Gateway to artistic endeavors : Buda artist turns personal need into profitable sideline

by Dale Roberson

What would entice a person to build an 11’ aluminum horse?

An automobile logo. 

Rex Butterfield built the horse in his Buda shop as homage to his favorite car, Ferrari. Butterfield and his wife drive the iconic Italian car and are long-time members of the Austin Ferrari Club. 

The club holds a party every Friday evening prior to the annual Formula 1 race at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) near Elroy. Butterfield modified a trailer and took the horse to the most recent party.

A self-taught artist, Butterfield designs his work on a large table in his shop.

“I can’t draw anything small,” he said. “I lay it out on a table like this,” motioning to the steel-top about 10’ X 20’ in the center of the shop.

He began his career in the automobile business as owner of a body shop. At that time the Butterfields lived in Jonestown on a lakefront property.

He needed a gate for his property and found that decorative gates like the one he wanted were very expensive. 

“I said I can build one myself,” he said.

So he designed and built an impressive gate for his property. Soon it caught the notice of some neighbors who inquired where he got it. That led to him designing and building gates. In spite of a battle with cancer, he continued to build them.

After moving to Buda about five years ago he got commissions to build gates in Ruby Ranch where he fabricated seven for one property owner. That led to other commissions. 

But Butterfield’s interest in cars never waned. He purchased a Maserati sedan, removed the body from its chassis, cut it in half and shortened it. The purpose is to build a replica of a sports car of which only about four are known. At least three are in museums, he said.

The body of the Maserati body would have to be fashioned in aluminum. 

“I buy aluminum from a local (Austin) company,” he said but noted recent tariffs have made it more expensive.

So how did this lead to the horse?

Although Butterfield has procured some special machines to form aluminum, mistakes on the car body parts were made. Those mistakes became material for the Ferrari statue. The head alone took two months to get right.

On a trip to Italy the Butterfields met a producer of a TV program called “Off the Grid” in which F1 drivers are featured in situations not pertaining to racing. She said she was planning a program prior to the COTA race and needed some horses.

“I didn’t know anything about horses,” Butterfield said, “But I said I’d help.”

Back in Texas he contacted a friend who had horses. They shot the program with the horses and an F1 driver in Zilker Park.

As a result, the producer got the Butterfields paddock passes to the recent race. Paddock passes give the bearer admittance to almost all areas of the race track including contact with owners, mechanics and technical crew and most, important of all, the drivers.

Butterfield has a cap signed by seven F1 drivers including World Champion Lewis Hamilton.

“I was offered a good price for that cap, but I wouldn’t take for it,” Butterfield said.

Ferraris and Maseratis are not the only vehicles he has an interest in. He also owns a 1991 Nissan “Figeroa,” of which only 20,000 were built, most remaining in Japan.

Butterfield, accompanied by his Great Dane Lexi, continue to work in his Buda shop. 

The horse will soon have a place on a revolving pedestal in his yard where it will probably be seen as the largest wind vane in Hays County.

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