|Also called||Mazda E-Series
Shah Alam, Malaysia (AMI)
Willowvale, Zimbabwe (WMMI)
|Body and chassis|
First generation (1966–1975)
Mazda introduced its small van, the Bongo, in May 1966. It featured a rear-mounted 782 cc water-cooled OHV SA 4-stroke engine driving the rear wheels. The rear-engined Bongo was produced in two versions from 1968, as the F800 was joined by the bigger-engined F1000. Production ended in 1975, due to Mazda suffering serious economic troubles and upcoming stricter emissions regulations for 1976. This model retained the same body shape for its 10 year production life, the later models fitted with inertia-reel seat belts, and separate front parking indicator lights.
The rear-engined Bongos had a full chassis (using the same mazda 1000 engine as other variants mounted to a 4-speed transaxle at the rear) and were very strong and due to the low gearing, able to carry half a ton. Due to rust and poor maintenance, these Bongos are now few and far between. Exact numbers are not known, but a worldwide register is currently being constructed to track all remaining examples.
The 1000 pickup and Bongo chassis are different, with common front suspension and brake components.
Second generation (1977–1983)
The next Bongo van appeared in September 1977. It was a mid-engine rear wheel drive vehicle. Ford sold this version of the van as the Ford Econovan, while Mazda sold it for export as the E1300, E1400, and E1600, depending on engine size. This generation was also manufactured by Kia in South Korea, as the Kia Bongo and Ceres. The Bongo/Ceres underwent a number of facelift and was still available as late as 1999.
- 1978 1,272 cc TC, 60 PS (44 kW)
- 1978-1982 1,586 cc NA, 80 PS (59 kW)
- 1979-1980 1,415 cc UC, 70 PS (52 kW)
Third generation (1983–1999)
The Bongo was redesigned in 1983 with new engines. It was also sold by Ford in Asia as the "Spectron". In Australia, the Bongo was sold by Mazda as the E-series, with Ford also retailing the commercial version as the "Ford Econovan" and the passenger version as the "Ford Spectron" (1983–1990). From 1994 onwards, the Bongo was also sold by Nissan as the Vanette. In South Korea this was built as the Kia Wide Bongo.
A new long-wheelbase version known as the Bongo Brawny was also introduced, three months before the regular Bongo. The Brawny was larger than the regular Bongo in by all key measures (wheelbase, length, width, height, and weight). In export markets this model was again sold as the E-series. In Australia, Ford differentiated the long-wheelbase versions with the "Econovan Maxi" identifier.
Fourth generation (1999–present)
In June 1999, a new generation of Bongo vans and trucks went on sale, which were also rebadged as the Mazda E-series, Ford Econovan, Mitsubishi Delica, and Nissan Vanette. This will be the last generation of in-house designed Bongo vans and trucks with Mazda's March 2012 announcement that it will be withdrawing from commercial vehicle production and will focus on fuel efficient cars.
Like the previous generation, the Bongo Brawny was larger in all key dimensions. The Brawny retained many of the parts of the previous generation, such as the sliding side doors, and looks rather similar to the previous generation model. The E-series label continued to be used in export markets, although they were now fewer than before. The Bongo Brawny was discontinued in 2010.
Bongo Friendee (1995–2005)
They are usually (but not exclusively) available in automatic transmissions, and come in 2WD (SGL3) and 4WD (SGL5) versions. The 2.5-litre turbo diesels are common in Japan, although there is a 2.5-litre V6 petrol version available.
The Mazda Bongo Friendee is an eight seater MPV. Some have had Mazda factory fitted kitchens installed within their car, but many others are imported and converted to camper vans in the UK. All of them have fold down seats downstairs to make a double bed, and on many models there is also an "Auto Free Top" elevating roof which 2 more people can sleep in. Flat-top versions are also available.
In June 1998, Mitsubishi Motors began reselling the Bongo. This was branded the Mazda Access in some markets.
In 1999, a facelift version appeared with a revised bodystyle and different engines, although the 2.5 turbodiesel continues unchanged. Air conditioning, climate control and electronic blinds are fitted as standard.
- Bongo Fury, Mazda Bongo/Ford Freda owners club and discussion forum
- South Coast Bongo Club on Webjam unofficial fansite
- Bongo Brawny technical specification
- Mazda Introduces The New Bongo Van/Truck "The Model That Helps You Make Light Work of It"