As Loopy because the title may sound, the Mazda Bongo is without doubt one of the finest JDM vans, and it’s among the many most profitable automobiles produced by Mazda. Success is owed to its compact measurement physique that’s not massive just like the Toyota HiAce however bigger than different vans in its class, such because the Mitsubishi Delica and Honda Stepwgn

The Mazda Bongo can also be among the many few JDM vans made in varied configurations, thus giving clients a variety to select from, which turns out to be useful in the present day if you’re trying to purchase one. The Bongo Friendee is the commonest Mazda Bongo Variant in the USA and Canada as a result of ever-growing tenting tradition. Nonetheless, competitors within the JDM camper van scene is stiff, particularly with the better-equipped Mitsubishi Delica in play. 

In the USA, Kei vans and vans are probably the most most well-liked, however bigger van and truck gross sales have been rising these days since many of the finest mannequin years had been produced within the mid-Nineteen Nineties to the early 2000s. For instance, the Toyota HiAce H100 Customized Residing Saloon and Mitsubishi Delica House Gear. The Mazda Bongo hasn’t caught up, however it’s going to quickly, particularly as a result of institution of householders’ boards, and it’s cheaper than its competitors. 

Mazda Bongo

Mazda started producing the Bongo within the mid-Sixties when there was a excessive demand for transportation companies in Japan; thus, it was first made as a passenger van/wagon and a load van. Later, a Bongo truck variant was launched to the Japanese market, and different corporations, comparable to Ford, started badge engineering the Bongo. 

To know extra in regards to the Mazda Bongo, the professionals and cons of shopping for one, and what you need to search for when buying one, we’ve compiled a complete information with all that, amongst different components, for any Mazda Bongo future proprietor. 

Execs and Cons



You get the Mazda Bongo in three principal configurations, an ordinary load or passenger van, a camper van, or a truck. Most JDM vans had been made as both passenger or load vans and truck configurations. Additionally, the Mazda Bongo truck is out there as a cabin crew truck should you get the long-wheelbase Bongo Brawny truck. 

Mazda Bongo Friendee with a factory-fitted elevating roof

So, what do you do with a Mazda Bongo, or what are you able to do with one after shopping for it? For starters, you’ll be able to at all times preserve it and use it as a load van since most imported to the USA don’t have passenger seats. In Japan, most are used for enterprise functions solely, and it’s fairly uncommon to seek out one with rear seats. 

Most importers don’t import JDM vans with rear passenger seats as they don’t have seatbelts, and it’s unlawful in some states to drive a automobile with out passenger seatbelts. You’ll solely get a JDM van with passenger seats if manufacturing unit seats are fitted with seatbelts.  

If you’re contemplating changing a Mazda Bongo right into a camper van, get the Bongo Friendee which is already kitted for tenting from the manufacturing unit. One will value you roughly $10,000, which is likely to be cheaper than shopping for a non-camper mannequin and changing it right into a camper van. 

The Mazda Bongo wagon with the monospace load space isn’t that frequent in the USA and Canada, nevertheless it makes a very good camper van canvas. Particularly should you get one with a four-wheel-drive, it has higher floor clearance and leaf spring suspension on the rear; thus, it handles higher than the Friendee camper. The one draw back is that it’s smaller however has sufficient construct area to suit two, which isn’t that unhealthy. 

1991 Mazda Bongo Wagon 4WD Turbo with factory passenger seats

In contrast to most camper vans and vans, the Mazda Bongo is comparatively small, a shared benefit amongst JDM vans. You don’t should park in designated campervan fields, that are congested and lack or have poor facilities. As an alternative, you’ll be able to park one at a Walmart car parking zone or any area. Supplied you’ve all you want, you’ll be set. The Mazda Bongo’s measurement makes it simpler to maneuver round city and can also be hardy sufficient to resist some mild trails. 


One of many principal the reason why you should purchase any JDM automobile or van, together with the Mazda Bongo, is reliability and sturdiness. Positive, the Mazda Bongo has its share of points, however when maintained nicely, it’s going to final for over 300,000 miles, and also you’ll solely want to alter regular put on and tear elements. Most Mazda Bongo issues are brought on by proprietor negligence or improper utilization. Previous age is one other mechanical fault enabler frequent in all JDM automobiles. 

Low Working Prices 

For round $10,000, you will get a Mazda Bongo Friendee with a turbodiesel engine and four-wheel-drive, which makes an affordable buy if you’re in search of a pleasant mid-sized camper van to tour the nation with. And for the reason that Bongo Friendee comes manufacturing unit geared up with all the required tenting necessities, shopping for one and never paying hire if you’re an journey junkie at all times on the street makes extra sense. Simply wandering on again roads viewing life by the windscreen and winging it concurrently!

Different Mazda Bongo Variants are priced at round $6,000 to $15,000, relying on whether or not it’s a truck or a van. Nonetheless, these are exhausting to seek out in the USA and Canada, leaving importation as the one choice. This may be accomplished by an import agent or do it by your self. However with the Bongo Friendee being camping-ready, would you continue to purchase a Bongo van on the similar worth and convert it right into a camper van? 

Mazda Bongo

Always being on the street means the gasoline pump is your finest pal, so what’s the Mazda Bongo’s gasoline consumption? On common, the Bongo Friendee will common round 21mpg should you get one with a petroleum engine, whereas variants with a diesel engine will common practically twice as a lot, which isn’t unhealthy for a 25-year-old camper van. 

Mazda Bongo Spare elements is likely to be exhausting to seek out, however they’re cheap; thus, changing on a regular basis put on and tear shouldn’t dent your pockets that deep. Additionally, some elements in most automobiles are common comparable to glow plugs and timing belts can be utilized supplied they’re of appropriate specs. 

The Mazda Bongo Friendee

Mazda Bongo

Camper vans aren’t made to look good as they’re extra purpose-oriented, however the Mazda Bongo Friendee stands out amongst most because it doesn’t shout, “hey, have a look at me, I’m a giant gradual camper van!” As a result of its minimalistic look, no one will ever suspect it’s a camper van as a result of its minimalistic look, particularly in case you have the retractable prime closed and closed rear window blinds. 

You possibly can even drive a Mazda Bongo Friendee to work; no one will ever guess you’ll be able to reside off what you drive each day. You’ll at all times be that dude who drives his van to work and goes grocery procuring in it. Little do they know which you can hit the street on Friday after a tricky week at work and find yourself in a inexperienced tenting spot on the foot of a hill vary unbothered, simply having fun with birds chirping and operating river water. 


Robust To Work On 

Each car proprietor prefers to work on their car every now and then or do a pre-check earlier than setting out on an extended journey. In most automobiles, it’s important to open the hood, which isn’t the case in some Mazda Bongos, because the engine is both mid-mounted below the entrance seats or mounted on the rear. 

If the engine is mid-mounted, which is the case within the Bongo Friendee and different Bongo vans, it’s important to take away the seat earlier than attending to the engine, which isn’t emergency-friendly. Particularly if one thing is flawed and you may’t flip off the engine from the ignition. Checking oil and energy steering fluid ranges additionally turns into a tiresome course of, and with regards to engine upkeep, it’s even worse. 

Mazda Bongo

You get a rear-mounted engine in Mazda Bongo Vans made between 1966 and 1975, and the engine is extra accessible than the mid-mounted one in different mannequin years. A hatch within the load space accesses the engine, however you don’t need coolant boiling or different issues if there’s a load on the again. 

Expertise Physique Roll

JDM automobiles are nice driver-focused automobiles, however this doesn’t imply that every one of them must be pushed equally. You possibly can’t drive a Nissan Skyline the identical method you drive a Nissan Figaro, and you may’t drive a Mazda Bondo the identical method you’d drive a Mazda RX-7. Some require extra soothing than others. 

Like every camper van, it’s difficult driving the Mazda Bongo at excessive speeds, primarily as a result of physique roll brought on by a always shifting middle of gravity at excessive speeds. The impact won’t be felt on smaller bongos however on the Bongo Friendee, which is taller and has an extended wheelbase, you may really feel swaying actions at excessive speeds and when going over massive bumps. 

Unavailability of Spare Components

JDM vans haven’t caught up within the US market, and homeowners really feel this impact, particularly when getting spare elements and good mechanics. Getting alternative elements particularly for the Mazda Bongo will not be a stroll within the park, and it’s one of many the reason why a Mitsubishi Delica or a Toyota HiAce H1000 is a greater buy. You could scout for elements on-line or ship from Japan if a serious mechanical half is used explicitly on the Mazda Bongo breaks. And each choices may take weeks and even months to get what you want. 

When shopping for a Mazda Bongo, checking that the whole lot is in good working situation is advisable. On a 25-year-old van, you’ll be able to’t be so certain, nevertheless it’s reassuring to know that what’s there’ll work and also you’ll have gotten a alternative by the point it fails. 

Widespread Points

Diesel Engines Overheating 

Some Mazda Bongo homeowners have complained of overheating, particularly in Bongos with diesel engines. Most often, overheating is brought on by low coolant brought on by oil leaks within the cooling system. It could be raptured coolant traces, worn-out clamps, or corrosion within the radiator. It’s really helpful to overtake the cooling system as an alternative of changing one half after one other. 

Coolant traces additionally get clogged; thus, coolant circulation is inadequate to chill the engine. That is primarily brought on by accumulating particles from the pinnacle gasket, utilizing the flawed coolant, or a cracked cylinder head. A disintegrating head gasket is a serious wrongdoer if the coolant traces are flogged. Relying on the extent of the injury, you’ll be able to both exchange the coolant traces or flush the cooling system after changing the pinnacle gasket. 

If changing the coolant traces doesn’t cease the leaks, test the situation of the water pump and thermostat, and usually, you’ll discover that they’ve by no means been changed. A clogged, corroded, or broken water pump additionally causes poor coolant circulation, thus inflicting the engine to overheat. 

Lastly, an excessive amount of coolant within the cooling system may rapture the coolant traces. Some drivers do that throughout lengthy drives since they imagine that extra coolant supplies higher cooling. At all times make sure you fill coolant in response to producer specs in your Mazda Bongo.

Oil Leaks

When shopping for an older automobile, one of many points you will need to put together for is oil leaks. Totally different automobiles have completely different causes for oil leaks, and on the Mazda Bongo, oil leaks are brought on by a defective valve cowl gasket. Nonetheless, it usually happens on variants with the two.5-liter V6 petrol engine than in others. 

Most homeowners suggest changing the valve cowl gasket some miles sooner than most producers suggest, round 30,000-60,000 miles relying on driving habits. Early indicators of valve cowl gasket embrace oil drops on the highest of the engine. If ignored, the engine will begin misfiring because the oil will get on the spark plugs and the timing chain. Oil leaking from the valve cowl gasket will not be a serious concern if it’s minimal, nevertheless it gained’t be lengthy earlier than you scent burning oil and there’s a lower in oil ranges. 

Changing the duvet gasket is a mean repair, particularly in case you have some mechanical experience. The one difficulty is the Mazda Bongo’s engine placement, making it difficult to work on the engine. When you determine to do it your self, make sure you torque the valve cowl accurately, otherwise you’ll want one other gasket quickly. 


Rust is inevitable on JDM automobiles since they’ve a skinny layer of paint in comparison with automobiles from different producers. Additionally, salt will not be used on roads in Japan, thus eliminating the necessity for a rust-protective coating; due to this fact, the paint wears out rapidly when the automobile is pushed on highways with salts. On the Mazda Bongo, rust primarily happens on the wheel arches, aspect skirts, quarter panels, and beneath. 

Eradicating rust and repairing rust sports activities will not be a straightforward repair, particularly if the rust has eaten by the physique panels. And if a Mazda Bongo has such rust, you need to in all probability not purchase it, particularly after contemplating how exhausting elements are to return throughout. 

On the opposite, floor rust could be repaired earlier than it worsens, and you should use rust to cut price for a cheaper price. It depends upon your willingness to pay for the automobile and the mission funds. If repairs aren’t included in your funds, shopping for a Bongo with no rust is the most suitable choice, even when it may cost a little extra, supplied you apply a rust protecting coating on areas vulnerable to rusting. 

Roof and Door Jams

Vans are nice till the sliding doorways begin jamming or fail to shut, which is usually a ache within the neck. It’s even humorous how the sliding door randomly opens whereas driving or after going over a bump. Typically the door deal with stops engaged on both aspect, and it’s important to open the door from the aspect that works.

As a result of outdated age, such parts fail, and fixing them is troublesome. You possibly can attempt the install-uninstall methodology hoping it magically works however getting new door handles and locks is the most suitable choice. Additionally, test if the rollers on the door are well-greased and if there’s particles on the railings.  

The Mazda Bongo Friendee camper van has a motor that lifts and lowers the free prime. If it has blown a fuse, it gained’t elevate or decrease the free prime; thus, you will need to manually function the free prime. Like another electrical part, the free prime motor may fail if it has by no means been changed. However earlier than eradicating it, test if the struts are free, as they’ll typically jam deeming the highest inoperable.  

If the van hasn’t been used shortly, the rubber seal on the roof holds the free prime in place, stopping the free prime from opening. In such circumstances, opening the free prime stresses the motor and may break it, so prying between the free prime and the rubber seal is critical earlier than switching on the motor swap. 

What to search for when shopping for a Mazda Bongo

If cargo space is a precedence when shopping for a van or truck, the Mazda Bongo Brawny is the most suitable choice for a JDM van or truck. Loading area within the Bongo Brawny van is bigger and greater than the load space within the Toyota HiAce, due to the prolonged wheelbase. The identical factor applies to the Brawny truck, nevertheless it will get even higher since you will get a cabin crew Brawny truck however with a shorter mattress. 

The two.5-liter V6 petrol engine isn’t as gasoline environment friendly as you’d like a camper van to be. Mazda solely used it within the Bongo Friendee, however from most Bongo homeowners, the diesel engine is extra fuel-efficient and sturdy regardless of its cooling system points. 

Other than the rust and failing roof motor, you need to test if the whole lot is in test when shopping for a Mazda Bongo Friendee. This contains the rear window blinds and the folding mattress, which you’ll use should you plan to make use of the van after which improve it sooner or later. In fact, you’ll be able to’t anticipate the whole lot to work like new on a 25-year-old van, nevertheless it must be in good situation. 

Common Costs

The Mazda Bongo is among the many finest JDM automobiles you will get for lower than $10,000 if you’re into vans. Costs stay unaffected by fixed JDM automobile worth inflations, and it’s potential to get one even for lower than $6,000 however not a Bongo Friendee camper van.

Mazda Bongo For Sale

View Mazda Bongo Ads for sale 

Comparable Alternate options

Fashions and Specs

1966-1975 Mazda Bongo

In 1966 Mazda first launched the Mazda Bongo as a compact van just for the Japanese market constructed on the Mazda 1000’s chassis. Right now, most producers had been making wagons based mostly on their flagship sedans, as Toyota did with the Crown wagon. The primary gen Mazda Bongo was made as a industrial van, passenger van, or cab over-body truck, and it completely met buyer calls for on the time of manufacturing. 

Mazda Bongo

Early Bongo manufacturing years had a mid-mounted 782cc water-cooled engine, and a 1000cc was launched in 1968. However the Mazda Bongo was not thought of a Kei automobile on the time of manufacturing as dimension and engine measurement rules had been completely different in response to Japanese site visitors legal guidelines. A automobile may solely be thought of a Kei automobile if it had a 360cc or 550cc engine.

1977-1983 Mazda Bongo (E-series)

1977-1983 Mazda Bongo (E-series)

After Mazda briefly discontinued the Bongo as a result of robust financial instances, they launched the second-gen Mazda Bongo in 1977. It featured a front-engine rear-wheel-drive platform, and each Bongo vans and vans had been bought with 4 wheels on the rear axle, which elevated load capability. As a result of front-engine platform, the second-gen Bongo has a flatter entrance finish in comparison with the first-gen, which has a wedge-like entrance finish. 

Engines used within the first-gen Mazda Bongo had been discontinued as a result of strict emission legal guidelines enacted in 1963, which is one more reason why Mazda halted the Bongo’s manufacturing for 2 years. 1977 noticed the introduction of latest four-cylinder engines starting from a 1.2-liter petrol engine to a 2.2-liter diesel engine. Throughout that 12 months, the Mazda Bongo was bought outdoors Japan by Mazda and different producers comparable to Ford. They badge-engineered the Ford Econovan, Econowagon, and Spectron based mostly on the Bongo. 

1983-1999 Mazda Bongo, Brawny, and Friendee

1983-1999 Mazda Bongo, Bongo Brawny, Bongo Friendee

Mazda unveiled two Mazda Bongo variants in 1983, the usual Bongo with new engine choices and the Bongo Brawny, a long-wheelbase model of the Mazda Bongo. Later in 1994, Nissan badge-engineered the Nissan Vanette, and Kia did the identical with the Kia vast Bongo earlier than Mazda unveiled the Bongo Friendee camper van in 1995. 

Apart from the brand new variants, Mazda launched a four-wheel-drive choice on all Bongo Variants and cozy seats on cabin crew vans and passenger vans. Patrons may additionally go for alloy wheels, and the Friendee camper van additionally bought smooth closing doorways which even Flagship sedans didn’t have on the time of manufacturing. An electrical auto free-roof was additionally non-obligatory on the Bongo Friendee, changing the excessive or normal flat roof. 

Totally different petrol and diesel engines can be found within the third-gen Bongo, together with the 1.4-liter petrol and a couple of.2-liter diesel used within the second technology. Nonetheless, the Bongo Friendee comes with a special 2.5-liter petrol V6 engine or 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbodiesel engine. You too can get one with a 2.0-liter petrol engine, nevertheless it’s not that frequent. 

1999-2020 Mazda Bongo

1999-2020 Mazda Bongo

The fourth-gen Mazda Bongo was launched within the Japanese market in 1999 whereas Mazda was nonetheless producing the Bongo Friendee and Brawny, discontinued in 2005 and 2010. Nonetheless, the fourth-gen Bongo nonetheless used the third-gen chassis as Mazda couldn’t afford a brand new platform, and the Bongo Brawny was re-introduced in 2010 badge engineered from the Toyota HiAce H200. Mitsubishi additionally joined different producers in badge-engineering the Bongo to make the Mitsubishi Delica 


Are Mazda Bongo Campers good?

The Mazda Bongo Friendee might be the best-priced compact camper van. It’s not too small but in addition not too massive, making maneuverability simple so that you don’t have to depart the consolation of your van if you wish to tour a small city whereas on a street journey. When maintained in response to schedule and customary points fastened, a Mazda Bongo can simply final for 300,000 miles earlier than main mechanical elements must be changed. 

How many individuals can slot in a Mazda Bongo camper van

4 folks can comfortably slot in a Mazda Bongo camper van for the reason that sleeping space on the again can accommodate two, and the opposite two can sleep on the roof tent on the prime. The one draw back with a Mazda Bongo camper van is that the cabin seats don’t rotate, in contrast to most camper vans. 

Is a Mazda Bongo 4WD?

Not all Mazda Bongo variants are four-wheel-drive. Solely two variants are geared up with 4WD as normal, the Bongo Friendee camper van and the Bongo Turbo 4×4. All others are rear-wheel-drive solely, however there’s an opportunity you may get one with 4WD. 

How a lot is a Mazda Bongo?

Mazda Bongo costs common round $5000 to $12,000, relying on the variant. Commonplace variants are the most cost effective, and also you may get one for lower than $5,000, however if you would like a Bongo Friendee camper van, funds for round $10,000. 

The place can I purchase a Mazda Bongo in the USA?

The most effective place to purchase a Mazda Bongo in the USA is from JDM automobile dealerships. There’s an opportunity they won’t have any in inventory, however importing one by them is best until you’re getting a very good deal on a domestically used Mazda Bongo. 

What’s the distinction between a Bongo Brawny and Bongo Friendee? 

The Mazda Bongo Brawny is a long-wheelbase variant of an ordinary Mazda Bongo, whereas the Bongo Friendee is a factory-equipped camper van. 

The right way to import a Mazda Bongo

Learn our Final Information on How to Import a Car from Japan

Christopher Weydert
Newest posts by Christopher Weydert (see all)

Add comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.