L is for Emile Leray

This is my contribution to Round Eleven of ABC Wednesday and again I am focusing on people, some famous, some infamous and some half-forgotten.
Leray today aged 62 with his makeshift bike

Leray today aged 62 with his makeshift bike

A story emerged earlier this year of an amazing feat of extreme auto engineering by Frenchman, Emile Leray, that allowed him to escape being stranded in a Moroccan desert in 1993.

Leray had been driving from the city of Tan-Tan in his battered Citroën CV when he was stopped at a military outpost and told he could go no further because of the conflict between Morocco and Western Sahara, in the area beyond Tilemsem.

Undeterred, Leray went off-road to drive round the restricted area which was when his troubles began. He crashed into a rock, causing the Citroën’s swingarm and axle to snap, making it undrivable.

Leray and his improvised Citroën CV shelter

Leray and his improvised Citroën CV shelter

The nearest village was twenty miles away and Leray didn’t think he could make it on foot in the harsh conditions. After giving it some thought, he decided that his only option was to devise his own transport from the wreck of the CV.

Luckily, he had a small supply of food and water and a few basic tools, so he started by removing the car body which became his improvised shelter as you can see on the right.

Leray and his bike in 1993

Leray and his bike in 1993

Working under the scorching sun in a short-sleeved shirt, he protected his arms by making sleeves out of a pair of socks while he tinkered with a design that was straight out of Mad Max.

Using fairly basic tools, such as a hacksaw, Leray shortened the car’s chassis before reattaching the axles and two of the wheels, as well as installing the engine, gearbox and petrol tank in the middle and fashioning a seat from the bumper.

Emile Leray's BikeLeray thought it would take just a few days to create his motorbike, but it was twelve days before he was ready to drive it by which time he was down to his last half a litre of water.

After a day he had made his way back to the highway where he was picked up by the Moroccan police who drove him to the nearest village. They also slapped him with a hefty fine because his vehicle no longer matched the registration documents!

Although his story appeared briefly on French television at the time, Leray did not publicise it further until it appeared on a motoring website. He now has his own site, although it is in French so you might need Google Translate.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

5 comments… Add yours
  • Pierre Pudding 3rd October 2012

    I shan’t say a word about Emile Leray because he’s French and yours is a “family blog”.

  • Roger Green 3rd October 2012

    a creative fellow!

    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  • Janis 3rd October 2012

    Great story of a motivated guy!

  • Leslie 3rd October 2012

    Well, I guess he figured he better use his brain or die! Great story!

    abcw team

  • rhymeswithplague 3rd October 2012

    This is not a person whose inventiveness is to be admired. This is a person whose stupidity is to be deplored. He should have been held accountable for (a) his utter disregard for the military authorities, (b) his complete contempt for advice of others, and (c) his hard head that made him determined to do what he pleased in spite of their warnings. I am glad he survived, but I hope he learned a valuable lesson.


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