steering column. It should be noted the Impala used in the studio (the night driving scenes) has the gear selector in the center near the floor. Yes, there are seven Impalas overall, and if you study the screenshots hard enough, the differences can be identified. Another difference, the interior in the studio car is all black, while the location vehicles have beige interiors with black seats.

The standard engine for that model was a 327hp eight cylinder, but it’s possible that this Impala had 385hp since it was a four-door cop car. Looking at the brief shots of the engine from “Fresh Blood”, I speculate the engine was rebuilt, and in a really sweet way.

The fuel economy sucks on a ’67 Impala. It gets around eight miles to the gallon. Considering it was new fuel economy standards in the mid-'70s that killed the styling of these muscle cars, I’m sure it’s a price Dean is willing to pay.

Impalas are still made today, although they aren’t anywhere as cool.

Why Metallicar?

“Metallicar” is a moniker created by fans, because of Dean’s love for Metallica, but never used once on the show. The word “Impala” wasn’t uttered until Sam said it in season two’s “In My Time of Dying”, and it wasn’t identified as a ‘67 until Andy mentioned it in “Simon Said”. Still, fans easily figured it out. We also learned in “Dead Man’s Blood” that John gave the car to Dean, who had the nerve to imply Dean wasn’t taking care of his most prized possession. If I were the Impala, I would have gone on all “Christine” on him.

From the word go, the Metallicar made a lasting impression by merely taking her place in the background, providing solid support for the three Winchesters as they watched their house burn and mourned a deep family loss. That symbol often comes up throughout the series, the car being the rock behind Sam and Dean as they weather through rough encounters.

Looking closer, the Impala so far has provided the only consistency in Sam and Dean’s lives. She was there, offering solace in “Phantom Traveler” when they wrestled with their dad’s cell phone message; in “Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things” when Dean came clean about his grief over his father’s death; in “Croatoan/Hunted” when Dean finally confessed his dad’s warning about Sam; in “All Hell Breaks Loose Part I” when Dean hung onto his “baby” when overcome with the vision of Sam; in “All Hell Breaks Loose Part II” when Sam came to the devastating realization that Dean made a deal for him, and in “Malleus Maleficarum”, when a crushed Dean learned that he would turn into a demon in Hell.

Anxious brotherly moments have often played out in the Metallicar, for when it was time to air grievances, Sam and Dean knew they were among family. We saw Sam’s struggles with his guilt in “Bloody Mary”, the anxiousness of both while waiting to confront the yellow-eyed demon in “Salvation”, the promise from Dean to save Sam in “Born Under A Bad Sign” and all those fights in season three over Dean’s impending doom. There’s even the bittersweet sing along to Bon Jovi in “No Rest For The Wicked”, giving us something else for the long list of touching moments that were only shared in this private setting.

The Metallicar got to play action hero plenty of times, too. While watching the pilot, I screamed at Sam for denting such a pretty car when crashing through the house, even though that saved him. Good thing she was built like a tank. The Metallicar zoomed in at the last second to save the day many times, graced with awesome power and speed, like in “Playthings”, “Malleus Maleficarum” (twice), and even “Route 666” (providing the only redeeming performance in that episode). As a getaway vehicle there’s no comparison, carrying both Sam and Dean away in kick ass fashion at the end of “Nightshifter”, and during the escape in “Folsom Prison Blues”. The car even got a new identity, much like her owners, in “What Is and What Should Never Be”. Talk about being included in family matters.

Metallicar played a role in bits of comedy, too. Who can forget the less than glorious appearance, all dirty and mean, parked among the very expensive cars in “Provenance”? How about being there when Sam was called a pervert by a passerby while he was watching Meg from the car in “Shadow”? Or being part of Sam’s practical joke on Dean, blaring the radio full blast when he turned on the car in “Hell House”? Or having to transport one pissed off Ellen Harvelle in “No Exit” with “Cold As Ice” playing on the radio? In my favorite bit, the Impala became a pawn of The Trickster, driving a wedge between Sam and Dean in “Tall Tales”, for the deflated tires led to the wrestling scene, which makes my list of funniest moments.

Oh, but the Metallicar knows how to break our hearts, too. Sure, there was the postcard moment at the end of “A Very Supernatural Christmas”, but it’s the near demise at the end of “Devils Trap” that sticks with us. I knew Sam and Dean weren’t going to die, but man, did I have my doubts about the car. I thought they’d have to find a new one. Who could forget Sam and Bobby at the junkyard, examining our smashed hero, in perfect parallel to Dean, who was clinging to life at the hospital? Bobby was ready to call it a loss (just like the doctors were giving up on Dean), but no, Sam couldn’t. “If there’s only one working part, that’s enough. We’re not just gonna give up on…” Yes Sam, we know you were talking about Dean, too.

“Everybody Loves A Clown” was just as powerful, for both the Impala and Dean were in healing mode. Both looked pretty bad. The subtle parallel of Dean attempting to fix the car while he couldn’t fix himself affected us profoundly, resulting in the explosive scene of him taking it all out on the trunk lid with a crowbar. The Impala was there for him, even wounded, showing she was tough enough to shoulder his grief. The fact that Dean did that with the car and not with Sam around speaks volumes about how much he relies on his baby.

Then we get the triumphant return in “Bloodlust”. The Metallicar even got her own theme song, “Back in Black”. Perfect. Cruising on the open road is what she does best, which is likely why we get so many riding off into the sunset shots at the end of various episodes. Yes, I even enjoyed watching her peel off to the goofy theme song in “Ghostfacers”.

Sure, it’s possible I’m over-romanticizing what could be considered a glorified prop, but given the fact that Kripke has a rule that the Impala must be on all the DVD covers and calls her the third main cast member, I’m thinking not. The Impala looks great for being 41 years old, weighing almost two tons and being made of pure steel. Considering she’s outlived many others of that class, she’s not doing bad at all. Being a survivor is crucial for a character on this show, so no wonder the Metallicar belongs.

I’m curious to see how fast someone gets the trivia question. Since the premiere is a couple weeks away (still sobbing!), I’m working on some entertaining distractions to share. Until then, enjoy your repeat of 90210 in the Supernatural timeslot this week. Hopefully they’ll at least air the new promo for the premiere.

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About Alice Jester

  • cj

    The car in the series is not a 4 door sedan. It is a 4 door SPORT sedan (4 door hard top). a 4 door sedan would have window frames on the 4 doors. The sport sedan does not

  • MrSonyDelight

    327 is not the horsepower. That’s how many cubic inches it was.

  • Matt

    I was originally just trying to find specs on the Impala (Metallicar) but I stumbled on this old post, I have to say that even though I’ve JUST seen this post now several years after it’s original posting. I was VERY surprised to see that someone (besides myself) had humanized the Impala and I’m glad there are others to see it as a character of it’s own.

  • For the record, the Impala used on the show is a four-door “sports sedan” or hardtop. The four-door sedan has a post between the front and back doors.

    How do I know it’s called a sports sedan? I have the same car in black 🙂

  • Alison

    Alice, great piece! I wanted to comment on your cut Metallicar mentions, especially this one:

    “The other was at the gas station during “Home”, when they both struggled with the notion that something evil was in their old house. I didn’t see where those fit in my writing,”

    During that scene, they weren’t actually talking about something evil being in their house. They didn’t know what was going on with their house. Instead, that scene seems like a mirror to me of John and the boys sitting on her trunk in the Pilot–another case of her being there when they are confused and lost. Sam is sitting on the trunk and Dean tells him the story of what happened that night. This is just after they have arrived in Lawrence, and immediately after that, the car is in the foreground as Dean goes to call his dad and have his near-breakdown on the phone.

    Man, that car kills me. I actually teared up during your description of the end of Everybody Loves a Clown. Excellent stuff!

  • cassi

    Great article but I’m not a big car fan.
    If you love the Impala, look.

    Isn’t that cute!

  • Malevolent

    Alice, I was a Mustang girl through and through as my whole family was a “Ford Family”. My dream car was a ’68 Shelby GT500, but, along came the Impala and I basically became a turncoat! LOL I surely appreciate any classic hot rod that people put time and love into and I still drool over every 60s Mustang I see, but the Impala definitely has stolen my heart. 🙂 Goodluck getting your own dream car!

  • yay! I love this car, and I’ve been in the 42 days of Metallicar and I’m looking to buy at the moment and OMG BREATHE.

    *calms down – a little*

    I praise you unconditionally for writing about MY BABY. lol. She deserves more love..

  • Wow, so many great comments. I knew there was lots of love out there for our favorite classic muscle car.

    Elle – you are so right about Mystery Spot! What also stands out for me was Sam driving the Impala alone, all dead inside, and then he went and organized the trunk into some weird military fashion. That just about killed me. That’s when I felt the true heartbreak of Dean without his baby.

    In my notes, I had two Impala scenes actually that I cut from the article. One was the one from Mystery Spot. The other was at the gas station during “Home”, when they both struggled with the notion that something evil was in their old house. I didn’t see where those fit in my writing, but they were powerful Impala scenes nonetheless.

    Grand Sophy – thank’s so much for pointing that out! To think last year, when I voted for the Tubey awards (which I’ve done since 2001), that I never heard of the Metallicar. I’m so glad that’s no longer the case.

    Malevolent – Damn, now I’m ready to go get that classic car to go cruising in! I wrote a review on this site about Woodward Dream Cruise, lamenting about how I wanted a classic of my very own. Of course I’d go for a Mustang, but all the old cars are like that, nothing like posts or back seat windows that only go up halfway to inhibit the full cruising experience.

    Hi Lindsay! Keep up the great work.

    Gadfly – Thanks for pointing that out. So true!

    Mary – I have been following the 41 days of Metallicar. They’ve been great installments. Thanks this year for your drabbles. They’ve been fantastic. The icons and pictures have been great too. It’s thrilling you’re up to day 28. It’s getting closer.

  • Thanks for the tribute to the Impala, Alice!

    There’s a little celebration of the Impala happening over on alias_chick’s LiveJournal, counting down 41 days of poetry, art, and story tributes to the Impala leading up to the season premiere of Supernatural. This year, I’m writing a drabble a day; I’m up to 28 very short, 100-word-each short stories built around the car. Drop on by! You can get to the fun through my blog URL …

  • Gadfly

    You forgot to mention that the Impala is the only “member” of Dean’s family that hasn’t left him or walked out on him. No wonder he loves her so much.

  • Alice, thank you again for “plugging” our little site. 🙂

    Please keep these blogs coming! They are so much fun to read!!

  • Malevolent

    I would love to point out another factoid about her that makes her a bit more gorgeous tan usual. Metallicar is a hardtop, which means that she doesn’t have the posts in between her four doors, roll the windows down and she is an all-out open to the wind in your hair beauty. 🙂

  • Grand Sophy

    Canadians can get the Impala with the Season 3 DVDs at Best Buy, but they’re charging $20 more than this week’s sale price for the set without the car. Phooey.

    Did you know that the Metallicar won the award for “Best Performance by an Inanimate Object” in last year’s Television Without Pity’s Tubey Awards? (And Dean won for Best Bad-ass, although unfortunately that category’s been dropped this year.)

  • Elle

    Yay! I was afraid your latest treasure wouldn’t be posted in time for my holidays – glad I was wrong. Sadly, as a Canadian resident, no die-cast Impala for me (I don’t get the iTunes download either 🙁 )
    I love the Impala, it is definately a core member of the cast, as curcial as Jensen, Jared and Kripke in making Supernatural what it is. The first thing I did with my season 3 disc set (after the gag reel, naturally) was watch the Impala featurette – it was beautiful! I loved your review/character profile of the Impala – SPN wouldn’t be that same without her. The hyperventilating scene was classic Dean. You don’t mess with Sammy or His Baby! (I want to strangle John everytime I see the seen where he comments on Dean’s “lack of care” for the car – low-blow, John, low blow). You forgot to mention that when Dean really “dies” in Mystery Spot after being mugged, the Impala is background as Sam cradles Dean’s lifeless corpes and tries to restart the day. Looking forward to the next installment.

  • Katie and elle2 – start your bragging, you both are correct! I actually had to pull out Hollywood Babylon and watch it last night, because I was convinced The Usual Suspects was the only one until I couldn’t recall an Impala scene in HB. Glad I figured that out before posting this.

    Huppy – Great one! I’ve actually blocked all of RSAM out of my mind, because personally I hate it that much. That was the one redeeming scene.

    I actually got my DVD through Amazon, because the price difference was staggering, and I know I can find an Impala cheaper than that. Still, it was really pretty to look at on the one or two copies left at Best Buy. The sales this week of the DVDs are very encouraging!

    I thought about writing a trivia quiz for an upcoming article, but I’m not convinced I’d be able to fool anybody. Fans know this show too well!

  • Huppy

    Alice, I smiled when I saw that you had written about the Impala. You have mentioned what a car buff you are. I assume you bought the Season 3 DVD that had the little Impala with it? I bought my Season 3 DVD at Target, which included the 2009 calendar. *happy Huppy*

    You didn’t mention in your review the priceless scene that the Impala gave us without even being there: Dean hyperventilating when the car is missing in RSAM. That was easily the best scene in that sorry episode.

  • elle2

    I think the Usual Suspects and Hollywood Babylon.

  • Katie

    I don’t think the Impala appears in The Usual Suspects or Hollywood Babylon.