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WWII Exhaust Color (Rust)

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  • Member since
    September, 2014
WWII Exhaust Color (Rust)
Posted by rooster513 on Sunday, October 22, 2017 9:30 AM

Hey all, I've got another quick question. How quickly would exhaust in general and Fw190 in particular show rust in the field? I assume a base of burnt iron would be a good start and then I'm not sure how much "weathering" to give it after that. Hard to find color photos of period birds and a lot of the builds out there show pretty heavy rust. I'm sure it varies depending on conditions and there's always artistic license but hopefully you guys can offer some suggestions?


  • Member since
    March, 2003
  • From: Towson MD
Posted by gregbale on Sunday, October 22, 2017 9:41 AM

'Rust' for exhausts seems to be one of those long-held tropes for modeling---but it's mostly wrong, especially for service aircraft. Depending on the machine in question, colors range from steel to dark black/brown metal tones. I'll usually basecoat a charcoal grey---drybrush with a lighter grey for tone and highlighting---then lightly drybrush with a bronze tone, for a slight metallic feel.

As noted, good color photos are your best guide; but it's better to go by 'real' photos, rather than models, unless you see an effect that looks good, and want to reproduce it---nothing wrong with that.



 George Lewis:

"Every time you correct me on my grammar I love you a little fewer."



  • Member since
    November, 2003
  • From: Newington CT
Posted by tempestjohnny on Sunday, October 22, 2017 10:03 AM
I agree with Greg. Steel/bronze. Maybe a little flat black for soot


  • Member since
    June, 2014
Posted by BrandonK on Sunday, October 22, 2017 10:25 AM

I agree as well. I think the rust is over done on many kits. Most AC are maintained it fairly good order, with exceptions. I would do as mentioned above but I would also add rust to the tips to simulate the condensation the would roll out when the engines are cold and then that area would have some rust, but again, not heavily. Those manifolds and pipes would have to be subjected to wet condtions like a car would in order to form very much scale on the pipes themselves. What passes for great weathering on models is not often the case in real life, but it looks good to the modelers eye, usually.


On the bench: 2x Monogram 1/48 Kingfishers with cockpits and floats, full kit overhauls each

1/32 Kitty Hawk OS2U Kingfisher

  • Member since
    November, 2009
  • From: Twin Cities of Minnesota
Posted by Don Stauffer on Sunday, October 22, 2017 10:56 AM

Exhausts can rust.  Steel pipes seem to be a bit more resistant than cast iron manifolds, however.  However, steel pipes can still oxidize in other ways, even stainless steel.  Very thin coatings of various oxides can form, and while these layers are still thinner than the wavelength of light they create colors due to interference filtering.  These colors are often red or yellow or blue.  The red/yellow hues can look like rust.  If you can't find pictures of 190s, just look for any color photos of colored pipes, even on newer piston aircraft.  In fact, many jet tailpipes take on such colored appearances.  Since that type of operation does not affect operation, and may tend to be self-limitating, ground crews may not bother to remove it. It just slowly changes in color as the layer gets thicker.

Don Stauffer in Minnesota

  • Member since
    September, 2014
Posted by rooster513 on Sunday, October 22, 2017 10:56 AM

Greg that's the same kind of technique I use. Thanks for the feedback. I figured it might be like you said...a certain look catches on in modeling and becomes the "norm". It seemed like anything rusting in a plane would be replaced whenever possible. 


  • Member since
    September, 2016
Posted by Retired In Kalifornia on Sunday, October 22, 2017 12:27 PM

Engine exhaust & blow grime depictions, complicated topic, will have to ponder before posting. Meantime, have these recollections:

One wintery day c. early 1958 our school class was taken to Long Beach Municipal Airport (Daugherty Field) for a field trip, this was the first time I'd walked a flight line in this case next to the Old Terminal Building.

What caught my eye were the big radial engine CONVAIRs & DCs, still vividly remember eyeing a starboard side engine less than 75 feet from me, exhaust pipe centers were coal black, light blackish soot over bronze-aluminum colored engine pod skinning, can draw art from that view still. Every radial engine airplane had blow grime, that next to cowling flap separation points looked like they'd been painted on; grime got darker lower on pods, oil streaking everywhere as well, priceless!

Another wintery day early 1962; Dad drove Mom to LAX in our 1950 Mercury to catch the first United Airlines flight to Meadows Field Bakersfield to see her mom, I tagged along.

Dad parked the Mercury next to the famous Theme Building when there was public parking next to it, we'd walked to what today is Terminal 8 due south of the Theme Building this long before LAX built the upper terminal entrances. The terminal was BRAND NEW, famous analog Globe Clocks still covered with clear wrapping plastic, SMELLED like a new building, an extra bonus, wonderful!

We'd walked up to the United terminal where a CONVAIR CV-340 painted in classic period livery was parked portside connected to the jetway (yes I know CV-340s had upward opening doors next to the cockpit, probably cleared the jetway shroud with a walkway extension). The jetway door was closed, nobody else there when we'd arrived.

While waiting for the Gate Attendant & flight crew to arrive I'd looked over the CV-340, lotta engine blow grime, twin exhaust pipes were bright burnt orange color, not steel-colored, thought that weird even then, is why I remember that. When crew & passengers loaded on (think there were just a dozen passengers) Dad and I waited for the engines to fire-up and depart, port engine started first, lots of dirty white then bluish smoke, starboard engine started up shortly later, low, heavy rumbling of P&W R-2800s shook the floor, pure bliss then for this budding aviation fan!

After the airliner taxied away Dad and I departed LAX, we'd stopped at an IHOP on Century Boulevard to have breakfast, still was early morning, light traffic so it had to been a Saturday or Sunday. We'd sat at the counter, a feature still at IHOPs then; I had scrambled eggs with cheese & other things in it, didn't particularly like it, cost U.S. $1.50, thought that outrageous!

  • Member since
    September, 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Sunday, October 22, 2017 1:46 PM

I sort of get a clue looking under the car.

  • Member since
    June, 2004
  • From: 29° 58' N 95° 21' W
Posted by seasick on Sunday, October 22, 2017 3:06 PM

The exhaust is on the skin of the airplane which for a world war 2 airplane is made of either duraluminium or regular aluminium sheets. It behaves a little differently than steel. It has a bronze tint on it. I went out and looked at the muffeler on my lawn mower and that's what I saw. Rust has a more earthy brown look to it.

Chasing the ultimate build.

  • Member since
    September, 2016
Posted by Retired In Kalifornia on Sunday, October 22, 2017 11:04 PM

Earlier today posted that engine exhaust & blow grime depictions was a complicated topic, for me, reading comments on this thread fully agree metallic shade exhaust stains look realistic on "metal" airplane surfaces, exhaust stains on mixed metal, wood, aluminum doped fabric surfaces are something different.

Period photos of engine exhaust stains on mixed metal, wood, aluminum doped fabric Italian aircraft for example, including the rare color ones, don't look uniformly metallic, i.e. somewhat are over metal sections hardly to not at all over wood & doped sections. I build exclusively 1/72 scale, subtlety replicating such distinctions would be really challenging for me especially with radial engine airplanes, i.e. only places exhaust stains should be present are where gasses blow across parts of the airplane, that's an art onto itself in replicating. I might do a build to see if such subtlety is worthwhile the effort.

Insofar as exhaust stains over camouflage, whole bunch of considerations come into play not the least being condition of the camouflage paint itself. Photos of WWII camoflaged Italian airplanes particulary the color ones show stains ranging from oily coal black to powdery gray, some look "rusty" but hard to tell how saturated.

Over the years I've experiemented with various exhaust coloration combinations with my "Italians", safest are the proverbal 5 Shades Of Grey sometimes mixed with dabs of rust & steel on metal framed airplanes ala my inline fighters; it all depends what "looks good" on a particular build IMHO.


  • Member since
    October, 2005
  • From: UK
Posted by antoni on Monday, October 23, 2017 4:57 AM
Rusting is an electrochemical process that requires the presence of moisture. Rust is an amorphous, flaky, porous material consisting of hydrated red and brown iron oxides. e.g., hydrated iron(III) Fe2O3·nH2O and iron oxide-hydroxide FeO(OH)·Fe(OH)3. Heat oxidation results in a thin, hard patina of black (magnetite, Fe3O4 ) and brown iron oxides. These provide a measure of protection against rusting and it is called a passivation layer. Skilled blacksmiths can control this oxidation to produce a protective layer of magnetite in a process called 'bluing'.
  • Member since
    March, 2003
  • From: Canada
Posted by dogsbody on Sunday, November 12, 2017 4:46 PM

Though not pertaining directly to your question, please remember that the fuel used by the Allies during WW2 was highly leaded. This leaves a light grey residue inside the exhaust pipes and just aft of the pipes. It's more noticeable on inline engined planes but can be seen behind radial exhausts, too.

With a BMW 801, this may not be the case, due to the use of synthetic fuels by the Germans and different additional compounds to boost the octane levels.




"What young man could possibly be bored
with a uniform to wear,
a fast aeroplane to fly,
and something to shoot at?"


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