Testing times in America

Over the years I have been to Death Valley nine or ten times. Yes, I love the place – it’s amazing other worldliness, eye-popping scenery and unbelievable summer heat. But, there is another motoring-related reason. I cannot resist seeing who is out testing what in the super heat of the national park.

Land Rover Defenders

Over the years I have “bagged” a few new vehicles having their hot weather testing runs in the park.



This year was no exception as these photographs show. Yesterday in Death Valley Land Rover were testing two Defenders – a 90 Station Wagon and a 110 Station Wagon. Both cars were British-registered but also had New Jersey ‘Manufacturer’ plates.

Exhaust analysers

The 90 Station Wagon had what looked like exhaust gas analysers fitted to the exhaust. The vehicle was marked as “diesel” at the filler cap, but the engine sounded considerably quieter at tickover than a normal diesel. The supposition is that they were out hot-weather testing and the temperatures yesterday in Death Valley were 43ºC (109ºF).

Land Rover Defender

Like the year I headed from Death Valley to Yosemite to find two yet-to-be-announced Ford Escape prototypes, there was a surprise this year after leaving Death Valley.

Fiat 500 convoy

Having stayed overnight in Las Vegas, this afternoon we came across a convoy of four Fiat 500s on the I15 heading north towards St George.

Fiat 500
Like the Land Rovers, the cars had manufacturer plates (in this case Michigan plates) and prototype number on the rear glass. One of the Fiats was also painted in black and white camouflage.

Fiat 500

The testing programme suggests that we shall see the Fiat 500 on the US market soon, either badged as a Fiat or using one of the Chrysler badges, following Fiat’s acquisition of the US group.
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