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Albert (Tapper) Torney and the Can Car Sculptures That He Did NOT Make

by Brett M. Christensen

This story was first published on January 6, 2014


Circulated message that features pictures of intricate model cars made from aluminium cans claims that the models were made by the late Albert (Tapper) Torney of Australia’s Broken Hill.

Brief Analysis

Albert (Tapper) Torney was a real person and an iconic character in Broken Hill. He indeed collected cans and bottles around the town for many years before his death in 1998. However, Albert did not make the can car models featured in the attached photographs. The pictured models were made by New Zealand resident, Sandy and can be viewed on his Sandy CanCars website. There are reports that Albert did make can models, but these reports remain unsubstantiated.

*OLD CANS!*He used to go to all the public functions…especially the picture theaters.
And he always carried a sugar bag to collect empty bottles and cans.His name was… Albert (Tapper) Torney.
Everyone thought he was a bit eccentric and kids would tease and hassle him.
Then it was discovered that he sold the empty bottles but only some of the cans.
After he died in 1998 (aged 86) his large collection of model cars made from aluminum cans was discovered.This goes to prove…”you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover” – or a sculptor by his sugar bag.Some of his collection —-AMAZING!


Detailed Analysis

This message, which features a series of images depicting amazing model cars made out of aluminium cans, claims that the models were made by Albert (Tapper) Torney, late of Broken Hill, Australia. According to the message, Albert collected cans and bottles around Broken Hill for many years. But, claims the message, it was not until his death in 1998 that Albert’s collection of can car models was discovered.

It’s a great story. But, alas, the story strays from the path of truth. The pictured can cars are not the work of Albert (Tapper) Torney as claimed. In fact, the cars were made by a New Zealand man by the name of Sandy. Pictures of the very same car models are available on the Sandy’s CanCars website. The site also provides detailed information about how the can cars are made and how Sandy came to start building them. Visitors can even purchase plans that allow them to make their own cars.

There is little doubt that Sandy rather than Albert made the models in the circulating pictures. And the cars themselves provide evidence. Some of the cars are made from Waikato Beer cans, a New Zealand product. It seems doubtful that Albert would have found many discarded New Zealand beer cans in his travels around Broken Hill.

I contacted Sandy to ask about the origins of the hoax message and he replied with the following information:

I became aware of this hoax email a few years ago, and I have no idea where or by whom it was started. I was actually contacted by the Broken Hill Museum to ask us if I was the actual creator of these cars which I am, as they were getting so many people phoning them and calling in to find out about the cars. It got so frequent that they decided to do something as they had never heard of this Tapper fellow. 

Every couple of days I get emails from people all around the world that have thought that the Albert Tapper email looked a bit phoney, and have googled and found my cars, and hence me. I just ask them to reply to who sent them the email, and for them to reply etc to reverse the email trend.

But, while the message misidentifies the real creator of the can models, the other information about Albert (Tapper) Torney is correct. Albert was a much-loved Broken Hill character who collected cans and bottles around the town for decades.  A 1987 newspaper article describes how Albert walked for kilometres every day scouring the town for refundable bottles. The report states that, even in 1987, Albert had been collecting for fifty years.

I also contacted the Broken Hill Historical Society for information about Albert. They subsequently confirmed in a reply email that, although Albert did go around collecting bottles in his day, the car models in the photographs were not his. They also note that at the time the models would have been made, Albert was an old man living in a nursing home.

Some reports suggest that Albert also made can models, although I’m yet to confirm these reports. Perhaps, whoever cobbled the circulating story together mistakenly believed that the pictures really did depict Albert’s work. Or, perhaps in the absence of any pictures of Albert’s models, the author decided to substitute the work of another.

Either way, unfortunately, the message is a disservice to both Sandy and Albert. Sandy should be acknowledged for his artwork and his talent should not be attributed to another. And, Albert was a colourful and interesting character in his own right and it is unfair that his name has been forever hitched to an untruth.

Albert Torney Memorial