Man, stranded in the desert, makes a motorcycle from his broken car

The original story is in French, and the Google translate is very rough. Please forgive us if we don’t get this completely accurate.

While traveling through the desert somewhere in north west Africa in his Citroen 2CV , [Emile] is stopped, and told not to go any further due to some military conflicts in the area. Not wanting to actually listen to this advice, he decides to loop around, through the desert, to circumvent this roadblock.

After a while of treading off the beaten path, [Emile] manages to snap a swing arm on his vehicle, leaving him stranded. He decided that the best course of action was to disassemble his vehicle and construct a motorcycle from the parts. This feat would be impressive on its own, but remember, he’s still in the desert and un-prepared. If we’re reading this correctly, he managed to drill holes by bending metal and sawing at it, then un-bending it to be flat again.

It takes him twelve days to construct this thing. There are more pictures on the site, you simply have to go look at it. Feel free to translate the labels and post them in the comments.

Update: From [Semicolo] in the comments

You got the translation right, but there’s not just a swing arm that’s broken, there’s a frame beam broken too (not sure about the exact term, one of the 2 girder of the chassis).
He’s not far away but he has a lot of tools and other hardware that could be stolen if he leaves them unattended.

[via Reddit]


  1. Paul says:

    This is clearly a load of bullshit. I’m surprised you fell for this, Hackaday!

    • Caleb Kraft says:

      please elaborate.

      • BurlyMan2012 says:

        Can’t really speak for Paul, but it would seem that someone who is “stranded” in the desert (who happens to be smart and skilled enough to do this) would pick any of the obviously better decisions than to disassemble his car and turn it into motorcycle, not even considering that if he could MAKE A MOTORCYCLE, why couldn’t he “fix” a broken swing arm.
        A person who

        • Caleb Kraft says:

          I concur that it sounds absolutely insane. I was just asking for an explanation more like yours than his short statement. It looks pretty staged to me. There is a lot of very aesthetic thought going on here that probably wouldn’t have happened in real life.

          He could have removed the body and rigged a single wheel in front much faster and easier(if it is rear wheel drive).

      • BurlyMan2012 says:

        I agree with the idea of “Innocent until proven BS,” … now if only I can power my ipod with gatorade and an onion…I guess the part I really don’t like, is how he supposedly did this all with a hacksaw. I’d think he’d need a hundred blades, and his arms would fall off after having to cut all that, as if he could ever even cut a single hardened shaft with a hacksaw.

      • ideeman1994 says:

        Not possible, it’s a front wheel drive car :)

        One of the reasons he did this was because he didn’t want to abandon the car where it could be vandalized or stolen

      • ethicalpaul says:

        Yeah, he wouldn’t want to leave it where it could be vandalized, by for instance, some psycho who might try to turn it into a motorcycle. This story is total BS

      • Jose martinez says:

        This is what is known as a “crock of shit”,How did he weld,drill and bend the metal??He could not have just repaired it??You folks should be ashamed of yourselves.

        • Doc Fox says:

          Arc welder from battery and spare wiring loom. Bending metal using heat from a camp fire and plenty of leverage. Metalworking is a skill that dates back to around 4000bc. Shouldn’t be too hard for a 20th century guy to bend a bit of metal without calling in a specialist.

    • alucard says:

      omg!!!!!! c’est un fou mais je l’aime bien ^^ j’aurais toujours révé de faire ca!!

    • Eirinn says:

      Bullshit? I’m part french and i can tell you one thing. If ANYONE were to do this… he’d be french! ;) But yes, seems very staged.

    • Steve says:

      You’re a twat Paul

    • Bean says:

      I’m leaning toward bullshit myself. Would you take the extra time, while stranded in the desert, to create a kickstand for it?

    • edonovan says:


      I know when I want to keep my property from getting vandalized, the first thing I do is cut it apart with a hacksaw.

      There are a lot of logic holes about the motive. If there are valuables that you can’t leave alone, will you be able to take them with you on the motorcycle? Seems easier to just bury your stuff and go for help.

      Also, if it took you 12 days to build said motorcycle and not be rescued, I think you had enough time to go get a tow truck.

      I think without the story, it’s a cool project, though.

    • Jesmabrb says:

      The man was a bike enthusiast, he has his new bike handles in the back seat just waiting to put them on his bike. Road block makes him wait longer so he decides to detour. Broken down and stranded he thinks to himself… “Why not make a bike now so i don’t have to wait as long. Haha look mom i can make BS up too!

      • Doc Fox says:

        His ‘handlebars’ are the main body of a stripped down 2cv’s jack. (They came as standard equipment in a 2cv along with a starting handle and wooden wheel-choc.)

  2. Hyratel says:

    absolutely boss.

  3. lwatcdr says:

    It does seem very well stupid. If one was smart enough to pull that off it would seem that you would also be smart enough buy one of these
    If you where going to drive your 2CV in the desert in Africa in the middle of a war.

  4. vpoko says:

    Doesn’t really sound plausible.

  5. titoblog says:

    Informations from the pictures :
    – The chassis was cut to keep only the central part. Front and back extensions were dismissed
    – The direct transmission. The brake is at the top of the rear-wheel. Due to the transmission rotation you have to drive in rear-gear, maxing at 20km/h
    – The saddle was made from the end of the rear bumper covered by the felt of the dashboard and held in place with orange duct tape
    – The right-drum is blocked so that the differential distributes all the power to the left one
    – The front wheel is the only one to have a suspension
    – The handlebar is made from the main piece of the jack. On that are fixed the gears and electrics command
    – The immatriculation plate is necessary but didn’t prevent a fine for non-conform vehicule importation
    – The gas inlet pipe is used as kickstand

    • petrus says:

      you’re almost right, but it wasn’t a direct transmission, but a “friction transmission”, like the old french Velosolex from the same era, with a first wheel on the motor, and that wheel was touching the rear wheel.

  6. deadlyfoez says:

    Yeah, either this guy is a freaking genius or this is a huge load of crap. Sounds like a load of crap to me.

  7. Rex Dart says:

    But why did he construct ladies’ undergarments from his own garments?

  8. plfx says:

    I think this is probably a dramatization. “Based on a true story”, so to speak.

    Probably when he developed problems with his suspension he decided to frivolously pursue a mod to his vehicle. I don’t think he did so without the support of civilization, or our of necessity.

    And yes, the way it is presented is bullshit.

    • ideeman1994 says:

      It really happened! I don’t know why the dude did this, but the motorcycle is real, and still exposed, I don’t remember where ;)

      • Wolfe says:

        I once knew a guy I never met, who went to a real place that doesn’t exist, and the guy met another guy without a name who had a conversation with Big Foot. I don’t know where or when it happened but it was totally a true story.

        True Story.

  9. andar_b says:

    He obviously had a working camera and plenty of time/water to spare in order to take pictures. :p

    • my name is required says:

      …and that’s the problem for me. Twelve days of hard work in the desert. Even if it was very mild weather, a gallon a day would not be nearly enough. on a 90 degree day doing physical work it is not uncommon to go through a gallon an hour.

      citation: stupid summer construction work.

    • Doc Fox says:

      He’s touring in Morocco, good odds he has a working camera with tripod and timer. It’s just he didn’t take the photographs he intended to when he set out.

      These ‘Raids Afrique’ occur every year since at least 1973 by lots of 2cv groups and clubs. Good possibility they know enough to bring plenty of water. As for taking photographs . . . it’s not like his daily calendar was filled with much else to do and he probably suspected he wasn’t getting out this alive so why not spend a few minutes between working and sleeping by making a photo-journal for whoever finds his loincloth-wrapped bleached bones?

  10. luigi517 says:

    I would imagine that if you are resourceful enough and well enough prepared to do this in the field you would also be able to simply repair the swing arm using unnecessary pieces from elsewhere on the vehicle

  11. muskeg says:

    Label translation 1:

  12. Andrew says:

    You guys are all wrong its very possible to do this, first off this happened many years ago so no gps, second if your car is broken and your stuck in the middle of nowhere africa what other option would you have besides to try and fix your car to get home? Based on the writeup and pictures i would say that it was probably easier to do this than anything else. Dont be jealous of this guy just because you’re not smart enough to do this.

    • deadlyfoez says:

      As others have said, it would be a heck of a lot easier to fix the initial problem instead of creating a totally different vehicle. If this guy was really smart enough to pull this off and he was truly stranded then he would have taken the easiest option which could have taken at the most 2 days for someone with this supposed skill set.

    • BurlyMan2012 says:

      The point here is that even if this was before GPS, if he went driving around in the desert without a GOOD idea of where he was, and where he was going, he’s screwed anyways. I’m sure if you had twelve days you could have made it back to wherever you came from, especially since he couldn’t have gone far in that car anyways…. Also, nobody doubts whether the motorbike exists, just the story that it was built in the desert under the conditions in the story seems highly unlikely.

    • BurlyMan2012 says:

      Why didn’t he just drive the car in reverse, dragging the front end around? If he can’t steer at all, then he could get out and just lift the front/back of the car to point in the desired direction…

    • fartface says:

      “second if your car is broken and your stuck in the middle of nowhere africa what other option would you have besides to try and fix your car to get home? ”

      I would rip off the passengers door and use bit from there to fix the broken arm or prop it up so it will drive, and slowly drive it home.

      Far easier than reengineer it into something that I guarentee cant stand up on it’s own let alone be rideable.

  13. n0lkk says:

    Relax obviously even with the tortured English it’s fiction. Evidently the vehicle exist’ and is some what operational Watch the video to see it and learn how we get new Citroen 2CV.

  14. Andrew says:

    personally i would have built a miniature arc reactor and a suit of armor with rockets so that i could fly away, but thats just me.

  15. DrAvIn says:

    with the descriptions and pictures .. this does seem very possible ..

    worst of the big tools he would have needed is a hacksaw .. the rest would have been in the cars original tool kit or a suitable replacement

    that being said .. i think he was NUTS and should have found something to wedge into the front suspension to keep it afloat for the ride home and babied it

  16. muskeg says:

    Label translation 2:

  17. jcroll says:

    what do you sit on – the hot motor, or the internets willingness to half believe just about anything?

  18. Hirudinea says:

    Take a 2CV out into the middle of the desert and hack it to pieces, sounds like a good idea to me.

  19. gerwitz says:

    I wonder if the French debated whether Colin Mayhew’s R50R was for real or just an anglophile advert.

  20. pencilneck says:

    Coming to mythbusters….

  21. Nomen says:

  22. Irish says:

    Never seen a swing arm on an automobile…pitman arm, yes…tie rod arm, yes…draglink, yes…A-arm, yes…SWING ARM…NO

    • Caleb Kraft says:

      you’ve never seen a VW transaxle from the 70s to the 80s then. They all have a swing arm or swing axle design. Same with many porsches. I have to admit though, the term is waaaaay off for any other automobile. It was a slip (I’ve got an old vw bus).

    • nes says:

      No, a 2CV peasantmobile has four swing arms pivoting on a ladder chassis, leading at the front, trailing at the rear. They’re magnesium alloy, so no chance of a quick repair if you snap one.

      Also, it’s front wheel drive with the engine mounted on the transaxle, so entirely plausible to lock one drive shaft to get the diff spinning the other.

      They make a good base for a trike conversion as it’s quite simple to flip one of the rear arms and have a central wheel.

      • ideeman1994 says:

        Actually, they’re in iron… Which don’t change anything in the complexity of the repair, since they lose their rigidity once broken.

        The first prototypes were indeed in magnesium alloys, but they reverted the design back to a cheaper one, due to the costs of such metals after WWII :)

  23. semicolo says:

    You got the translation right, but there’s not just a swing arm that’s broken, there’s a frame beam broken too (not sure about the exact term, one of the 2 girder of the chassis).
    He’s not far away but he has a lot of tools and other hardware that could be stolen if he leaves them unattended.
    I’ll try to translate the labels but my English is lacking in car technical terms.
    Frame is reduced to the central part, front and rear girders were removed.
    Transmission is done by friction of the brake drum on the wheel, you need to be in reverse to go forward (20Km/h max).
    The saddled was made from a piece of bumper and foam of the dashboard taped together.
    The right brake drum is held in place to allow the differential to provide all its torque to the other side.
    Front wheel is the only one with a suspension.
    The handlebar is made from the jack, on which are fixed the shifting command, starter and ignition switch.
    The plaque didn’t prevent a fine for illegal vehicle importation
    The tank pipe is used as stabilizer

  24. muskeg says:

    Seeing he had a map and compass, I personally would have tried walking the few dozens of miles to Tan-Tan instead of spending 12 days in the desert. But this guy has a strong mechanics background and originally thought it would take him 3 days to do the conversion.

    From the text, a lot of the design considerations were made from him wanting to use the factory-drilled holes in the parts, trying to minimize the more difficult “african-style” metal drilling.

    The car not only had a bent wheel arm but an important part of the chassis was broken. Definitely not something you could easily repair in the desert.

    Old story, old website, but definitely plausible.

  25. treymd says:

    I’m sure I’ve seen a way to use your vehicles alternator with some modifications as an emergency welder, would this not have been a more elegant solution?

  26. Jeff L. Richtman says:

    We may never know if it’s real or not, Sure the modification could be done, but in 12 days, in the constant sun and heat? I have already seen this plastered all over the net, and even on Mythbusters site. So we’ll find out eventually.

  27. MakerDino says:

    This is such a load of BS. I’m sure the French are laughing the asses off at this post!! “Stupeeeed Aymerikaaans!”

  28. Jarel says:

    This needs to be a Mythbusters episode.

    • MrTrick says:

      This *absolutely* should be a Mythbusters episode. Although I think given the ‘one man built this’ allegation Adam and Jamie should work separately, on different wrecked cars.

  29. Mike says:

    First of all, if he’s so clever, how did he get into this situation.
    2nd, some of the pics are obviously photoshopped.
    3rd, did he ride his “motorcycle” all the way to France?

    Hey, it’s a fun web site. The guy’s kooky, but inventive.

    • bty says:

      You do realize that the second language in many North-African countries, like Morocco, is French, don’t you.

    • haltux says:

      2. The motorcycle exists, it’s a fact. Whether it was build in the desert as described on this site is an open question…
      3. The guy came back to France, took another 2CV, came back to Marocco to fetch its dismounted motorbike, came back to France.

  30. Mies says:

    And the amazing thing is the finished product looks better than the 2cv the parts came from.

  31. blah says:

    This whole thing sounds like a slow hack-a-day. Nice conversion though.

  32. Vonskippy says:

    One part’s believable – a car mechanic estimates the repair will take three days – then bills you for the actual time – 12 days.

  33. pioj says:

    There’s a video with the bike:

  34. Jeff says:

    From the video it looks like it would be much faster/easier to walk than to ride that motorcycle in the desert. Also, as others said, why not used some non-critical sections and drill holes to bolt as braces for the broken/bent sections. Additionally, if he damaged the chassis while it was properly suspended and all mounts were original, his improvised bike couldn’t be capable of lasting too long.

  35. Andrew says:

    Totally plausible. As mentioned above, French is the second language in many African countries and it is not full sun all of the time. I was in morocco for two weeks about a month ago and it was overcast most days, rained evey night and about 20 degrees Celsius (70 degrees Fahrenheit).

    Oh, and the people there are very good at keeping things working. Most of the cars I saw on the roads were the same cars we had 30 years ago; Mazda 808’s, Datsun B210’s, Toyota Crowns, etc… Held together with bailing wire and a little chewing gum but working all the same.

  36. Galane says:

    The 2CV is front wheel drive.

    For this lash up the right rear trailing arm has been folded forward underneath and it’s using the right front brake drum as a friction drive on the rear tire, with the transmission in reverse.

    The 2CV has inboard brakes mounted on the transaxle instead of having the brakes mounted at the wheels.

    That reduces unsprung weight quite a bit. The springs don’t have to be as stiff to control the suspension.

    A 2CV was (at the time they tested one near the end of its production in the 1980’s) the only vehicle Car & Driver magazine could not get to lose traction on their skidpad. It didn’t have enough power, it simply heeled over to about a 45 degree angle then stuck there until they wiggled it.

  37. bolke says:

    Iron man did it, so why can’t the french.

  38. nah! says:

    i would build a motorcycle too if i were to spend 12 days in the desert with a fried brain

  39. SonnyCheeks says:

    And did he fashion the headrest into a delicious ham sandwich? Remind me what he ate for 12 days

  40. echodelta says:

    Watch The Flight of the Phoenix. 60’s-70’s era. Twin bomber goes down behind Nazi action north Africa they capture a German, together they hack the twin into a single flying engine with wings skids and no seats. They freak out when the German who designed the lash-up said he only made models not real planes. With 5 shots at starting etc it works and they ride out of the desert. The End.

    • Uh, not quite.
      The original movie from the 1960’s was excellent, and almost believable. The remake blew chunks.

      They were in Libya working on Oil Fields, and the plane was supposedly an old C-82 freighter. The german was not a nazi, btw. This film was made as operation paperclip was in full swing, and many people just assumed that german accent = top quality engineer/scientist/doctor/toy maker.

      The funny thing about this movie is that they really did it for the film – built a plane from assorted parts and flew it in ground effect.

      Paul Mantz, an insane stunt pilot in his own right, got killed when the ghetto lashup broke up due to inadequate structural strength. The root cause (apart from liquid courage) was that the hastily built prototype had unknown flying characteristics.

      The CAA gave it a certificate of airworthiness, but no formal testing or evaluation was done, and so the pilot had no guidance or experience in flaring the plane during a landing. Next stop: Crash City.

      A great movie.

    • sinamox says:

      I instantly thought is this movie as well. I remember it was in B&W when I saw it in the 80’s. Must have seen it on a B&W set or the TV print was in B&W. Damn, now I have to go find it. Thanks for the review on the remake I didn’t even know about.

  41. rohit says:

    Now thats what you call Cheeky Tony Stark Stuff..minus Jericho and off course the Arc Reactor

  42. Bobikas says:

    Doesn’t this work in the desert?

  43. aztraph says:

    ok, maybe it’s lost in translation, but what the hell was he thinking going off road with a VW anyway, I call total bullshit for stupidities sake on his part. I won’t argue that it could be done, but the fact that he was smart enough to accomplish this and not see it coming stretches credulity. his story is weak, I think he staged it.

  44. Nodel says:

    Yes you can do anything with a 2CV.

  45. dwan says:

    You should totally read the other story on the same site, when feeling more confident because of the bike story, he decided to sail across the Sénégal with another 2CV turned into a boat !

  46. Paul says:

    I don’t see any connection from the motor to the wheel. How does it go?

    • dwan says:

      See one of the comments above :
      “Transmission is done by friction of the brake drum on the wheel, you need to be in reverse to go forward (20Km/h max)”

  47. Blue Footed Booby says:

    What the hell is wrong with you people? This story is from years ago. Why the hell are you trying to figure out whether the story is real by looking at pictures and arguing over plausibility rather than just doing some googling to find other sources? You have enough time to type a giant wall of text but can’t be bothered to google?

  48. jimzcarz says:

    Now that is making chickensalad out of chickenshit..But I doubt he did it in the desert sun with a hacksaw.Nice try though.

  49. steffejr says:

    It seems to me that he was training for the Paris-Dakar:

    That explains everything about what he was doing and why.

  50. Timberwolf0122 says:

    Next week on MacGyver….

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