In 1993, French man Emile Leray, then 43-years old and an electrician by profession, decided to embark on an adventure in his Citroen 2CV. From the city of Tanta in Egypt, Emile planned to drive across the Moroccan desert in his baby Citroen. However, things turned awry midway through the trip, as Emile crashed his car while going off road in the desert, leaving him stranded in the middle of nowhere with a broken car.
With no help at hand, no one around him for hundreds of miles, no communication devices and the harsh Moroccan sun beating down on him, Emile did the unthinkable to plot his escape – build a makeshift, working motorcycle using parts from his broken Citroen. Using just basic tools, which didn’t include power tools, drills, blowtorches or welding equipment, Emile built his amazing escape device by just screwing the salvaged car parts together. He gave himself three days to transform the wrecked car into a motorcycle, and reckoned that the supplies and water he had on board would last for ten days.
After charting out a plan, and taking into consideration all the physical/mechanical limitations, Emile started to work on his DIY motorcycle the next morning. He started with taking apart his Citroen, using the body-shell to shelter himself from the sweltering heat and the angry dust storms. With his birthday suit as his working overalls, Emile slowly starts to put together the ingenious two-wheeler that’ll help him escape the cruel sands.
His clever engineering saw him convert the car’s rear bumper into a rudimentary seat, shorten the chassis, and place the engine and transmission in the middle to create a vehicle that he reckoned would last for enough time to reach civilisation. However, the Citroen’s transmission, a drum-type arrangement that drives the rear wheel friction, which, by the laws of physics and mechanics, forced Emile to ride his motorcycle in reverse only.
Eventually, he took all of twelve days to complete the project, and with only half a litre of drinking water left, he started the motorcycle and set off on his journey out of the desert. After a day of riding Emile was picked up by the Moroccan police force who took him to the nearest village, successfully ending his dramatic escape. Ironically, the police also charged him a big fine because the registration documents for his car no longer corresponded to what he was driving!
Although Emile’s fascinating story appeared in brief on French television and newspapers in ’93, he recently found fame when his commendable feat emerged again on a motoring website. Mr Leray, now more than 60 years old is living in northwest France. He still keeps the motorcycle as a memento of his incredible escape from the Moroccan desert. His exploits have earned him the ‘world’s most extreme mechanic’ tag, and deservedly so.
All images courtesy Daniel Denis of 2CV magazine; online source [in French]