Video: Julie Pfennig’s 1982 BMW E21 racer

Julie Pfennig dubbed her purpose-built BMW E21 'NO' because that's what she was told when she wanted to build it

Photographers: Troy Barker

Adelaide’s Julie Pfennig has inspiration in spades. As Julie nudged 50 years old, she decided it was as good a time as any to get stuck into motor racing – naysayers be damned. Her chosen steed? A purpose-built 1982 BMW E21 nicknamed NO.

How’d you get started in track racing, Julie?

In August 2018, my youngest son Perrin and I took Gamora, my 1982 BMW E21 323i daily, to The Bend for our first track event. From that moment I wanted to build a race car!

And that’s when NO came onto the scene?

Yup! I went to my mates at Grooty’s Race & Resto to buy Gamora a rollcage, but I ended up buying a 1982 BMW E21 LHD rolling shell with the rollcage already done. So, the carby set-up and Group B bodykit I had for Gamora all went on NO. Then Perrin and I painted her in my front yard in the matte-black theme of Ken Block’s RS200. Grooty donated an engine and ’box, Sean Basford sponsored all the wiring, and Nick Tarzia helped with wheels and tyres.

Why NO?

Well, when you’re hitting 50 and say you want to build a race and track car, you keep getting told, ‘No, you’re too old’; ‘No, you shouldn’t do it’; ‘No, that’s just crazy’. I own that word now. Don’t tell me no!

What’s the driveline?

After a few events, I realised I needed her faster, so then the mods started. Now NO has a budget-built, 2.7L BMW M20B27 six- cylinder stroker with a 465cfm Holley, ported head and 284 cam. Behind that is a Getrag five-speed ’box, and the diff is a BMW 168mm with 3.91s and Phantom Grip LSD.

We hear that NO has graced Red CentreNATS, too.

Yes, including the iconic Macca’s run. Later on, while drag racing, I popped a CV joint. In true racer spirit, we worked all night to get her back on the road for the next day of motorkhana and grass events. I even took NO to Ayers Rock – she has travelled.

What else do you get up to in NO?

Mainly sprints and regularity events. I wouldn’t mind doing a hillclimb, roll racing or the Adelaide Rally, and I’ve been invited to compete at Bathurst in November this year – now that’s a bucket-list goal! I don’t race for the win; I race for the joy – just me, the car and the track ahead. In saying that, I did finish seventh out of 21 for 2021 within the BMW Drivers Club of SA. Not bad for my first year of competing.

And this isn’t your first photoshoot, either?

NO and I are also in the 2022 Street Ignition Queens Women’s Automotive Calendar, which is amazing! I couldn’t have done any of this without the support of my four kids, especially Perrin; my awesome man Sean Basford; and my best mates Jo and Daniel Groot.

Girls — wanna be famous? Send pics, car details and contact details to: Iron Maiden, Street Machine, Locked Bag 12, Oakleigh, Vic 3166. Or email: streetmachine@