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The Mazda Bongo Friendee Was an Actual Car Name

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author photo by Doug DeMuro August 2016

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.

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.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
The Mazda Bongo Friendee Was an Actual Car Name - Autotrader