The first time we see any hint of the car, it's well into the episode......screech of brakes and tires on the blacktop......
.....screech....when I wrote this I totally spaced that the car does show up one very important time earlier. madebyme_x reminded me that we see the car with what is left of the Winchester family after Mary dies in the fire in the Then section. Pretty important since it sets up the way that Dean and his past haven't parted ways.
The next time we see the car is quite a bit later in the episode. It's post Dean breaking into Sam's apartment and a lot of exposition. At first, we just get a glimpse of part of the car. It's a fairly slow reveal.
Then we get a look into the trunk with it's hidden compartment. I know Kripke picked an Impala because there was room enough in the trunk for a body. There's a lot of talk about ghost sounds on tape and Sam decides to go with Dean. We still don't see much of the car though. I know in hindsight, we know it's the Impala. When do we really realize it's the same car? I saw the Pilot a couple seasons after it aired and had seen a lot of photos of the boys with the car so I never really thought about it.
The first time we really start to get a good look at her is in the next scene when the boys stop at a gas station. We see some roof and Dean. It's the first time we get a look at Dean in the daytime.
Then we see the side of the car and Sam. There's something about music and a cakehole.
Finally they drive off and we get to see the full car in the daylight and she's a beauty.
We get the first of many seaons of filming the car headed down some endless highway.
There's a stop at a bridge in daylight and then the boys make a return trip at night.
We have the second scene of manhandling and the fiction is already being written.
The tension (or UST depending on your take) is interrupted by a girl jumping off a bridge.
Then again by the car being possessed and barreling down on the boys who, despite appearances, are not holding hands.
In the end, Dean ends up grimy and stinky and we get our first scene of the boys sitting on the car together.
The next day, Dean is arrested and hauled down to the station for some questioning.
And Sam heads off with the car to find Mr. Welch for some questioning. With the older car and the scenery that really could be anytime in America plus Dean's old jacket and Sam's non-descript clothing, one of the few things that really dates the show with clues as to it's production timeframe is Sam's earliest haircut.
By the time Dean escapes from the police station, it's night and Sam still has the car.
He also has the ghost and I find her creepier now than when I first saw the episode. She attacks Sam.
Dean shoots the ghost through the window and it's the first time we see the car take some damage. It won't be the last.
Sam proves that his LSAT score is probably justified and drives the ghost home where she gets her comeuppance. To do that, he drives through a wall but the car is made of stronger stuff than your current Civic and manages mostly in one piece.
Dean checks on Sam.
Then he checks on his car. That's mostly how things go for the next bunch of seasons.
Dean and Cinderella put it all together and drive it home so Sam can go back to school.
Sam rides shotgun and does research.
Dean makes a pitch to get Sam to come with him but Sam has to go have his girlfriend fridged to start him on his revenge quest. One thing I appreciate about the show as a whole is that his revenge quest isn't what drives the story forward for too long.
Dean drives off in the car but comes back in time to save Sam from a fire. Then we see the car with the trunk open with a probable cache of illegal weapons right near the scene of a probable arson with cops and firefighters all over and by this time we're starting to suspect that the car has a cloaking device.
This won't be the last time we see a Winchester in tears by the car but in some ways, that is part of the appeal of the show.
They've got work to do and we have been fortunate that this is a never-ending job.