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]

190 thoughts on “Man, Stranded In The Desert, Makes A Motorcycle From His Broken Car

      1. 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

        1. 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).

      2. 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.

      3. BurlyMan2012:
        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

      4. 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.

        1. 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.

        2. It says so on the page, he did it the African way: Bend the metal 90º, file or saw it to the point you’re almost through, bend it back and punch through the thinner part: you have a hole. He also says he reused existing holes as much as he could. This might sound impossible if you’ve never been to Africa/seen the things they can do with a piece of wood and a broken car.

          Also, he says nothing was welded and everything was screwed.

, 4th paragraph

      1. The point being, why would you put a muffler on it, when you’re goal is to get out of the desert?

        Its a ‘fun’ story, but complete BS. Not because it isn’t possible. But because it wasn’t needed, and the details added to it are far and above what someone would need to just get outta there.
        That, and they said it took 12 days. Imagine how much food and water you’d go through in 12 days, doing a build, in the desert?

        Yeah. Right.

        1. Where is the muffler? I see no muffler. I see the horizontal spring for the front suspension in it’s original mountings but no exhaust pipes leading from the exhaust manifold.

    1. @ideeman1994

      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.

    2. 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!

    1. all he needed to do was tie some rocks to the opposite corner to the broken one and he would be on his way, these cars are so light and flimsy it would be up and running in 1/2 hour!

      1. You’re on the right track here, fish! He could even rig up a skid, a sled of sorts, under the broken wheel, and be skidding his way out of the desert! I like this story because it makes people think, and you don’t see much of that anymore! lol

  1. 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

    1. 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.

      1. Lets just say for a moment that he built this in his shop with all of his tools, wearing a dress… That bike is still a badass project. If you disagree, then we have very different ideas of what is worthy of attention.

        The story is suspicious though.

        1. At first I was prepared to believe this was a hoax, however all the arguments are from people who haven’t the foggiest how a 2cv works. I can find no fault with Leray’s account, just huge holes in the theories of the tin-foil hat brigade.

      2. *woooooosssshhhh*

        That was apparently the (silly – yes, but harmless) joke going over your head?

        I’m sure if he took that photo of himself he is pretty secure in his manhood ;)

  2. 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.

      1. 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.

    1. …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.

    2. 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?

  3. 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

  4. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

    3. 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…

    4. “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.

  5. 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

    1. 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).


      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.

      1. 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 :)

  6. 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

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

    1. 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.

  9. 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.

    1. 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.

    1. So he is making trickfilms and play with illusionary ideas. Might be that he did this conversion as well from the same idea of the “Image if…”-Category.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. I read that the crash happened when the director asked for a touch and go pass to get additional footage before what was intended to be its first and only landing. He touched a little too hard.

        In the remake the hacked together plane *could* have been flown but for the ‘takeoff’ they used an old top fuel dragster mounted under it then hid it with some CGI created extra dust cloud.

  14. 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.

  15. 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 !

  16. 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?

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