A significant part of captivating the life and authenticity of a historic military vehicle is accurately achieving the infamous camouflage pattern. After you spend all the time revamping underneath the hood and bringing the interior to life, a less-than-perfect exterior can null and void all that hard work. With the body being the face of your restoration project and the introduction to the vehicle's history, there are several things to know before you dive in.
Let's take a closer look at how to create a military camouflage pattern on your Jeep and how these unique designs came to fruition.
The subject of camouflage on vintage vehicles is relatively popular amongst enthusiasts and hobbyists. Many who own these military vehicles will restore them with camo paint jobs, even when the originating year and purpose did not intend on camo. A prime example of this is the pre-1975 versions did not possess the popular camo pattern, but it's relatively easy to find restored M37 trucks from the 50s and 60s with a new camouflage paint job.
Painting Camouflage on Military Vehicles
The primary purpose of these efforts went through testing and approval to ensure effectiveness. This effort proved successful in confusing the enemy and increasing survivability on the battlefield. The arrangement of colors breaks up the lines of an object to deceive the eye.
Each piece of machinery or equipment has a specific set of outlining plans that denote the wavy lines with an assigned colorway. Each number reflected the required paint job, and these numbers are particular to every color except black. If black is necessary for that piece, the outline is in black instead of a number designation. A detailed design explains each vehicle area that will receive a camo paint job: front, back, top, right side, and left side.
Basic Overview of Camouflage
The concept of camouflage creates a pattern that makes the object more difficult to find or see. In the case of military vehicles, painting them in camouflage and using them as weapons delivery or soldier hideouts enabled the military to deter their attackers. Earth berms and brush contributed to concealing things like supply dumps, gun emplacements, and encampments.
When aircraft became the norm, this process increased in popularity as it helped change the overall appearance of an object to the observers overhead. This need also included the sites of those from satellite viewpoints.
The modern age also brought an onslaught of requirements regarding advanced sensor usage. These helped detect infrared signatures and probe for various wavelengths that could reveal military activity, personnel, and equipment.
The use of local materials helped craft a meticulous camouflage netting, which helped conceal any locations with a static position. Additionally, the camouflage effort helped hide military vehicle marks when they relocated.
Military Vehicles Before 1975
Camouflage was not in frequent and recurring use until 1975 and later. Before this effort, most vehicles received an olive drab paint job with white or blue markings. There are various shades of olive drab in the official paint code requirements, and this was helpful to the local shops who painted the vehicles because sometimes one paint was available and another was not. Due to much fluctuation, olive drab went through various changes.
According to FM 5-20B, there was a selective camouflage vehicle process in World War II, which specified the composition of a dark and a light color. In the Camouflage of Vehicles outline, we learn the following:
Olive drab and black prove satisfactory in a variety of operations. The chosen light color is specific to the vehicle's primary operating terrain. A light grey or white paint will function as the undersurface coat and cause the vehicle to reflect light. This process will create a countershading effect and lighten the darker shadows in the undercarriage.
The combinations for vehicles in circulation included:
- Black and olive drab for the jungle and temperate zones
- Earth red and olive drab for desert terrains
- White and olive drab for snowy environments with trees
3-Color Vs. 4-Color Camouflage Patterns
In 1975, the general use of camouflage on vehicles rolled out, and the original pattern specified the use of four colorways. This specific color pattern is also known as MERDC, reflecting the Mobility Equipment Research and Design Command.
During the 80s, the United States and other NATO countries updated the camouflage specifications to include a three-color pattern design, and the painting instructions changed in 1988 to reflect these updates. These three-colorway designs also received the name NATO camo, though, on occasion, NATO described them as SCAPP, which reflects Standard Camouflage Pattern Painting.
Specific vehicles used three and four colorways, including:
- Three color patterns: M151A2, M998 HMMWV
- Four color patterns: M416 trailer
Patterns and Colors
There were a total of 12 colors that created the camouflage patterns, though a vehicle could only use 3 or 4 at one time. They needed a total of 12 to enable the ability to meet the environmental needs of a piece of equipment or vehicle.
If the designated colorway combination did not match the local conditions, the commander had the power to modify the paint pattern with the choices in the 12-color list. They were not allowed to mix colors to create their own, which would essentially destroy the original color intent.
The 12 essential color options and their abbreviations include:
- White (W)
- Desert Sand (DS)
- Sand (S)
- Earth Yellow (EY)
- Earth Red (ER)
- Field Drab (FD)
- Earth Brown (EB)
- Olive Drab (OD)
- Light Green (LG)
- Dark Green (DG)
- Forest Green (FG)
- Black (BL)
The climate and conditions determine which colorways are most suitable when it comes to the combinations. A few examples with appropriate color abbreviations include:
- Winter Arctic – W
- Red desert – ER, EY, S, BL
- Tropics – FG, DG, LG, BL
- US and European summer – FG, LG, S, BL
Understanding the military's intent and pattern specifications allows your restoration project to receive an authentic military-grade camouflage paint job. Army Jeep Parts has a unique selection of various military vehicle paint for sale that correlates to the 3-color and 4-color pattern designations and multiple sheen levels. To learn more about how to create a military camouflage pattern on your Jeep, contact us today! We assist hobbyists and enthusiasts in all vintage vehicle restoration projects.