When Jim Butler decided to get into working on and restoring Pontiacs, he likely didn’t think it would turn into an expansive business. However, when he used his knowledge and skills to build a GTO race car, it caught people’s attention. It wasn’t long before folks were calling to ask if Jim could build them an engine and Butler Performance was born.
Butler Performance, which is located in Lawrenceburg, TN, started in the late-‘80s, but today Jim’s sons, David and Rodney, run the Pontiac and LS engine-focused shop on a day-to-day basis.
“This is all I’ve ever done since I was 12 years old,” says Rodney Butler. “I never went and got a real job. This is all I know how to do.”
Clearly, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree, and both Rodney and David have picked up where their father Jim left off – taking Butler Performance to the next level.
“We have a full machine shop capable of doing any type of machine work, engine balancing and a Super Flow engine dyno,” David Butler says. “We build engines for anything from street to performance high-end race engines and 2,500+ horsepower twin-turbo engines.”
While Butler Performance remains a family owned and operated business, the Butler brothers have not only improved on the shop’s knack for performance parts and engines, but they added the LS platform to the shop’s repertoire in addition to the Pontiac stuff, and they expanded Butler Performance into a new, larger location with more room to grow.
“We made the move to a new, larger location in 2015,” Butler says. “This was big step in order to accommodate growth and the addition of the LS division to our company. This extra space allowed us to add a substantial amount of inventory and warehouse space. Our customer sales center expanded, so we can answer calls and handle more orders much more efficiently. We expanded our machine shop and added a block cleaning room and paint booth. Overall, the location has enabled us to take Butler to the next level.”
When you think about Butler Performance’s heritage starting with classic Pontiacs such as the legendary GTOs and Trans Ams of the ‘60s and ‘70s, the progression the shop has taken over the last 25+ years puts it in elite territory.
“We to be one of the best speed shops in the world,” Butler says. “Our engines have seen the likes of major TV shows, A-list celebrities, sports stars, professional racers, and most importantly, thousands of performance enthusiasts.”
There’s lots of reasons to choose Butler Performance – its history of racing, knowledge of performance engines, professional machine and engine shop, and quality customer service, just to name a few. And, when you choose Butler Performance, you don’t just get out of the box parts.
“We don’t take anyone’s word for specs, tolerances, clearances, or quality,” Butler says. “We put each part through our ‘Butler Process’ to ensure the quality of the part will hold up in race cars, everyday drivers and classic muscle cars.”
Recently, the shop finished a build of a 541 cid Bracket Race engine that made 1,100 horsepower and 862 ft.-lbs. of torque on Butler’s Super Flow engine dyno. The build started with a cast iron block, a SCAT forged crankshaft, Oliver billet steel rods, and custom Ross pistons.
For cylinder heads, the shop went with a pair of Edelbrock’s 11-degree Victor High-Port heads. Butler Performance worked with COMP Cams to create a custom 55mm solid roller camshaft that features .871˝ lift. The shop also opted for Crower’s .903˝ EnduraMax NBO (Needleless Bearing Option) and HIPPO (High-Pressure Pin Oiling) roller lifters, as well as titanium valves.
Additional features of the bracket engine are a Jeff Johnston’s Billet Fabrication aluminum oil pan, a Titan billet oil pump, a custom Hogan’s 2×4 intake manifold, an MSD crank trigger, and a Meziere electric water pump.
The 541 cubic inch engine runs on race gas to make 1,100 horsepower and is a brand-new build aside from it’s run time on the dyno. If you’re in the market for a drag race engine, this one can be yours for just shy of $30,000. Inquiries for this engine or others at Butler Performance can be sent to [email protected].
Engine of the Week is sponsored by PennGrade Motor Oil, Elring – Das Original and Scat Crankshafts. If you have an engine you’d like to highlight in this series, please email Engine Builder Editor, Greg Jones at [email protected].