CC In Scale: Models And Colors – Influence And Expression

I’ve always loved colour. I’ve never stopped to think about it, but colour has always been a part of my life. Maybe it’s because my eyesight is so poor? I just don’t know.

Dad redid my bedroom when I was about 10. Gold carpet picked up cheap at the auctions, three pale green walls, one lilac wall, and a yellow ceiling. It was better than it sounds. Being a twenties building in the Spanish Mission style, it had imitation plaster ceiling beams and a heavy ornamental cornice. Dad drew the line at accenting the beams and said if I really wanted that cornice white, I’d have to paint it myself; he wasn’t going up the ladder again. So I did. No, the rest of the flat was pretty ordinary, apart from the sunny kitchen in yellow and white, with yellow and black lino. The old place has been thoroughly renovated since my day, but I wonder what the following tenants thought.

And the sixties were a very colourful time for cars. We seemed to go from light colours and strong two-tones, through pastels, and were edging toward brighter almost fluorescent colours. A good time to be alive.

But, models.

There were some tins of house paint in the cupboard on the back porch, so I started there. Not a good idea.

Then I discovered the small tins of Humbrol paint. There were some strange colours (so many shades of pink?) and some military colours I’d never use, but sometimes I wanted something a bit different.

White tops were common here in the sixties. They were easy. But what about older cars? FC and FB Holdens were everywhere when I was growing up, and they featured some strong two-tones along with more pastel colours. Inspiration might be as close as the neighbour’s Holden.

We had a lot of old Readers Digests from the fifties hanging around. I’d go through and look at the colours in the ads – think this idea came from a Paper Mate pen ad. I don’t recall seeing blue paired with yellow on the road (not in Australia, anyway), but it works.

In reality you were more likely to see something like this. The Big Three were always conservative in their use of colour here in the early fifties.

With some advice from Mother, I began to mix my own colours, when I couldn’t just buy what I wanted, like on this ’57 Fairlane.

Sometimes mixing colours led to odd effects. Turns out you can make metallics by adding silver to a solid colour. But you’d better make enough in the one batch, or – oops! It was the seventies, remember?

Once I got my first car and had to do some rust repairs, I discovered spray paint. I’d avoided using it before as I was living in a flat, but once I moved to a house with a large garage it was game on! This ’72 Thunderbird is 1974 (Australian) Ford Copper Bronze. Using up leftovers.

But this opened the floodgates to being able to do metallics properly. This wasn’t a problem if I kept to building older cars, but it was a huge improvement as metallics were becoming more commonly seen on newer designs.

By now I was amassing a large collection of spray paints. Initially, I’d spray a car in anything that looked good and worked for me……

… but gradually I came to appreciate that some colours worked better on a certain shape than others, especially on older cars. And that sometimes the factory had some pretty good ideas in the first place.

I’d avoided the spray hobby paints after some unfortunate experiences. The Japanese model company Tamiya brought out a selection of spray acrylics, which quickly became a favourite of mine. Some colours were a bit odd; I guess they weren’t intended for automotive subjects. The range has grown immensely over the years, and sprouted military offshoots.

Then Testors improved their quality and started producing a range of the most interesting sixties-seventies car colours. A ’65 Pontiac in Iris Mist was now easy, though the metallic flakes were a bit large. Their other colours were a lot better, but this one’s a favourite.

Tamiya introduced some tinted clear, which made for some interesting effects, varying with how many coats you applied. Clear Red over silver gave this nice colour, a close match for the Skyline Uncle Ted had….

…while clear yellow over bright silver gave this, er, unusual shade. The metallic effect isn’t as obvious, it just looks like a bright yellow.

Testors introduced some startling custom colours, then after a few years seemed to lose interest in cars and eventually scrapped the lot. Fortunately, I have some spares. Unfortunately, the cans leak with age. They were hard to get in this country anyway.

That brings us to today. Mostly I use Tamiya paints, for sheer availability and reliability. Sometimes I still reach for a can of Duplicolor, like on this GTO (shh, it’s Ford Acid Rush!). And occasionally I’ll still use the old Humbrol and a brush.