Mazda Bongo is First Produced
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 (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, 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 1000 pickup and Bongo chassis are different, with common front suspension and brake components.
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.
1978 1.3 L TC, 60 hp (44 kW)
1978-1982 1.6 L NA, 80 hp (59 kW)
1979-1980 1.4 L UC, 70 hp (52 kW)
The Bongo was redesigned for 1984 with new engines. A new long-wheelbase version known as the Bongo Brawny was introduced.
1984-1985 1.4 L UC
1983-1988 1.8 L F8
1983-1988 2.0 L FE
1983-1988 2.2 L R2 Diesel
On hearing the word "Bongo" many people, even those unfamiliar with Mazda, will immediately bring to mind a box-style vehicle. The Bongo —the first cab-over one box van with the engine located under the floor, which became synonymous with the one-box car —was launched 41 years ago.
The first Bongo —an ultra-low floor multi-purpose vehicle with a water-cooled 800 cc engine in the rear —was launched in 1966. The vehicle made its market debut variously as a truck, van and coach. The coach style Bongo had the van body, accommodated eight occupants on its three rows of seats, and drove much like a wagon. The major feature of the first generation Bongo was its ultra-low floor. The floor was 460 mm above ground level in the truck and 450 mm in the van, which is about as low as the average adult's knee height. The lightweight cab-over van was a pioneer of its kind, and became synonymous with one-box car from then on.
Bongo Wide-Low creates a boom
The second generation Bongo went on sale in 1977. All versions had small-diameter double wheels and a low floor. The flat floor which contained the wheel housings had an enormous impact on the market as the first for the truck class (Bongo Wide-Low) and first in the industry for the van. Humorous commercials featuring the talent, Shingo Yamashiro, were excellent and helped make the Bongo series an instant hit. The Bongo sold 5,000 units a month and became the main selling model for Mazda dealers in Japan. The success of the Bongo Wide-Low made it a fixture in the low-floor vehicle market of this class thereafter.
The second generation Bongo
Ambitious expansion of the model lineup
The third-generation Bongo appeared in 1983, and at the time a long wheelbase version known as the Bongo Brawny was introduced. Although it was actually in the small vehicle class, Bongo Brawny was able to carry 1 ~ 1.5 ton loads and had many model variations to suit a wide range of market needs.
Though the third-generation Bongo had a long model lifetime of 16 years, the lineup was complemented during that period with 4WD and automatic transmission as well as the introduction of an electric-powered version known as the Bongo EV. Also worthy of mention are the OEM trucks and vans began to build.
Bongo—the evolution continues
The fourth generation Bongo came out in 1999. Amid an increase in semi-cab over body style*1 vehicles due to rising societal demands for environmental and safety performance, the Bongo kept to its traditional cab-over style. Mazda piled on the research into adverse layout conditions and overcame them. A high-safety cabin was eventually assured, along with a spacious cargo area. In 2003, a version powered by a newly developed clean diesel engine with DPF*2 was introduced. As of 2007, the Bongo with further enhanced environmental efficiency as well as an OEM version continue to take top share in the light commercial vehicle segment.