The Extreme Mechanic Who Escaped an African Desert by Turning His Broken-Down Car Into a Motorbike
Two decades ago, a Frenchman named Emile Leray had a very interesting adventure when his car broke down stranding him in the Moroccan desert. While most of us would have just panicked, Leray did something quite creative which gave him the title “extreme mechanic,” and rightly so. His story has only briefly appeared in the media until a Redditor found it recently, and soon Leray shared more details about what he did along with some of his photos.
In 1993, a French electrician named Emile Leray made a solo trip to Northern Africa when he was stopped by the military guarding a restricted area. Not wanting to go back, Leray decided to bypass the military outpost and keep traveling on his Citroen 2CV.
Leray, 43 at that time, was driving his Citroen 2CV from the Moroccan city of Tan-Tan across the Sahara. The Citroen 2CVs are known for their toughness and nicknamed “steel camels” because of their ability to go anywhere as long as they are driven gently. After traveling a while, he reached a military outpost of Royal Gendarmerie and was told that he could not go further because of new hostilities in the conflict between Morocco and Western Sahara.
The military people then asked him to take a passenger with him back to Tan-Tan. Leray refused to take the passenger referring to an insurance problem that doesn’t allow him to take passengers. He then turned his car back and, making sure the military wasn’t following him, turned off the road to bypass the military outpost and get back on his journey.
After traveling for a while, he lost control of his car because of the bumpy terrain and hit a rock which disabled the car. Feeling that he wouldn’t be able to make it on foot to the nearest village and as he has ample food and water to last ten days, he decided to turn his car into a motorbike instead.
The detour he took was, however, very uneven and bumpy, and soon he ended up hitting a large rock which broke down the car’s swing arm and wheel axle. With the food and water he had and the nearest village being ten kilometers away, Leray decided that he would have to risk it and build something that could get him back to civilization. So, the next morning he started working on his DIY bike.
“I could not have gone back on foot — it was too far. I put myself in what one calls “survival mode.” I ate less; I monitored my supplies of water and of food to make them last as long as possible.”
Leray dismantled the car and used its body as a shelter in case of sandstorms. He had no blow torches, welding machines, or drills. With just a handsaw, a hammer, and few basic tools he finished the conversion in twelve days.
After removing the car’s body, he first proceeded to shorten the chassis and attached the axles and the two wheels. Then he added the engine and the gearbox in the middle. After twelve days, he finished remaking his car into a motorbike with just a few basic tools and no blow torches, welding machines, or drills to help him. If he had to join any two parts, he just screwed them together instead. To make holes for the screws, he bent the metal at right angles, weakening it using a hacksaw or a round file, and then puncturing it with hammer and punch. He made the seat with the car’s bumper, and after 12 days he was just left with just a half liter of water.
Upon finishing his creation, Leray rode for a day to the nearest village. But, in an ironic twist, he got pulled over and fined by the Moroccan police for driving a vehicle for which he did not have a license.
When his bike was finally ready, he drove for a day only to be picked up by the Moroccan police. They drove him to the nearest village but gave him a heavy fine because his license documents were for a car and not the motorbike he was driving. His extreme mechanic abilities in such a situation were compared to the Marvel superhero Tony Stark’s Iron Man. He still keeps the bike with him as a memento from the days two decades ago when he had his unexpected, yet interesting, adventure.
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