Emile Leray Survived the Desert by Building a Motorbike out of his Broken-down Car


Emile Leray Survived the Desert by Building a Motorbike out of his Broken-down Car


Back in 1993, a Frenchman by the name of Emile Leray decided to take his Citroen 2CV on an adventure in the Moroccan desert. Leaving the town of Tan Tan in Morocco, he went on driving through the dunes, maybe to find himself; who knows. But the unforeseen happened and he crashed his car, rendering it useless. Stuck in the middle of nowhere, he realized that he was going to die there if he did nothing. “I put myself in what one calls ‘survival mode’. I could not have gone back on foot – it was too far.”  

Being an electrician, he was somewhat equipped for what he was to do next. Knowing he went too far as to return on foot, he decided to re-purpose his crashed car into a makeshift bike, which would then take him back to civilization. With 10 days of food and water rations at his disposal, he began his undertaking. A job that he first believed would take about 3 days, turned out to be four times as much, since he had only basic tools at his disposal.

He first removed the body of his Citroen and used it as a form of shelter against the frequent sandstorms. He also took off his socks and made them into sleeves, as to protect him from the scorching sun. As for the bike, he used the rear bumper of his car and made it into a seat of sorts, and then placed the engine and gearbox somewhere in the middle. Due to the Citroen’s transmission, he could only make it work in reverse.


By the time he was finished, it took him a total of 12 days, and with only half a liter of water to spare. He then got on his Mad Max-looking bike, and after a day’s ride through the desert, Emile was picked up by the Moroccan police who took him to the nearest village. Seemingly unimpressed by his remarkable undertaking and survival skills, the police handed him a huge fine ticket because the registration documents for his car no longer corresponded to what he was actually driving.

Even though his adventure became somewhat public in France during the 1990’s, the story didn’t really take on. He never did brag about his daring escape either, and his story was forgotten up until recently when it resurfaced. Now 62 years old, Emile Leray still has his own motorbike as a keepsake from Morocco, and lives quietly somewhere in northwest France.

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