Christopher Brimley updated November 24, 2010


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  • Weathering Vehicles

    Weathering Cars & Trucks

    By Christopher Brimley

    On most layouts, you’ll see a very detailed scenery, weathered rolling stock, locomotives, and structures. And occasionally, you’ll see out-of-place, glossy toy-like vehicles sticking out like sore thumb.

    Chances are, you have techniques you like to use to weather your rolling stock and locomotives, but why not use these same techniques on the vehicles in your layout? The quarter inch of dust that might be on them doesn't count. I encourage you to spend a little time to weather your layout vehicles and finish of this integral part of your layout.

    Like rolling stock, locomotives, scenery, and structures, you can super detail your vehicles to make them look much more realistic. In this article, I will focus on weathering vehicles, which improves the models and makes them work with your layout and not against it.

    To demonstrate, I’ve picked a few different cars and trucks to weather, aging each to a different degree. I assure you, even the newest of cars could use a few minor touch-ups.

    1977 Ford Granada

    For this 1977 Ford Granada, I wanted to have a little fun and and take it to an extreme. the 1977 Ford Granada is a model made by Fresh CherriesTM, and is a fairly inexpensive model, so I wasn’t worried about what would happen to it. I decided to repaint the car to appear as if it is in the twilight of its life and had also been in a few accidents -- basically a rust bucket.

    The 1977 Ford Granada I picked up was already painted in silver, and I knew that it wouldn’t do. So, I took the car apart by removing a few screws in the bottom and taking out the parts. I also removed the headlights, taillights, and bumpers. To remove them, I clipped off the piece on the inside of the car body.

    Next, I sprayed the car body with brown, to create  the “original” color of the car. After allowing it to dry thoroughly, I masked off the driver side door and sprayed it with boxcar red. After I peeled the masking off for the door, I then masked off the hood and fenders, and painted them a primer grey. I then scraped off the paint on the rear view mirror and on the the door handles. Next, I added some rust effects to the brown parts of the car, mostly on the back of the truck, roof, and at the bottoms of the fenders. I used a raw umber and raw sienna paint, dabbed on with a sponge to achieve the desired look. 

    The bumpers were a very glossy chrome, and so I took a file to them to tarnish the finish. In some spots I filed off all of the paint. For the tires, I painted them a dark grey in order to age them. Typically, if the car is not well taken care of, the tires are a light to dark grey. I decided to paint the interior of the car with a tan color. It is difficult to make make out many details in the car, and so I didn’t bother doing much to enhance it further, however I did add a driver. To get the figure to fit into the car, I had to cut off any material from the waist down. I then fixed him into place with a little Cyanoacrylate (CA) glue.

    Now that all of the individual parts were done, it was time to reassemble the car. I first added in the head lights and tail lights. Because I cut off the end that was holding them in, I had to glue them in. The same was necessary with the bumpers. Everything else fell right back into position, and I added the screws to finish it off. This car will be right at home on a layout from the mid 1980s until today.

    1955 Dodge Meadowbrook

    I decided to weather this car much differently than the 1977 Ford Granada -- weathering will be at a minimum and it will primarily have dirt and dust from a few days of driving on it. Like the Granada, I took it apart so I didn’t cause any damage to the windows and to repaint the interior. Fortunately, all that was holding the car together was just a few screws, so disassembling it was simple. 

    I used pastels to add a dustiness to the car, mostly the back half. I used a light grey on the bulk of the car to slightly fade the paint and then added a little brown to the roof and the back fenders.  I sprayed the body with a little dullcote to remove any glossiness and to fix the pastels into place. For the wheels, I dusted them with light grey pastels to age them slightly.

    The interior of the car was painted with two colors. The doors, dashboard ,and steering wheel are brown and the seats are cream. Once the paint had dried, I reassembled the car and I was done. Most cars on your layout should be done as simply as I weathered this 1955 Dodge Meadowbrook -- a few easy and quick tasks improved the look of the car and now it looks less like a toy.

    White WC22 w/ Aerovan Trailer, A&P

    Trucks get dirty, and I wanted this truck to be no exception. I wanted it to look like it was being used non-stop without any time to give it a wash. I knew I needed to weather and fade the bright red paint and to do so I needed to get the cab off the chassis. Unlike the 1977 Ford Granada and the 1955 Dodge Meadowbrook, the cab was not screwed on, but it had a metal post that flared at the end to hold in to place. I tried to pop it out by pulling on it, but realized I was flexing the chassis and didn't want to risk breaking it. So, I decided to heat the post with my soldering iron and melt the plastic around the post and then pull it out. This method worked well, but please make sure you don’t touch the plastic, or your fingers, with the iron.

    Once the cab was free of the chassis, I took it and the trailer and very lightly dusted them with a light tan paint using my airbrush. This faded the paint and started to remove the distracting shine.  I then moved to the chassis and painted it with a grimy black and set it aside to dry. On the cab, I began dusting it with pastels of light and dark greys, rust, and brown. I painted the door handles and the front bumper with a silver paint pen. To finish it off, I sealed it all in with dullcote.

    The rims on the truck were a red. While this is prototypical, I decided to paint them a light grey.  After the paint had dried, I then dusted the chassis with rust colored pastels. Next, I dusted the tires with a light grey. Like the cab, I sprayed it with a cote of dullcote to seal everything in. However the pastels disappeared, so I retouched them with another dusting of light grey pastels.

    For the trailer, I added a little rust on the nose where dirt and grime get kicked up by the tires of the cab. I also attacked the doors and the bumper with a little rust effect. I used raw umber and raw sienna dabbed on with a foam brush to achieve this effect. Lastly, I dusted the trailer with the same colors as the cab and again sprayed it all with dullcote.

    IH R-190 w/ Aerovan Trailer, PIE

    I didn’t want to fade the paint on this truck like I did on the A&P. So, although I still had to remove the cab from the chassis in the same manner as the A&P, I didn’t spray it with a light grey. I went right to work with the pastels on the cab. Unfortunately, I initially added them on much heavier than what I wanted, so I gave them a wash of diluted India ink. While this worked, it came out a little blotchy, so I gave it another wash of just rubbing alcohol. For the chassis, I painted and weathered it the same way as the A&P truck.

    On the trailer, I dusted it with a little light grey on the sides. I also used a little rust color pastels on the roof and nose and then fixed it all in place with dullcote. The mud flaps were molded with the body of the trailer, so they were silver. I decided to paint them a grimy black to more closely match what is more commonly seen. To finish off the trailer, I dusted the tires.

    As I mentioned earlier, I only wanted to weather the vehicles. Weathering did so much to improve the look and feel. Although there are many details that can and probably should be added to enhance the detail even further, these will do for a good placeholder in the meantime.


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  • Bryan Busséy
    Bryan Busséy I wish Motor Max would make N scale vehicles.
    November 24, 2010
  • Rick Schoch
    Rick Schoch Those are CMW trucks, right? Nice job. I've been thinking about how to weather vehicles and this is a great start.
    January 4, 2011
  • Christopher Brimley
    Christopher Brimley Yep, they are CMW. I am glad this will help you out.
    January 4, 2011