The Mazda Bongo is a van manufactured by Mazda of Japan. Since 1978, it has been exported as the Mazda E-Series and as the Ford Econovan.
Mazda introduced its small van, the Bongo, in 1966. It featured a 782cc water-cooled 4-stroke engine driving the rear wheels. The rear engined Bongo was produced in two versions, the F800 and the F1000 between 1968 - 1978. 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 engine Bongos had a full chassis (shared with the Mazda 1000, using the same engine mounted to a transaxle at the rear) and were very strong and due to the low gearing, able to carry one ton. Due to rust and poor maintenance, the rear engined 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 next Bongo van appeared in 1978. 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.
The Bongo was redesigned for 1983 with new engines. A new long-wheelbase version known as the Bongo Brawny was introduced.
The Mazda Bongo Friendee van SGL, 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.
Launched in 1995, they are usually (but not exclusively) available in automatic transmissions, and come in 2WD (SGL3) and 4WD (SGL5) versions. 2.5 turbo diesels are common in Japan, although there is a 2.5 V6 petrol version available.
Later (post-1999) models have a revised bodystyle and have different engines, although the 2.5 turbodiesel continues unchanged. Air conditioning, climate control and electronic blinds are fitted as standard.
An updated Bongo was released in June, 1998 as a 1999 model. At the same time, Mitsubishi Motors began reselling the Bongo. This was branded the Mazda Access in some markets.
- A first generation Mazda Bongo was used in the movie Mad Max — it was the personal vehicle of director George Miller, who sacrificed his van to a crash scene to keep the budget low.
- The Bongo's submodel Brawny and Friendee (and badge engineered Ford Freda) are commonly mentioned in websites as a joke concerning car model names.