CC In Scale: They’re Not Always Shiny

One of the things I really enjoy about CC is that we look at cars as found. Curbside. Like the name says. That’s not to say we don’t enjoy car shows or museums along the way. We find a lot of interesting subjects we would probably never see on the street, and they have been a lead-in to many a fascinating feature. But we also see cars in the wild, often with the battle scars and weathering that result from general daily use. Even in wrecking yards. From the cradle to the grave, so to speak.

You can build models like this too. It takes more care and attention, and a different skill set. It involves going beyond the instructions, outside their recommended paint colours. Also, as always, practice. Builders of military subjects are especially adept at replicating weathering and battle damage. There are modellers who build ‘post-apocalyptic’ cars – Mad Max-style builds with incredible added weapons and such. These need way more than just a flat black paint job.

I don’t go there. My weathered builds are just ordinary cars like I saw in my childhood, still see on the street occasionally, or ‘barn finds’. Sometimes I’ll add a dent or two, or some holes for rust-through, but more often I’ll use paint to give the suggestion. One of these days I’ll have a go at weathering a newer car, once I figure out how to get just the right crazed-grey-plastic effect. I haven’t been sufficiently motivated yet. And, as always, I don’t claim to be an expert. I just aim to have fun.

Let’s begin with an ordinary car that just needs a wash. To make it a bit more interesting, say it’s a country car that’s been on some unmade roads in the wet. I see a lot of that around here in winter. This 1953 Ford shows general road spray with some localized mud splashes. This is comparatively easy.

This Lancia Stratos was a very early (and not altogether successful) attempt at adding some visual interest to a common rally car model.

Then we get into more serious weathering. Think about what you see. Clear coat (if any) peels. Paint fades. The shine gradually diminishes – but not equally on all surfaces. Roof, hood, trunk and fender tops may become bleached by the sun and perhaps fade back to bare metal.

How long did old pickups remain shiny for? They were lucky to get parked in the shade.

This Model T Ford could be either a barn find or an old survivor on its last legs in the fifties. Dust, dirt, faded paint, some bare metal here and there, and a few patches of rust.

Consider how rust appears. It varies from one locality to another. In some areas cars rust from the bottom up, but in the tropics it’s more likely to be from the top down. Around here it’s more likely to appear first down the bottom of panels with blocked drains, or under bolted-on trim strips. Maybe on those sun-bleached horizontal surfaces. And it’s not always the same from one car to another. Susceptibility to rust varies from brand to brand.

I first became interested in weathering when AMT released the ‘Diamond in the Rough’ set in the mid-eighties, comprising a ’53 Ford pickup, a trailer, and a pre-damaged ’40 Ford sedan. The challenge was in the paint, and getting the effects I wanted.

A fine wire brush in a drill applied from the rear of panels will thin the plastic, and with care can be made to give the appearance of torn metal. A brown wash with a touch of gold will give the appearance of rust – but nowadays some of the model paint suppliers offer many different shades of ready-mixed rust paint! Here I’ve lightly sanded through the rust coat to the blue paint and underlying grey primer.

I also had a go at weathering the glass to match the milky effect you often see.

This flatbed Ford’s missing the grille bars – a fairly delicate piece that would have been easily damaged in rough usage.

For added realism, this down-at-heel gravel company truck has some dust and gravel from my driveway in the bed.

This ’41 Chevy is more heavily rusted, and based on some of the trucks I saw around as a kid. Rust around the windshield, paint rubbed through where the driver rested his arm on the top of the door – and that once-common drooping door handle. And scrapes on those bulging fenders that were often so hard to judge. Mustn’t forget the greasy fingermarks around the fenders and hood; they often give trouble at this age!

This ’60 Chevy bears the markings of a Victorian stock and station agent. This one’s definitely a wrecking yard find; it would never have been like this condition whilst in service! Gippsland is a notoriously damp part of the state, so this rust is quite appropriate.

VW pickups were never common, but the ones I did see always seemed to be overloaded and worked to death. Mainly a lot of surface rust on this one.

Nowadays I always add some weathering to the chassis and engine bay of almost everything I build. Some judicious grease and oil stains, and perhaps a bit of scraped metal enhances visual depth, and adds to the illusion of realism, as on this Skyline;

Next year – Colours!