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Going under the Hood of SUPERNATURAL’S Impala

Going under the Hood of SUPERNATURAL’S Impala

There are few constants in Supernatural. New big bads pop up regularly, allies become foes, and life is generally unpredictable for Sam and Dean Winchester (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles). But one thing stays the same: the 1967 Chevrolet Impala. The car was passed down to Dean from John Winchester, and over 11 seasons of the show, it’s been with the brothers through thick and thin. Dean’s Baby has offered them transportation, shelter, and a place that never changes. The Impala has traversed thousands of miles with the boys and been beat up repeatedly. It’s the truest friend they have. While on the set of Supernatural with a small group of journalists, I got the chance to worship at the altar of Baby in person, and talk with picture car coordinator Jeff Budnick.

This Baby is one of eight cars used on the series. As you might guess from its pristine condition, it’s the hero car. The Impala pictured is in mostly every shot featuring the car and is used almost every day. Budnick said it’s the most mint one he’s seen, and definitely the best of their fleet. When they first purchased it, the car had 12,000 miles. Though Sam and Dean drive it all over the United States chasing monsters, the car only has a modest 15,000 miles now.

Since the Impala is crashed on a regular basis–it got rather wrecked in the recent episode “Baby”–Budnick keeps an eye out for back up cars and parts on online auction sites like craigslist. As he walked us around the Impala, Budnick said, “The last one I bought was in Nebraska, and I drove down there and picked it up from here [here is Vancouver]. It was a two day drive. They’re hard to find because the show has made this car so popular. These cars at one time were five hundred dollar cars because they’re four door and nobody wanted them. But, Supernatural turned this car into an iconic one. Everybody who has one–even if it’s in rough shape, they want five thousand and up for them. So I buy them as soon as I find them, even rough ones for parts because we go through a lot of parts. I have a warehouse just full of Impala parts and cars.”

In case you’re wondering, they do keep the trashed versions of the car. Ackles posted about seeing the Season 1 finale Impala recently, and it’s still around. Budnick said they have a yard where they keep all the wrecks. He mentioned the Season 1 Impala makes an appearance in a bush in the background of Season 11’s third episode, and that he works those car-shaped easter eggs in when he can: “I do that quite a bit. If you actually really look close, you’ll see a lot of stuff. If I have a junkyard scene, you’ll see Impala doors or hoods from the car that were crunched from different episodes we’ve done. I always try to do that.”

As Budnick mentioned, Supernatural has made the Impala an in-demand vehicle. Fans make replicas for fun, and I’ve seen a few on display at conventions. Budnick has seen the fan restorations and said he’s helped with quite a few. In fact, when they shot the backdoor pilot for the Supernatural spinoff in Chicago during Season 10, he used a fan-restored car rather than dealing with the hassle of trying to get the usual Impala across the border.

I knew coming face to face with the beloved Impala would be an emotional occasion. I looked forward to my time with car during the whole trip. However, I wasn’t quite prepared for how strongly I would feel upon being in its presence. Any Supernatural fan will understand. Before I parted ways with Baby, Budnick and Supernatural‘s publicist Holly Ollis made this fangirl exceedingly happy. I got to start the Impala, and I think this video taken by Ollis says it all:

Visit the gallery below to see more photos of the most important object in pretty much the whole universe.

Images: Amy Ratcliffe

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