Take a look at these photos
A manhole cover which as been in place for over thirty years (at least), a green metal door exposed to the elements for 19 years, and a skip that has been banged around for at least two decades.
The point is: they are rusty and faded- something we like to represent on our vehicles. However, real life is not as interesting as the models we build.
When you look at a tank, or a truck, you will very rarely find chipping paint, and rust and rust streaks in the degree we depict it on the models… even derelict vehicles kept outside for decades don’t tend to accumulate this much weathering.
Except for the US tank collection in Maryland… The fact that it was left outside to literally rust away is pretty sad; but the point still stands: they -and similarly abandoned vehicles around the world- are the only tanks I’ve seen with comparable level of rusting we build our tanks with. (The last photo of the BMPs were taken in the Exclusion Zone in Chernobyl – and the amount of rusting since 1986 is not exactly massive, either.)
So the fact is we overweather our models. (I’m not going to put in examples from other, better builders, since it is a contentious area about model building, and I do not wish to fan the flames further with posts that can be seen as picking on others.) You can find plenty of rust on this blog.
There are several reasons for this. One is that combat vehicles rarely lasted more than a couple of years in wars- if they were lucky. That means Panzers, T-34s, and Shermans tended not to have the time to seriously rust, even if they were not maintained. Which they were. Not to mention the whole war lasted 6 years altogether, which also limits the time massive armor plates had to rust, even if a tank managed to get through the war from day 1.
In peacetime, even older equipment is meticulously maintained. Maintenance was an important part of combat troops as well, by the way; you really did not want to have fuel stains, rust, dust and other environmental damage affect your vehicle’s survivability; not to mention your superiors would not look at you kindly if you let your standards drop.
The point is: if you weathered your tanks and other vehicles the way they actually looked like, they’d look quite boring, and well, unrealistic… I think we add the weathering as a way to depict metal, wood and canvas, as a representation of the real thing, and not as an imitation of the real thing. (This is why I don’t like figures that much added to vehicles. A model of a Panther is merely a symbol of what a Panther is.) By overdoing it, we convince our brain that what we see is a solid metal object that has been through heavy use, it tells a story. This way we do not just see just a piece of plastic, even though the real thing has never looked battered, run down like that.
PS: Since I have now a little, eight week old human living with us, my hobby time has seriously been reduced to one or two hours a week. (If I’m lucky.) Posts will be rarer from now on I think.