When Supernatural first premiered on The WB back in 2005–the same year YouTube came into existence–it was introduced as the story of two brothers, reunited and fighting the evil forces their family had been chasing for years. Now, 300 episodes later, Supernatural is still exactly that. While secondary characters have come and gone, it always comes back to the tale of Sam Winchester (Jared Padalecki) and his brother Dean (Jensen Ackles), traveling from town-to-town and vanquishing whatever otherworldly forces seem to be wreaking havoc.

There’s a third piece of the Winchester puzzle that’s been with the brothers since the very beginning, though, and it’s as integral to the formula as anyone or anything else on the show. When Dean rolled back into his brother’s life in the show’s pilot, he did it in his trusty 1967 Chevrolet Impala, nicknamed “Baby” and passed down to him by his dad.

Baby, in many ways, is the heart and soul of Supernatural. For the brothers, it is the armory of weapons they use to fight against any number of demonic entities, their home on long nights with no motel room in sight, and the vessel that takes them to a new locale each week. The car has even had its own episode of the series in Season 11’s “Baby,” which told a story from the Impala’s point of view.

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What’s more, Baby is the one piece of the Winchesters’ past that they’ve been able to hold onto. The one thing that’s always there for them, regardless of circumstances, ever since it was passed to Dean from their father. “I think if Dean were a child Baby would be his blanket,” Ackles explained to GameSpot at Supernatural’s 300th episode celebration. “That’s his safe place. [It’s] kind of the touchstone of who he is. It represents a lot, and I think it represents a lot to the show. It’s the one constant in his life other than his brother.”

A constant isn’t exactly something Dean–of his brother, for that matter–has the luxury of, given the life of a hunter of supernatural entities. While it may be the “Family business,” as Dean has reminded viewers of several times over the years, it’s a truly lonely existence, even with your brother at your side.

After all, the character is nearly 40 years old, and his entire life is wrapped up in his work, his brother, and his car. He’s not the kind of person that you truly believe will ever be willing to settle down and live peacefully because he thrives on the chase and having no specific place he considers home other than the driver’s seat of his Impala. It’s something that’s simply his.

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“For somebody who lives kind of a vagabond life and a nomad existence, to have a constant like that, to have something that is his and that is his domain is, I think is really important to the character,” Ackles continued. “You’ll see a scene in an episode that we’re filming, we just finished filming, where Dean says, ‘I need to go clear my head. I need to go for a ride in Baby,” and Sam says, ‘Well, let me go with you.” He says, ‘No, no, no, I just need me and Baby and a long stretch of highway.'”

While to outsiders who haven’t taken the ride with Supernatural over the last 300 episodes, it may seem like Baby is just a car, fans know better. With total respect to Misha Collins, who plays the angel Castiel and has become one of the show’s most beloved characters, Baby is the third lead of the series. What would have simply been nearly two tons of steel on most shows is a fully fleshed out character on Supernatural.

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And according to executive producer Robert Singer, who also directed the 300th episode of the series, she’s one of the reasons why, all of these years later, Supernatural is still speeding down the highway and has already been renewed for an impressive 15th season. “It’s as much of a character as anyone else in the show,” he said. “And yeah, [we] keep waiting for it to break down, but it’s still humming.”

The 300th episode of Supernatural airs Thursday, February 7 at 8 PM ET/PT on The CW.

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