Many of us get into our cars after work and try to wipe our minds clear of the business day. It forms a division between your work and home life, usually a necessity for maintaining sanity. This wasn't the case for Adrienne Janic (or A.J. for short), former co-host of the popular TLC program Overhaulin'. A.J. spent countless hours overseeing the modification and restoration process performed on the show, and realized she had to have a hot rod of her own.
When she first started on Overhaulin', A.J. didn't know a thing about cars, and she was perfectly honest with the production and build team about it. She didn't want to fake the car girl thing because she knew no one would buy it. Just like a 12-step program, the first step is to admit you have a problem. "I knew absolutely nothing about cars, but the show turned out to be the best school I ever had. The build team spent a lot of time showing me the ropes and getting me more and more involved," she shares.
In season five of Overhaulin', A.J. was given a special assignment. "It was like the final exam, to see if I had been paying attention," she says. She was to be responsible for the design of a young lady's '63 Comet. At this point, A.J. had a lot of time to absorb the information presented to her on the show, and came up with an amazing design. Getting to see the final product and to receive praise for her vision gave her the confidence to build her own car.
There was no doubt in A.J.'s mind what car she wanted. The Overhaulin' episode titled "Uncle Sam's Nephew" featured the build of a 1968 Firebird. "This was the most stunning car ever. When introducing David, the owner of the car, I whispered, 'You know, if you don't like it or want it, ill take it.' He faked a little smile at the joke. I leaned in again and told him I was serious; he clenched his keys a little tighter. That's when I knew a 1968 Firebird was the car for me," says A.J. She felt it was the perfect blend of masculine and feminine cues. It has the potential for brutal power and handling, yet has smooth styling, and all in a compact, lightweight package.
The Moser 12-bolt tucks up...
The Moser 12-bolt tucks up under this Firebird with help from a Detroit Speed and Engineering Quadra Link rear suspension.
The next step was to find the perfect place to have her dream realized. Hollywood hot rodder hubby and Overhaulin' producer, Bud Brutsman, knew exactly where to go. He had his 1969 Mustang fastback built by Year One a couple years ago, and the build turned out phenomenal. A.J. took a trip to Georgia, home of Year One, with a clear vision of what she wanted. The guys there suggested she might do a Mustang or a Camaro, but she knew the Firebird was meant for her.
She began to describe how she wanted the car to be built. She wanted a strong foundation, modern upgrades, and it needed to be reliable. A large percent of build time is usually dedicated to brainstorming and trying new tricky things, but the simplicity of her desires allowed a smooth buildup in a very short amount of time. From start to finish, it took Year One about six months to create.
A.J. traveled to Georgia as often as her busy schedule would allow. She prides herself on not being the girl who sits around and has the boys do all the work. Despite her good looks, she isn't afraid to get some dirt under her nails. She recalls an episode of Overhaulin' where she was elected to crawl inside a '57 Corvette to tear out the interior because she had the smallest body of the bunch. The car was filled with rat droppings and spider webs, but it didn't faze her. She ended up suffering from a severe spider bite that earned her a trip to the hospital. Compared to this, working on the clean-bodied 'Bird was a walk in the park.
If you want to go fast, you...
If you want to go fast, you better be able to stop fast. The Baer brakes sit behind Intro V-Rod wheels and really give the Firebird attitude. To help control the stop and go, A.J. chose BFGoodrich KDW tires.
At 430 hp and 425 lb-ft of...
At 430 hp and 425 lb-ft of torque, this LS3-pulled right off the C6 Corvette assembly line-can really haul the mail. With air conditioning, power steering, and sufficient amperage to supply the stereo, A.J. didn't skimp on comfort items. The stainless full-length headers will be available through Year One, and redesigned for LS-series motors and DSE's front clip. This was Year One's first experience with GM's fly-by-wire system. It's proven to be seamless; you'd never know the throttle wasn't controlled by a cable.
At the risk of sounding clich, we had to ask A.J. how she felt about working with all the guys. It was obvious in her voice that she couldn't have had a better experience. She knew she could be herself around them, and suggests that girls looking to get into the car world needn't be intimidated, and that the majority of the guys in the business have nothing but support to lend to women with the automotive bug. In this case, however, the roles weren't the norm and A.J. was in charge. "She stuck to her guns on everything," Phil Brewer of Year One told us. He was impressed with what she had in mind for the car.
A.J.'s main objective was to have it drive and run like a new car, but with classic looks. With those requirements, Year One introduced her to the Detroit Speed and Engineering (DSE) suspension system. They've installed several of these setups and had full confidence it would deliver the driving feel she was after. She wasn't looking for the rock-hard hyper suspension of a race car, nor did she want the sloppy feel of the original Firebird suspension, and the DSE was a happy medium.
The color of the car was a very important thing to A.J. "I drove everyone nuts! It took me a whole month to come up with the right color. I wanted it to look black at night, but shine like a blue sapphire in the sun," she says. She looked at dozens of paint chips to find the right color, and ended up with a custom BASF Midnight Blue pearl.
To keep it simple, A.J. wanted an LS2 powerplant, but that was already out of production, and an LS3 was used instead. A step up in power from the LS2, this alloy jewel makes an effortless 430 hp with the economy of a late-model fuel-injected motor. A.J. and Year One considered taking the LS3 apart to make some changes, but then decided it was better left undisturbed. A.J. didn't want something that would have problems down the line. To a lot of people, including A.J., 430 hp is quite a bit of power, and more than she's used to. "I didn't realize what I was getting myself into with this engine. I have to relearn how to drive," A.J. explains.
You may be thinking black...
You may be thinking black interior plus summer heat equals misery. Not in A.J.'s car. The five-vent Classic Auto Air A/C keeps things cool in this lush interior. The seats were adopted from a 2002 Camaro, with help from Henderson's Upholstery, then revamped to A.J.'s specifications. Year One says these seats work very well in early F-bodies with the headrest removed. A.J. plans on cruising her Firebird with the tunes cranked up; the Alpine deck and a full set of Boston Acoustics speakers will deliver.
Flexing her creative muscle, A.J. designed the interior as well. She wanted a graphite and black theme with only subtle changes to instrumentation. Year One presented her with several light gray fabric swatches, but she thought the contrast would be too dramatic. The final dark charcoal gray really downplays the fact that it's all custom, and makes it fit into the theme of less is more. Comfort was a major factor in this car, and being based out of Southern California, a Classic Auto Air system was a must.
This is a car A.J. hopes to spend a lot of time in. At the Year One Experience (see p. 106), she had the opportunity to cruise the Road Atlanta road course in her Firebird for the first time and get a feel for the car's capabilities. Beyond that, it will have seen plenty of highway cruising on this year's Power Tour by the time you read this. A.J. has always wanted to do a Power Tour, but without a car of her own in prior years, she tells us it would've been unfulfilling. Not a problem this year!
A tried-and-true Wilwood master...
A tried-and-true Wilwood master cylinder is backed by Hydratech's brake booster, and supplies plenty of power to stop the Firebird on a dime.
By The Numbers
|1968 Pontiac |
|Adrienne Janic, 28 • Whittier, CA |
|Type: ||GM Performance Parts LS3 crate motor |
|Block: ||six-bolt main, aluminum |
|Oiling: ||Canton oil pan |
|Cylinder heads: ||stock aluminum LS3 |
| ||rectangle port with 68cc chambers, |
| ||2.16/1.59-inch valves |
|Camshaft: ||204/211-degree duration |
| ||at .050-inch lift, .324/.307-inch lift |
|Valvetrain: ||hydraulic roller lifters, |
| ||1.7:1 ratio rocker arms |
|Induction: ||factory throttle body with cold air intake |
|Electronics: ||GMPP ECM and harness |
| ||with fly-by-wire throttle |
|Cooling: ||factory water pump, |
| ||Be Cool radiator, dual Spal fans |
|Fuel system: ||stock 2008 Corvette injectors, |
| ||Rick’s Hot Rods stainless fuel tank |
| ||with in-tank pump |
|Exhaust: ||Year One custom headers |
| ||using Stainless Works tubing, |
| ||MagnaFlow mufflers |
|Accessories: ||Sinister Products drive system |
|Transmission: ||Bowler 4L60E four-speed automatic |
|Clutch/shifter: ||Compushift transmission controller |
|Rear axle: ||Moser 12-bolt, 3.73 gears, Eaton posi |
|Front suspension: ||Detroit Speed and Engineeering |
| ||(DSE) hydroformed coilover front clip |
| ||with 400-lb/in springs, rack-and-pinion steering |
|Rear suspension: ||DSE coilover Quadra Link |
| ||with 200-lb/in springs |
|Brakes: ||Wilwood master cylinder, |
| ||Hydratech booster, |
| ||Baer six-piston calipers |
| ||with 14-inch rotors |
|Seats: ||2002 Camaro seats recovered by Year One |
| ||and Henderson’s Upholstery, |
| ||black and graphite leather |
|Dashboard: ||factory dash, |
| ||Classic Instruments gauges |
|Stereo: ||Alpine head unit |
| ||with Boston Acoustics speakers |
|Wiring: ||Year One custom and reproduction wiring |
|Column: ||Grant steering wheel with Firebird logo |
|Comforts: ||Classic Auto Air A/C |
|Body: ||Year One reproduction body panels |
| ||(everything except the roof and firewall) |
|Paint: ||BASF custom Midnight Blue Pearl |
|WHEELS & TIRES |
|Wheels: ||Intro V-Rod |
| ||18x8-inch, front; 18x10-inch, rear |
|Tires: ||BFGoodrich g-Force KDW |
| ||245/40R18, front; 295/35R18, rear |