After joining the local Nord Stern Region of the Porsche Club of America here in Minneapolis recently I received the most recent regional club newsletter. While flipping through this very high quality publication I came across an article, an ‘in memory of’ article really… about one of the founding members of the Nord Stern Region Porsche Club who passed away recently. Click the screen shot of the video above to see the full 28 minute long film “Road America”.
It’s the best and most complete early footage I’ve ever seen of Road America, and in color no less! There are shots of the tech areas, grid, pits, paddock, even some footage from downtown Elkhart Lake. It’s pretty amazing how it doesn’t llook all that much different today than it did back then. There are a lot more bridges over the track now, but every turn is easily recognizable. He made another early racing film, an ice racing film from the St. Paul Winter Carnival that you can also see on the same Vimeo channel (or by clicking this link).
The article chronicles the amazing and interesting life as it related to sports cars, specifically Porsches, for more than 60 years… the life of a gentleman by the name of Tom Countryman. I have reprinted the article below from the October 2012 Nord Stern Porsche Club newsletter. Visit the Nord Stern Region PCA website by clicking this link.
Tom Countryman, a Greatest Generation
by Roger Johnson and Mark Bouljon.
Few among us live to be 90 while living well, while making new friends and memories all along the way. But Tom Countryman, who was a Nord Stern Region founding member, was just such a man. He was a survivor, designer, photographer, racer, engineer, filmmaker and pheasant hunter – as well as a devoted husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather. But Tom’s story is also a decades long Porsche story.
Tom was a quintessential member of America’s greatest generation. In WWII he fought his way across Northern Africa and into Italy. He returned home only to be called back into service for the Korean conflict. Fortunately for all of us, the Army recognized his photography skills, and assigned him to Publications, which included Stars & Stripes, and sent him to Europe.
There a curious little car got his attention and he arranged for a tour of the Porsche factory. Baron Huschke von Hanstein was his tour guide and a friendship was formed.
Von Hanstein arranged for Tom to cover the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1952 and a life-long for sports car racing passion was formed.
At the end of his tour in 1952, Tom purchased this 1951 1300 Normal Coupe in Germany and bought it to Minnesota. It is believed that this was the first Porsche registered in the state. He went out and purchased an Army-surplus tank commander’s helmet and entered the St. Paul Winter Carnival ice races on Lake Phelan, the “final, and most exciting event in the week-long celebration.” As a filmmaker, he mounted a camera in his car and made his first racing film, Ice Races, narrated by John Cameron Swayze.
Tom began racing in earnest and the Normal coupe gave way to a Speedster. This car was raced extensively with both regular and 4-cam 356 engines. Later he drove Spyders, Bert Horton’s 904, the Troutman-Barnes 910 and much more. He dabbled a couple times in open-wheel cars but always came back to Porsche.
When a Spyder without an engine presented itself to Tom, he bought the car and put in the 4-cam motor he had been running in the Speedster and had a running Spyder. He often said this was one car he should never have sold. As a filmmaker, he often mixed his passions. At the June Sprints at Road America, he mounted what is now a huge camera to the rollbar of his Speedster and took some very innovative in-car footage. The result was the film Road America.
A fun part of the making of Road America was that Tom only got two laps of practice in before being black-flagged for having this contraption on the back of his car. That footage was enough to make the film. Only Tom knows if it was intentional or not, but he had neglected to tell SCCA what he was up to. After seeing the finished film, SCCA wished they hadn’t stopped him.