Stranded in the desert near Tan Tan, a French man turned his car into a motorcycle

French electrician Emile Leray is known to the rest of the world as the man who turned his car into a motorcycle to survive hunger and thirst in the Moroccan Sahara. In 1993, his car broke near Tan Tan after he was on a solo trip to the desert.

The car of Emile Leray and his the bike he rebuilt in the middle of the desert./Ph. DR
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He was in the middle of the Sahara with a broken-down car. French electrician Emile Leray was on a solo trip to Morocco in 1993 when he lived one of the most dangerous yet innovative experiences in his life.

Leray’s story started when he arrived in Tan Tan, a city in the Guelmim-Oued Noun region. His plan was to travel to the Sahara, riding his trusted car, a Citroen 2CR. Leaving Tan Tan, Leray was stopped at a military outpost by the Royal Gendarmerie whose members told him that he couldn’t go any further.

«There had been an upscaling of conflict between Morocco and the Polisario down the road. He would have to backtrack to Tan Tan», wrote History Garage, recalling the epic voyage of the French electrician.

Stranded in the Sahara

Forced to end his trip at its first stages, Leray had a second plan. His idea was to pretend that he was returning to the city and once off sight, get off road and «navigate around the restricted area», Leray told the Sunday Times.

«I decided to do it in a 2CV because, although it is not a 4x4 it is tough (…) In Africa, they call it the ‘Steel Camel’ because it goes everywhere, provided you drive it gently», he recalled. However, Leray’s idea was not a good one and he was not as gentle as he predicted.

Once off road the car broke down, leaving him in a remote area. «I obviously was too rough because I broke it», he told the same source.

The French traveler broke his Citroen’s swing arm and wheel axle. The car was completely undrivable and Leray had to spend days in the Sahara to figure out how to get to the nearest village. But unfortunately, the 43-year-old was located in the desert tens of kilometers way from the nearest settlement.

«I could not have gone back foot-, it was too far», he told the Daily Mail. Indeed, Leray was between the devil and the blue sea, with a few supplies and water and a broken car that he couldn’t fix.

Turning a car into a bike

Leray slept that night in the desert without thinking of a way out but the next morning he woke up with a brilliant idea in mind. «I put myself in what one calls survival mode», said the man who decided to convert his broken car into a motorcycle to escape the desert and reach for Tan Tan.

At the beginning he thought that the 'not so easy' plan would take him two to three days but he ended up spending twelve days in the Sahara, cutting and using parts of his car to make his survival motorcycle.

«I ate less, I monitored my supplies of water and of food to make them last as long as possible», he recalled.

The French electrician «made sleeves from his socks, then set about removing parts from the 2CV without proper tools», indicated History Garage, adding that he «would bend parts, using other scraps of metal and what tools he had for survival».

For the tick pieces, Leray drilled holes in the ground with metal bits and «created guides for the screws he salvaged». In fact, Leray repurposed «the wheel arm, attaching it to part of the chassis, and slapping the engine in the middle». He then added a seat for when he is riding the DIY motorcycle.

«He regularly fell off the seat», wrote the Daily Mail, indicating that Leray successfully drove his motorcycle and was picked up by the police who drove him to the nearest village.

After this crazy experience, Emile Leray became history’s most innovative driver. He shortly appeared on French Television in the 1990s after his Morocco trip but his story went viral on the internet when experimented drivers tried to recreate his bike but couldn’t.

In an episode of the MythBusters, an American-Australian television program, hosts tried to rebuild Leray’s motorcycle using the parts of a 2CV. However, the two men failed disastrously.

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