Ron Butler


Ron Butler, the New Zealand-born president of Ron Butler Racing of Goleta, has been building Ford-powered Cobra replicas for 10 years and has sold 60. Butler is the former crew chief on the racing team of designer-driver Carroll Shelby who built the original Ford Shelby Cobras.

Butler Racing Inc. is known for producing fast, nimble higher performance Cobra’s that deliver time and time again.  Ron Butler has many prestigious credits to his name, such as being awarded “Master Race Car Fabricator” by Hot Rod Magazine and also being listed in the Sturtevant Hall of Fame as one of the world’s greatest mechanics.

Legendary race car designer, Ron Butler, has spent thousands of hours working on the Ford Shelby Cobra and is now bringing his expertise and engineering knowledge to the Cobra Litter.  This has greatly enhanced our ability to create a rock solid frame that is still extremely lightweight and ergonomic to the user.  The fabrication of our first prototypes and production pieces are of the highest quality, with expert welds and the latest manufacturing methods.

“I’ve counted the number of companies (worldwide) making the Cobra and there are 87,” said Shelby, now head of Shelby Automobiles Inc. of Whittier, a high-performance consultant for Dodge. “But his (Butler’s) Cobra is a good one. Ron doesn’t do anything that isn’t first class and he is one of the few Old World craftsmen left.”

Ron was born and raised in Paptoetoe, New Zealand. His father ran a garage at school corner on the Gt South Road. He or the Butler family imported a Porsche 356 Carrera which Ron raced for a number of years at the Ardmore.

Ron, and his wife Moi, left New Zealand bound for Canada (Vancouver BC) and after a couple of years, they were able to find their way to California. Not long after arriving, Ron found a job at a start up company helping design and build their sports cars..  This opportunity was with Shelby America and lead to his participation with the Carroll Shelby designs that were brought to Ford production and made into legendary sports cars.  He taught himself how to weld at night and developed a sterling career as fabricator and head wrench for Carroll Shelby. In that time he raised two sons, one of whom works at his side at Butler Racing Inc. and is also working with the Cobra Litters.

In 1966, Ron won The “Sturtevant Tribute to Mechanics” at Sebring by the being Crew Chief for the winning GT40 with Ken Miles and Llyod Ruby! In 1968, Ron was involved with the Shelby Tubine at Indy, designed by Ken Wallis, paid for by Goodyear. Shelby built two, four wheel drive, turbine cars. The cars were tested by Denis Hulme and Bruce McLaren. It was Ron who worked out and told Shelby that the designer had built into the engines, a method to by-pass the USAC mandated air restrictor through a series of complex air deflectors. The Turbines never raced at Indy.

In later life Ron decided to start his own company of designing and manufacturing his own Shelby Cobra models which are a “clone” of the original Ford Shebly Cobras that he helped build. The “Butler Built” cars are now highly sought after and have a reputation of being a true work of art through master craftsmanship.

Ron still has many of the original production machines at his amazing shop in the mountains outside of Ojai. I have been to that shop and marveled at the memorabilia, tooling and leftover Shelby’s lying around.  While his business has boomed and many Cobra’s saw a “Butler Built” birth, Ron spent many years racing midgets competitively on the Dirt (Ascot) in his own designed race cars. He has just recently retired from sprint car racing and he was still collecting wins, even at the age of 70!! Ron likes nothing better than “going sideways in the dirt” and has been a regular for many years at Ventura. Took a terrific crash at the beginning of the season and has been laying off the racing.

mike schalgs and ron butler

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One Response to “Ron Butler”

  1. Mike And Rosalia Batanero September 30, 2013 at 9:29 am #

    Hi Ron, I missed you at the SAAC 38 in Fontana this last convention, I was hoping to chat with you for a few minutes. I was thrust into the Cobra world two years ago when when we purchased an Arnzt/Butler Cobra built in 1979 and have been chipping away at its history with fascination. I am interested in upgrading the front suspension and steering and am hoping you can help…but mostly I would love to spend a few moments from a man whose been there from the beginning. I recently met with Curt Hammilton at his shop and enjoyed a couple of hours of conversation where he mentioned you and other friends. Well if it isn’t too much trouble I would like to hear from you. Thank you Mike

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