The following text was given to me for posting by French modellist and collector of militaria, Bernard VITTE ( b.vitte@libertysurf.fr ) who deserves our grateful thanks for sharing with us the fruits of his labours
English translation © Renaud Olgiati 2001.


To sum-up the question of paint on our military vehicles, here is the result of my research:

As you can see on war-time pictures, the problem is far from simple: first we have the civilian vehicles comandeered by the Army; some were used as is, in their original black lacker, with chromium-plated accessories and even somtimes their civilian licence-plate; some went through the whole war like this. Others were repainted, sone or several times; the coulour used then was that in vigour for military vehicles. Finally we have the purely military vehicles, built under contract for the government, which were delivered in their military paint.

In conclusion :

Keep in mind that the paints available then are different from those used now: they were in the form of a powder or paste that had to be mixed with petrol (gazoline) or water, which gave rise to wide variations in the shade of the final produce.

Again, these were applied by non-specialists and in often under field conditions: some vehicles were partly dismantled and sprayed, others had one or several coats brushed on; you may find, vehicles with several coats of different colours superposed.

So, please, dont try to be too exact in your restaurations.

Last of all, several of the RAL references quoted above no longer appear in today's catalogues.

Some tips for painting:

If possible, use lorry-type paints, semi-matt (satin) ou matt, with spray-on hardener.

In those days the matting agent was talcum powder; dosage is critical and, if you get it wrong, the paint does not hold. Better use modern ingredients, and the easiest is to go visit our local friendly car paint supply shop. (Glasurit, PPG, etc.)

Dont forget that matt paint will absorb very easily any oil or grease. 

The normal practice was to spray one coat of paint on top of the Rotbraun anti-rust primer

If you must touch-up, do it with a brush, and it will look more authentic.

For camouflage patterns and small parts, use a modeller's aerograph connected to a compressor, with a pressure between 2 and 3 bars maximum (It is very handy, and you will save a lot of paint ! !)

Tactical and divisional markings were stencilled on, hand painted of sometimes came as decals.


WARNING : The names given with the RAL numbers in this list are the names used at the time, and not the present-day ones; some have changed since. Trust in the RAL Number, this has not changed

At the end of each note, the Humbrol Paints reference number is given in bold figures. (Note 2)

1932-1937  (Reichswehr)



1005 Erdgelb Nr 22

Sand yellow of the three-coloured camouflage - 81

6002 Grün Nr 27

Green of the three-coloured camouflage - ?

7016 Anthrazitgrau

Grey used as base colour on vehicules. In camouflage covers about 2/3 of the surface - 134

8002 Signalbraun

Brown used for irregular patches on camouflaged vehicules (différent from the RAL 8002 of today) - 186+94

8014 Braun Nr 18g

Brown of the three-coloured camouflage - ?

1937-1945  1- « Continental » colours

1001 Elfenbein Paint used on the inside of armoured vehicles. It is very likely that this paint or the RAL 1002
was used for the helmets and equipment of the Afrika Korps
1002 Sandgelb See note above
3009 Oxirot Anti-rust primer from 1939 to 1945. 
Primary colour of the three-colours camoflage from Nov. 1944 to May 1945 (see also RAL 8012 Rot Braun). 70
 6003 Olivgrün Camouflage patches on  Dunkelgrau RAL 7021 background (Eastern Front 1942)
Camouflage patches on Dunkelgelb RAL 7028  background (Feb 1943 to Oct 1944)
Background paint of the three-colour camouflage (nov 1944 to May 1945)
Camouflage patches on anti-rust primer RAL 3009 - 117
6006 Feldgrau Wehrmacht standard paint from1935 to1945 - 108
6009 Tannengrün Pine green used by the Police Forces
7011 Eisengrau Paint for railway rolling-stock (steam engines)Used on road vehicles in the absence of RAL 7021 - 79
7017 Dunkelbraun Nr 45 Broken-lines motifs on Dunkelgrau RAL 7021 (2 colours camouflage 1937) -10
7021 Dunkelgrau Nr 46 Background colour for the 2 colours camouflage 1937 Changed name after 1937 et becomes 7021 Schwarzgrau - 67 (182 ?)
7021 Schwartzgrau « Panzer Grey » background colour on vehicules from 1940 to Feb 1943 .
7028 Dunkelgelb  Standard paint for all military vehicles and equipment.
Background paint of the three-colour camouflage (Feb 1943 to Oct. 1944)
Camouflage patches on RAL 6003 background (Nov. 1944 to May 1945)
Camouflage patches on red anti-rust primer (Nov 1944 to Mai 1945)
Many variations in shade and tint observed - 94
This reference has gone through two avatars, the colour being  changed in April 1943. See "Tarnanstriche des deutschen Heeres 1914 bis heute" by Johannes Denecke (Bernard und Graefe,  ISBN 3763762191, 9783763762194) for more details.
7033 Grüngrau Paint for the inside of vehicles: floorpans, gratings, and of mechanical assemblies - 115
8012 Rotbraun Colour of the anti-rust primer for vehicles and equipmeent (voir RAL 3009)
Also used for camouflage patches.
8017 Rotbraun (Schokoladenbraun) Camouflage patches on Dunkelgelb RAL 7028 background (Feb 1943 to Oct 1944)
Camouflage patches on Olivgrun RAL 6003 background (Nov 1944 to May 1945) - 160
9001 Cremeweiß
Background of licence plates
9002 Grauweiss Used for numbers, and tactical markings - 28 + 34

Périod 1937-1945     2- Colours of the « Deutsche Afrika Korp »



7008 Graugrün

Camouflage patches on Gelbbraun RAL 8000 (Grünbraun) background Used from March 1941 to April 1942 - 26

7027 Sandgrau

Camouflage patches on Gelbbraun RAL 8000 background (May 1942 to May 1943)
Vehicles delivered with their continental RAL 7021 were covered with irregular patches of wavy lines of this colour -187

8000 Gelbbraun   (Grünbraun)

Background colour from March 41 to April 42 - 118+93

Notes: (added by R.Olgiati)

Note 1: RAL is the acronym of "Reichsausschuß für Lieferbedingungen" more or less the National Board for Quality Control. Founded in the Thirties. It is now called"Deutsches Institut für Gütesicherung und Kennzeichnung e.V."

The RAL Design System now in use has been developed for professional colour design. It contains 1688 colours arranged in a systematical order. All these 7-digit colour shades are defined as individual RAL Colours.

The references given in this page are to the old RAL system, now known as the RAL Classic system. The difference between this and the new system is that the colour codes of the new RAL Design System are not arranged arbitrarily. The number refers directly to the measured values of Hue, Lightness and Chrominance of the colour.

For more information have a look at the Official RAL web-site

Note 2: For paint reference equivalences in other brands, see the web-site of the German Military Miniatures Magazine which has a wealth of paint information. They also list a number of War-time VWs models in their catalogue.

Note 3: Apart from some very early Panzergrau models, Küblewagen bodies and platforms did not receive any primer, but were dunked wholesale in a vat of paint.

Colours used on the VW Kübelwagen

Lawrence Anthony Martin has sent me the following information: The standard Typ 82 bodies were painted in Dunkelgrau RAL 7021 at the Ambi-Budd Presswerk plant from the start of production in 1940 until sometime in late June/early July 1943 when their stock of Dunkelgrau paint finally ran out. At that time they changed the colour to Dunkelgelb RAL 7028, as directed earlier in February 1943 by HM 181.

It seems that KdF had even larger quantities of Dunkelgrau in store, which is why they continued painting the rolling chassis and engine sheetmetal they produced in that colour until as late as April 1944, when this too was changed to Dunkelgelb.

This explains why a Kübel built between July 1943 and April 1944 came out with a dark-coloured chassis under a light-coloured body.

As a wartime resources saving measure, the Herresmitteilungen allowed explicitely for existing paint supplies to be used up before switching to the new colour scheme.

Note on RAL 7028 Dunkelgelb by Martin Heyman: The original unit colour for agricultural machinery was RAL 7028 Dunkelgelb (I) was not used by the Reichswehr and the Wehrmacht. It is, however, safe to assume that the colour was beeing tested.

In March 1943, a new “Dunkelgelb” (2) colour scheme for motor vehicles and guns of the army was officially introduced after an extensive trial phase (first deployments are documented from the beginning of 1942) with the notification of Army 1943 no. 181 of February 1943 and replaced the Dunkelgrau (RAL 7021). However, this was the second variant of the RAL 7028, called RAL 7028 Dunkelgelb nach Muster (also referred to as RAL 7028/43).

Dunkelgelb nach Muster, or simply “Dunkelgelb” and was used until late summer / autumn 1944 when it was replaced by 7028 Dunkelgelb Ausgabe 1944 (also referred to as RAL 7028/44). Dunkelgelb Ausgabe 1944 (3) was somewhat darker and less yellow than the Dunkelgelb nach Muster, and had a very light rust-proof.

Colours used on the VW saloons 1938-1947

Andrew Thilby has sent me the copies of five pages he himself had received from Dr. Wiersch, of the VW Museum in Wolfsburg. They are pages 173 to 175, in a chapter with the title "Farben der VW-Käfer Limousinen von 1938 bis 1985".
I have extracted and translated the information concerning the years that are of interest to us (1939-1947). If you need the information for later years, contact me.
If you should happen to know the title (and author) of that book, I would be grateful for the information, so I can attribute the credit where it is due, and add the book to the bibliography.
English translation © Renaud Olgiati 2001.

Body colours



black RAL 9005; more rarely blue grey RAL 7011


black RAL 9005, grey RAL 6006 or RAL 7021, Army colours; more rarely blue grey RAL 7011, beige RAL 1002


grey RAL 6006 or RAL 7021; Army colours


grey RAL 6006 or RAL 7021, sand RAL 8002 or RAL 1002, Army colours.


Khakigreen (Army), red RAL 3000 (Reichpost) and other.


servicegreen (GB), brown (UdSSR), Air Force blue (RAF), light grey (F), dark grey (USA), deep black L41, grey L28 and other.

This colour list does not apply to the Cabriolets and special models with bespoke paint jobs. Remeber that in the old days it was possible to have a car painted according to the customer's individual preference. Lastly, the tint of a given colour can vary from year to year.

The cars produced before 1946 were painted with colours referenced in the RAL system, which you can still refer to today. But the tints used were not always a very exact match of the standard: the paint was often mixed "by eye". Base youself on what you find, from a protected sample of the original paint, to determine which is the RAL colour closest to the original.

Civilian vehicles:


blue grey RAL 7011 deep black RAL 9005   field grey RAL 6006 dark grey RAL 7021 beige RAL 1002

Dettsche Rot Kreuz / Reichpost

red RAL 3000 night grey RAL 7021


Brown RAL 8014

Police / Fire brigade:

Russian green RAL 6009 black RAL 9005


Brown RAL 8014


field grey RAL 6006 dark grey RAL 7021 earth yellow RAL 8002 beige RAL 1002 pilot blue RAL 7016

and so on.

The cars produced for high-ranking party officials were usually black, but from mid-1942 some were painted in dark grey. The cars for civilian users were often painted in blue-grey. Vehicles of the VW Customer Service for civilian use were generally in beige, service vehicles in the front zone were in the regulation field-grey or dark grey colours. Cars for the Army Transport corp (Heereszeugamt) in Kassel were dark grey, field-grey or in Army colours.

As far as I can tell, the colour known in VW documentation as "sand colour" is the "beige" RAL 1002 Army colour. It is likely that cars were also painted in the "earth yellow" RAL 8002 colour.

Coulours for the wheels, hub-caps, bumpers etc.

In addition to the colours used for the body of the cars, VW also used other colours for the wheels, seat-frames, door-handles etc.

Those colours are even less known, and at time there is no record whatsoever. The following list will give you the special colours used on various parts of the VW Beetle sedan. Note that these colours from the fifties are only partially listed in the spare parts catalogues, or even completely undocumented. They have been painstakingly checked on unrestaured old vehicles, but deviations from the colours given here cannot be ruled out. Hence one is strongly advised to check if the colour given here accords whith the original colour of the part to be painted. If not, one should have paint mixed to match that of the original colmour of the part in question. As far as one can tell from the pictures taken at the time, everything in the old off-road sedans was painted in the colour of the car body.

Bumpers, hub-caps and door-handles

Same colour as the bodywork, sometimes (rarely) chromium-plated.

Windscreen wipers, steering column and steering wheel, seat frames, gear and handbrake levers, pedals, fuel tap:

black L41

Rubber floor-mats


Wheels and VW insigna on the hub-caps

1938 till mid-1947: The wheels were painted in the colour of the body shell. Until May 1943, some cars had painted rounded hubcaps stamped with the VW-logo, inside a cog-wheel and a stylized swastika.

Mid-1947 till mid-1948: Wheels were usually painted red, and from 10/1947 the hub-caps in the colour of the car body had a big VW logo painted in red. A domed chromium-plated hubcap, without logo, was available at an additional cost.


Last update 18/07/2017