There's an urban legend (detailed on the Darwin Awards website and in the books) called JATO , short for Jet Assisted Take Off, and yes...it's the same car. Search for it on the site. I have a feeling Kripke purposely chose the car not only for its badassedness (come on, that's a word) but because of how famous the urban legend is, and the fact that the boys spend so much time killing urban legends. Plus 'Dean Darwin Award Winchester' has a certain catchiness to it. Spoilers for Home, Skin, Asylum, Scarecrow and Faith .
Hey, reckless mind
Don't throw away your playful beginnings
You and I will fumble around in the touches
And be sure to
Leave all the lights on.
"Hey, I found something."
Dean didn't even afford Sam a glance. He was reading something that didn't come off his laptop for once; Mary Roach's Spook. He'd complained about paying for hardcover, but the book had just come out and he didn't want to wait for the paperback. Or rip it off from a library.
He did have some standards, after all.
Sam didn't take offense. Some part of Dean would listen no matter what. He turned the laptop a little so that the screen was somewhat visible to Dean. "Check this out. You remember that one urban legend, the one about the rocket car?"
Dean hummed a little under his breath, a thoughtful sound, and his eyes didn't stop scanning the words in front of him. "That one about some yahoo in the Arizona desert with an afterburner stuck to the back of his car? Ran into a rockface, nothing left but a splat of DNA to identify?"
"Yeah," Sam said, and his grin was audible. Audible enough that Dean glanced up to see dimples, because it wasn't a regular thing anymore.
Marking his place with a finger, Dean sat up from his reclining position on one of the beds and turned his full attention to Sam. "Okay...so? It's been debunked. It was a Darwin award, dude."
"Yeah, I know ," Sam said, still grinning. "But did you ever pay attention to what kind of car it was supposed to be?"
"Some pop can on wheels," Dean said, resting his elbows across his knees and letting the book dangle from one hand, using two fingers to hold his place. "Like a Toyota or a Hyundai or something."
"A 1967 Chevy Impala," Sam said with a laugh.
Dean tilted his head and screwed up his mouth and nose into an annoyed arrangement, and rolled his eyes for good measure. "Yeah, whatever. See? Obviously crap."
"Hey, if you're gonna go..."
"I would never treat my car like that," Dean said, flipping the book open one-handed and beginning to lean back on the bed again.
Sam was never sure afterward why the statement annoyed him so damn much. "You're a Darwin award waiting to happen," he said, and it emerged more vehemently than he ever meant.
"What the hell's that supposed to mean?" Dean said, going still and staring at Sam over the top of the book. He asked the question with enough aggression to suggest that Sam had better not answer.
Sam's turn to stare. "Are you serious? Let's take inventory." He began ticking off incidents on his fingers, not caring that it was another of Dean's pet peeves. "Okay, hello? Small town. No secrets. The locals are all in on something, but you go to the local community college and make yourself really obvious. If anything you told me about that is true, then you were wandering around with a neon sign on your forehead that said 'hit me here'."
Dean snorted and waved him off. "Whatever, Sam."
"You didn't even try and keep a low profile," Sam said, undeterred. "I'm not sure you even know what subtlety is. I leave you alone for a couple of days, and you end up tied to a tree. As a sacrifice. A tree, Dean. And not even a very big tree. Kind of a decorative bush-tree."
"Dude, I get it!" Dean said, raising his voice and raising the book to block Sam out.
"Not really," Sam said, unsure where all the emotion was coming from. He suddenly felt choked, with an unreasonable level of grief and anger, and he didn't really care where it was coming from. "Water. High voltage. Common sense."
Dean tossed the book aside harder than he meant to, and it slammed to the floor with a flutter of pages that ended in a thud. He watched it go and then centered on Sam, face dark and eyes sparking with genuine anger. His voice took on a low warning note of command that he unconsciously thought echoed his father. "If you're gonna call me stupid, then do it. It's where you're going anyway, right? What the hell do you want from me?"
"Some kind of self-preservation," Sam said, keeping his voice low.
Dean stepped off the bed and pointed a finger at Sam, who stood and purposely straightened to his full height. "I don't need this shit, Sam."
"Yeah. You do," Sam said, his voice still low. His eyes were narrowed enough to take on a wolfish quality.
Dean was automatically furious at what he perceived to be Sam's arrogance, and he heard nothing else. "If it makes it easier on you to blame me for the reaper -"
Sam shoved Dean one-handed, with more power than he'd thought he would, to make a point to his brother. Dean was too used to Sam at his shoulder, too used to Sam bowing his head a little to lessen his height, too used to deference tinged with exasperation. Sam had enough guilt this time to spill over into anger, and sometimes the only way to get through to Dean was to make a physical impact.
The look on Dean's face told Sam he understood the line-crossing and that if he was being pushed it was because he'd already pushed Sam too hard, too often. He had two choices - shut up and listen, or jump Sam and start a fistfight that neither of them had the energy or heart for. Any other time, the latter would have won. Throwing the reaper in Sam's face was enough of a blow and he already wanted the words back. The only way he could do that was to keep his hands down.
"You aren't even doing the stuff you do when you know me or dad are right behind you somewhere," Sam said, and his voice was far too calm. "How fucked up do things need to be for me to call you out? You act like there's no tomorrow."
"It was right on me ," Dean said, meaning the ankle-grabber under the stairs, hating himself for the defensiveness when he meant it to be an assault. It sounded like a painful excuse, even to his own ears.
"You were carrying more than the flash gun," Sam said, and his tone was a respectful sorrow that made Dean want to hide his face. Recrimination was always so much easier to handle. "You could have put it off with silver bullets until you got out of the water. And that time I asked you not to go back to the sewer by yourself...but you did. And I still have no idea what it did to you while it had you, before it came after me. If you're gonna try and be such a good soldier, it kind of stands to reason you'd do it all the way by thinking of the unit in addition to taking orders."
By some miracle, Dean still didn't take a swing at him. Instead of stalking away or berating him, he was staring up into Sam's face with a look that said you'll have to sleep eventually and I'll get you but there was no bluster to it.
"This is all hard enough as it is," Sam said, voice softer. "I'm here, I'm staying, I wanna be a team, and all you know how to do is take axes to doors instead of smashing the windows to get it. It's all axes with you, man. Don't you have anything to lose?"
Dean turned his face away to look anywhere but Sam, jaw muscles visible. It was a slow burn that Sam expected to last for days, and he didn't care. Keeping the peace was only good when the peace was earned.
"Do you even realize how lemming you get when you're by yourself?" Sam said, and he was asking the question in all seriousness but choosing words that would purposely inflame; another Winchester trademark, setting every conversation up to fail. Instead of hey how come you look for things to really scare yourself with so you won't notice you're just scared to be alone , it was best to poke the tiger with a stick and then complain when it ate his head.
Dean shoved him away halfheartedly, the blatant lack of expression still in place. "That's bullshit. And the lemming thing is just a myth. Didn't you learn anything in college?"
"You can quit throwing that at me anytime now," Sam snapped.
"You can quit throwing the soldier bullshit in my face anytime," Dean shouted, finger jabbing at Sam's chest again without making contact. "I don't give a rat's ass what you think of me, Sam."
"Yeah you do," Sam said, backing off a step and leaning his weight onto one foot. No longer towering. "If I really hated you and wanted to be free, all I'd have to do is keep quiet and let you do yourself in. I don't need to shoot you."
Dean finally looked like he might swing, but he shook his head slowly and dropped his hand.
"I'm just being a selfish bastard again," Sam said with a smirk. It wasn't mocking; it was self-deprecation. "'Cause every time I have to run in and save your ass, I might mess up my hair."
It still wasn't how he meant it to come out, but sometimes the words chose themselves. They were in the habit of letting things loose rather than planning. Dean might even have smirked back - he couldn't be sure. "Or I might, you know, do things. Without thinking or caring about the consequences. Like trading anyone for you. When I'm desperate."
That got through, past the defensiveness and stubborn annoyance. Dean twisted his head to the side and brought a hand to his forehead as if warding off a headache. Sam realized he had to be hitting a nerve or two if he still wasn't flat on his ass, much less getting silence from his brother.
You're asking too much of me when you save me.
"The bull in a china shop thing works, it really does, but not every single time," Sam said. "So...yeah. An apple tree , Dean. A crummy little -"
"Enough," Dean said. "I get it, Sam. I do."
He didn't. He just didn't want to talk anymore. He didn't want to let any thought surface that led to an understanding of how far Sam would go. He didn't want to get to a place where he realized Sam might summon and bind a reaper himself if he had to. That he would do it himself, maybe, if it meant a world with Sam. All their rules, for nothing, given the right circumstances. Monsters and saints toed the same lines in the sand every day and stared at each other over them, and it was a one way trip across every time.
Try not to make Sam a monster, Dean thought, and it was why he listened instead of lashing out.
"I doubt it," Sam said. "No more going it alone. You've gotta quit telling me to get the Muggles to safety while you singlehandedly take on the beast of the week. Not one thing we've faced since I left school has been a one person job."
Dean started to jab a finger at Sam again with wide eyes, gearing up for a tirade, but then he threw his hands in the air. It would have been comical if Sam had been in the mood to find anything amusing, because Dean was so obviously at a loss. "I'm not gonna do this with you, Sam."
"You're not doing anything," Sam said in his soft, wry way, tilting his head at Dean.
"All this....talking-it-over crap, I hate this!"
"Then let's just get it over with, while I've got your attention," Sam said. "Because God knows as manly as we are it'll be a year before we get the chance again if we're both still alive."
"How am I supposed to stop!" Dean shouted, startling himself as badly as Sam. "It doesn't matter if you're twenty-two now. It won't matter if you're forty - and you will be forty - I go first. I go first, Sam! You tell me, how am I supposed to stop watching out for you? I don't know how to do anything else, I'm not built for anything else, I've been doing it or trying to do it since I was four, and then I'm supposed to just stop because it's not cool anymore and you're an adult and you've gone off to be Sam. You can't ask me not to be me, and that's all you do, and I'm sick of it. I tried taking care of Dad instead while you were gone, and that didn't work because he doesn't need me."
He stopped suddenly, for breath and because he realized he'd gone too far. He hated it that he hadn't kept his guard up enough to keep himself from essentially puking his emotional issues all over Sam's shoes. He hated it that his voice cracked at the last and that he couldn't tell for sure where any of it had come from. He hated his lack of control and that he didn't even sound like himself, and he feared that maybe that voice was the only real one he had and the rest was just a front no matter how hard he tried.
He hated it that he was not, in the end, larger than life. Or death.
Sam looked as if he'd been slapped, and damn if he wasn't maybe going to cry, and Dean hated that most of all.
"Goddamnit," Dean said mostly to himself. He was actually out of breath, he was so shaken. "I don't know how to do anything else."
It wasn't fair that he didn't exist without someone to save. He didn't dig every hole, but he never complained when someone handed him the shovel. There were reasons he avoided introspection.
Sam found himself wanting to apologize, or back over himself, and knew neither would honor the confession he'd already felt a thousand times and ways every time Dean jumped in front of him. This is how much I can stand. I go first.
"You're a selfish bastard too, then, I guess," Sam said. He didn't sound too heartbroken. Just a little.
Dean sighed and looked anywhere but Sam.
"Don't you kind of feel like the kid left in charge when the teacher leaves the room, sometimes?" Sam said.
"I promise to occasionally include you just before I piss off the locals," Dean said. "Or go sewer diving again, or reaper-tipping. That's all the catharsis I can handle in one day. Can I read my book now?" Dean said.
The truce was uneasy, as if things had been scrubbed too hard and just the air touching them was too much to handle. Sam went back to the laptop, answering email, and Dean pretended to read and then pretended to fall asleep over the book. Sam finally turned off the lights and covered Dean up. Dean couldn't be sure but Sam might have stared at him for awhile.
Not much later, while Sam was sleeping, Dean took a Sharpie and drew on his face. When Sam woke up the next morning, he looked like three of the four members of Kiss.