Over recent years there has been an increase in the awareness of the various techniques used to weather models, some of these can really bring out the kits best, but some just look way too random and overdone.
Chipping seems to me to be the worst culprit here. Intended to represent areas where paint has been worn away, when done properly this can look very effective and adds a level of authenticity to the finish. But overdone and you get a model that looks like it has spent the past thirty years sitting in a wreckers yard. The same holds true for excessive rust, some look like an abandoned car body in a paddock.
Often times it seems that “the look” is more important than what would actually be realistic. A good way to quickly compare is to drive past a roading construction site and check out the vehicles around. They will have light wear, paint chipping and scuffing in areas where it isn’t worth dealing with while they’re being used, but you won’t see vehicles with half their paint worn down to metal and rust everywhere.
The same is true of vehicles in military service, they are looked after, they are maintained, and if they have a crew it keeps them alive and prevents them from having to walk so they care for it. When times are hard no doubt the care and maintenance periods will be further apart and more wear will be shown, but in times when the fighting is sporadic or non-existent then at best vehicles should have no more than light wear in heavy travel areas and general dust and dirt.
The following examples are my own views and are intended as a guideline and to encourage giving thought to the circumstances of the vehicle only ;
1. A vehicle during the battles in France or the Balkans in 1940. A period when the German army is still at the height of professionalism and are winning. Vehicles would be maintained at every opportunity. Supply levels are good, maintenance can be scheduled regularly and military doctrine is still strongly in place so that appearance is upheld. So you wouldn’t expect to see a battered, rusted vehicle that looks like it has sat outside for several decades. Perhaps light surface rust on the exposed metal parts of tracks if the vehicle has been in the fighting but certainly not massive chipping and large rust stains.
2. A vehicle during the initial advances into North Africa in 1940. If painted in Desert Brown these vehicles would have only recently been painted so you wouldn’t expect a great deal of wear. However desert storms did strip paint so DAK vehicles are much more likely to show heavier paint wear than their ETO counterparts, though photos still tend to show most have only moderate wear, mainly on the topcoats. Again the German forces were at that time well supplied and winning so the same applies as for example 1.
3. A vehicle during the initial stages in Russia in 1941. Pretty much the same as example 1 but add a lot of dust possibly as Russian roads were dirt roads so travel was dirty. However again while winning there was always time to clean them and maintain them. Remember that the German army had a lot of pride and belief in themselves and they were big on presentation. German divisions had workshops and maintenance units attached and these were used to regularly service and repaint vehicles ( as well as captured ones ).
4. A vehicle during the late stages in North Africa in 1942. During the later stages as time for regular maintenance wasn’t available and supplies were short then you could expect to see wear to the paint that has built up over the previous year, especially to the high travel areas of interiors and to the leading edges of vehicles exposed to the abrasive sand dusts from other vehicles travelling ahead of them. Light battle damage may also not have been touched up. Vehicles that spent the last year in North Africa before being evacuated into Sicily in 1943 and then again into Italy often showed extensive wear but were tidied up once they reached the rear.
5. A vehicle during the 6th Army’s encirclement in 1943. As above with the DAK vehicles. When you have no food, little ammunition and little morale no doubt care and maintenance of the vehicle beyond its abilities to function in its desired role would not have been paramount. Chipping from usage in built up areas, battle damage and day-to-day wear would be expected. But it should also follow a logical sequence so as not to look like the paint has simply been sandblasted with rocks for five minutes and then suffered no other damage. Wear builds up and has causes. Consider what they are and how that cause would affect the surface of the vehicle.
6. A vehicle during the battle for Normandy in 1944. At this point in time many of the German vehicles were new or had been refitted after being pulled out of Russia. So there should be little damage and surface rust on the bare metal areas of the tracks only. As the battle progressed and they took damage there wasn’t the benefit of stopping for regular repair so surface damage from small arms fire and shrapnel, the rock walls of the French countryside would add chipping but again as above, think it through logically.
7. A vehicle during the battle of the Bulge in 1944. Again the majority of these vehicles had been brought up from the rear, supplemented with new or brought in from less hostile locations so you should expect only light day-to-day wear and maybe some moderate chipping if your back story supports it. As the battle progressed scuffing from trees, rock walls, small-arms fire and shrapnel etc can add to damage and wear but once again keep it real.
8. A vehicle during the battle for Berlin in 1945. This one will depend on what you are portraying, some vehicles only entered service in the last four to six months of the war, so they didn’t have time to become battered, rusty wrecks. Others had been sitting in the towns and cities of Germany waiting for the enemy and being looked after every day till that day came. Still others were survivors of lost battles pulling back for one last fight that may have been through urban battles, air attacks and pitched battles along the way so may look quite beaten up. So consider where it has come from, when it entered service and how it has been used.
In short if you can’t explain how the chipping and rust got there then don’t add it, and always keep in mind that an army with the time and the resources on hand will look after its equipment and keep it well maintained.