Rare Rides: A Mazda Bongo 4×4 - JDM Van Time From 1994
For decades, the Japanese market has loved vans of all shapes and sizes, ranging from basic kei to fully-loaded VIP luxury. Rare Rides has touched on JDM van time just once previously, with a luxurious and capable 1990 Toyota Town Ace. Today we’re taking a look at what Mazda offered a Nineties Japanese consumer of vans.
Mazda’s Bongo offering is a longstanding one, in production since 1966. In 50 years, it’s had just five different generations. Wearing 13 different badges around the globe, at one time or another the Bongo was also branded as a Ford, Kia, Nissan, Mitsubishi, and a Toyota. Not many nameplates have that sort of range. Bongo’s beginnings in the Sixties were rear-engined, sharing engines with the Familia small car lineup. The first generation was short-lived as Mazda went through money trouble, and was cancelled by 1975.
The second-generation offering realized the layout the Bongo would keep for decades: engine in the middle, and rear-wheel drive. The second generation lead a double life: in Japan it stayed as a Mazda, and was produced from 1977 to 1983. But Kia started production of the Bongo in South Korea with the second generation, and played a long game. As Mazda moved on to newer generations of Bongo, Kia stuck with its tried-and-true gen two. Badged as Bongo and Ceres, it remained in production with consistent revisions through 1999.
That brings us to the third-generation Bongo, and the one which was longest lived in Mazda guise. It debuted in 1983 with a new engine lineup. Sales expanded to several different Ford varieties, and Bongo became a Nissan Vanette in the Nineties. Mazda decided not to field its Bongo in the U.S., as other manufacturers were faltering with their offerings. Instead, the company spent some money on a different kind of van that was far ahead of its time: the MPV. Bongo’s third installment lived on through 1999 before being succeeded by a fourth generation that lived through 2018.
Available in its myriad of configurations, the Nineties Bongo was rear-wheel drive or 4×4 and used gasoline and diesel engines. Today’s Rare Ride features the mid-pack 2.0-liter turbodiesel engine; a larger 2.2-liter was available. It sends 76 raucous horsepower through a five-speed manual that includes low-range gearing and four-wheel drive. Luxury options like rear air conditioning were included, though the interior is serious in its spartan nature. With 72,000 miles, it asks $10,995 in Washington.
Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Writing things for TTAC since late 2016 from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio. You can find me on Twitter @CoreyLewis86, and I also contribute at Forbes Wheels.
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