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The Mazda Bongo Friendee Was an Actual Car Name

Just as we’re a bit perplexed by cave paintings, I often think about which modern things will mystify historians when they dig up our society in tens of thousands of years. I suspect one of those things will be the Mazda Bongo Friendee. See the Mazda models for sale near you

Yes, that’s right: There’s an actual vehicle called the Mazda Bongo Friendee. And no, the name doesn’t become any more normal if you say it repeatedly, over time.

The “Bongo” name, I could possibly understand. It’s what Mazda called their new van back when they were rolling it out in the 1960s — and in the 1960s, calling something “Bongo” was probably acceptable. After all, this was the decade that gave us the superball.

But then, thirty years later and several redesigns later, Mazda was still calling their van the Bongo — and that’s when they rolled out a more passenger-friendly model, meant to resemble a large minivan. The name they gave this vehicle: the Mazda Bongo Friendee.

I’ve never really understood this name, or the focus groups who probably approved it, or the person who came up with it. What exactly is a Friendee? What does a Friendee do? And: Can anyone at Mazda look me right in the eyes and tell me this is not a combination of the word “friend” and the word “Slurpee”?

Offered with 4- or 6-cylinder engines in several markets around the world, the Bongo Friendee lasted for about a decade before Mazda finally pulled it off the market — thus proving that a rose by any other name can still sell nicely, as long as it’s reasonably priced and can seat eight passengers. Find a Mazda for sale



Doug Demuro
Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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  1. Wonder if it’s because of slightly similarity in culture (between Japan and Korea) .. but Koreans also have an industrial vehicle named “Bongo” made by Kia.  Because of this, I thought all trucks were called “Bongo” having grown in S.Korea. 

  2. Those JDM names are a riot! When I was living in Canada, I saw both a Suzuki Joy Pop Sound van and a Mitsubishi Delica Space Gear van. But my all time favorite (and quite possibly longest) JDM vehicle name was on a Toyota Van. When I was working in Kandahar, Afghanistan, we used a lot of ex-JDM vehicles (mostly Toyotas) as on-base transport. It was fun driving a RHD stick in a Hilux Surf SUV. But the van was a Toyota Hiace. But not just any Hiace. It was the Toyota Hiace 4WD 3.0D Super Custom GL Living Saloon EX Limited. Which was ironic, since the name itself was anything but limited! So yeah, gotta love those JDM names.

    • I was living in New Zealand for about a year and a vast majority of the cars that make it into the country are JDM grey imports, i remember seeing so many amazing names particularly on vans. 

      Some of my favorites were;

      Nissan Elgrand Homy
      Toyota Deli Boy
      Isuzu Mysterious Utility Wizard 
      Yamaha Pantryboy Supreme
    • Suzuki Joy Pop Sound! I haven’t heard of one of those yet. Hilarious!!!!!

      Also… living saloon. Man. The Japanese car names.

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