2023 Ford Bronco 'Oates' is a mysterious new two-door trim

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A member of the Bronco6G forum happened upon a mystery while taking a dive through the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration's database. A 26-page Ford VIN decoder document lists trims for the 2023 Bronco. There are four Heritage editions (spy shots pictured) divided between plain Heritage and Heritage Limited variants, each available with two or four doors. But above that, and below the four-door Ford Raptor, the document shows an "Oates" trim available exclusively with two doors. Posters at Bronco6G and at the Bronco Nation forum have made a pile of guesses and jokes — most of the latter having to do with being either out of touch or out of time, naturally — but no one appears to have the slightest idea about what the name represents.

The safest guess is that Oates is a codename for the actual trim. The most fanciful guess is that Ford's planning a road-legal production version of the Bronco Desert Runner, otherwise known as the Bronco DR. That was a race truck targeting the Baja 1000, packing a 5.0-liter Coyote V8 with more than 400 horsepower, a 10-speed auto, the transfer case from the F-150 pickup, electronic locking differentials on both axles, Multimatic spool-valve shocks with increased travel and a set of 37-inch mud-terrain tires. The 50 examples Ford said it would sell each cost in the "mid-$200,000" range.

In between those two, posts have suggested a potential OTX connection and a Shelby connection. On June 7, 2021 Ford filed to trademark the term "OTX." The category classifications include the same labels as used for Warthog and Sasquatch trademarks; however, the OTX application also includes the labels like "nature" and "electric vehicles." As for Shelby, in July 2021 Bronco Nation uploaded a video called "Shelby vs. Shelby" that pitched a Bronco driven by off-road racer Shelby Hall racing a Shelby Mustang GT500 SE. Nothing's been heard of any Shelby-Bronco connection since.

If nothing else, after a slew of exclusive kit for the four-door Bronco, this shows Ford hasn't forgotten that two-door Bronco buyers have money and love their special editions, too.

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