Cars have a way of creating bonds between people even when they are separated by the Atlantic Ocean. Just ask Glynne Shackleton and Don Armacost, who have forged a long-distance friendship by visiting one another to take part in car adventures.
This unlikely connection started in the 1990s when Shackleton, from Kirkudbright, Scotland, sent out a request for help with the 1923 Studebaker Light Six Touring car that he bought at an auction. The car was mostly in boxes, and he connected with Armacost, noted Studebaker collector from Grandview, through the Studebaker club. Armacost also had a ’23 Light Six Touring, and he was more than willing to help.
Shackleton did not keep the Studebaker long because it had rear brakes only and they weren’t suited for driving .
In 2000, Shackleton sent Armacost an entry form for the Historic Endurance Rallying (HERO) Reliability Trial & Classic Car Tour with a scribbled note that read, “Your car or mine?” Armacost picked up the phone, called Scotland, and replied, “Yours,” when Shackleton answered. The deal was set. The pair would drive Shackleton’s 1969 Gilbern Invader Mark I, a fairly small, two-door grand touring coupe built in Wales.
The Gilbern was the brainchild of Giles Smith, a Welsh butcher who lived in a small village near Pontypridd, South Wales. In 1959, Smith and Bernard Friese, designed a fiberglass body that could fit atop mechanical components of an Austin A35. The first cars were built in a building in back of Smith’s butcher shop.
Over the next few years, the Gilbern evolved with more sophisticated suspensions and engines from the MGB. By 1969, the Gilbern was powered by a 3.0-liter, V-6 Ford engine. It had an MGC front axle, an MGB rear axle and Gilbern’s own suspension. That is the car that Shackleton owned, and the one that he and Armacost drove in the HERO trial. The HERO trial consisted of daily visits to Scotch distilleries (no tasting was allowed during the day) and driving events often held at castles.
Their trial experience got off to a shaky start because the car would not start on the first morning. With help, they got it running 30 seconds before their departure time. Missing the start would have eliminated them from the trial. As the trial progressed, Armacost’s navigational skills improved daily, and by the end of the trial they scored a bronze medal by finishing third in their class.
In July, Shackleton journeyed from Scotland to Grandview so he could accompany Armacost and his 1954 Conestoga station wagon to the Studebaker Driver’s Club International Meet in South Bend, Ind. Seeing the two of them together, laughing about shared experiences and finishing each other’s sentences, was a testament to the depth of their friendship and how it has evolved with cars as the common bond. And to think, it all started with a 1923 Light Six Touring car.