Cans and Cars

I really admire people who restore old cars, their patience is something that I have only dreamed of. Their ability to research the vehicle, source the parts and if need be, meticulously make parts and do this so many times during a project is just mind-blowing to me.

This doesn’t just apply to actual full-sized working cars, my admiration also goes out to people who build models and so when I came across the story of New South Wales man Albert ‘Tapper’ Torney, I was fascinated.

For more than fifty years he was seen doing his bottle run around Broken Hill with a potato sack in one hand, a roll-your-own hanging off his lip and a leather flying hat jammed down over his ears.

He was part of the town as he shuffled down the main streets, occasionally mumbling hello to passers-by as he scoured the streets and rubbish bins for refundable bottles and cans. Locals called him ‘Tapper’ for his bottle-tapping skills and reckoned he had a small fortune stacked away somewhere, yet the gentle, quiet man showed no signs of wealth.

‘Tapper’ was a man of few words who apparently had an amazing memory for dates and names, he kept to himself, never married, and worked for a New South Wales gas company. Everyone thought he was a bit eccentric, so when he passed in 1998 at 86 years of age, there were many ‘Tapper ‘stories being spread around, one being that he would sell all the bottles he collected but not all the cans, with the ones he saved being used to make an impressive collection of model cars like these.

I thought it was a great story how a loner who appeared to have nothing, was able to make such beautiful and intricate pieces of art using cans he collected from rubbish bins in the outback NSW town. But alas, as happens so many times nowadays the story was nothing more than a myth. Yes, these models are made from aluminum cans, and yes, they are very impressive, but sadly for the people of Broken Hill they weren’t made by ‘Tapper’.

For some reason, he was the basis of a hoax that implied that ‘Tapper’ built all the models from the cans he collected, but in fact, they were built by Sandy Sanderson in New Zealand. Now although the ‘Tapper’ story isn’t true, there is no denying that the model can cars that Sandy Sanderson builds are really quite amazing and his story of how it all started is fascinating. So, if you’d like to see more examples of Sandy’s work and maybe try your hand at building one, his website will be able to help you –

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