Monday, September 21, 2009

Overland-Conversions : The Bongo

There is no doubt about it – a vehicle parked in the bush needs to look like it’s been there before!

That said, nothing looks as good a fully kitted Defender blending into the bush with a rooftent, wheel on the bonnet and dust on the dashboard.  Land Rover might have opened up the continent to exploration but the reliability and distribution network of Toyota has claimed the market.

My question today:  Is a fully kitted 4x4 required for an overland journey?  Fitting long range fuel tanks, huge spotlights, and chunky mud terrain tyres needed?

There is no quick YES or NO to the above question.  I will add that this topic has been debated to the n’th degree and often leads to fireside chats about the bests overland vehicle. 

I want to add a few comments today about the alternative option to the standard Land Rover or Land Cruiser.

The Requirements:
A few requirements are essential in overland travel – a comfortable place to sleep;  good cooking equipment (Fridge & Gas); fresh water tank; packing space
A few non-essential items – winch; spotlights; long range fuel tank; 2nd spare wheel; Hi-Lift Jack;

Here’s my thought – Why not take a factory fitted campervan, built to Japanese reliability, and transform it into an overlander.


Introducing the Mazda Bongo Camper Van.

First introduced back in 1966, the Mazda evolved until the recent launch of the Bongo in 1995 and a facelift in 1999.
As part of the SG Platform, the Mazda Bongo and Ford Freda share the same design. 
The Mazda Bongo is fitted with a 2.5l Diesel engine and has a 4wd drive train, and automatic gearbox.  The engine is the same engine as fitted to the previous range of Mazda doublecab vehicles.
The 4wd does not offer a low range combination which might be a hindrance depending on the route.


The benefits of this vehicle are numerous – factory fitted pop-up roof bed, fridge,  inbuilt water tank and plumbing;  gas hob; blinds on all windows; storage space; air conditioning.

The upgrades required:
A host of modifications are available – a few that I think are beneficial.
  • All Terrean Tyres on larger rims
  • Rear Diff lock
  • Spare well on exterior of vehicle


Watch the following sales YouTube clips for a visual overview of the vehicle:








Mazda Bongo & Ford Freda Standard Equipment

-Twin Air Conditioning climate, front and rear
-Automatic Gearbox With Overdrive.
-Power Steering
-Electric Windows
-Electric Folding Mirrors
-Electric Elevating Roof with 2 berths
-Central Locking all round, with power lockdown
-Fully trimmed interior
-Spot Lamps
-Side Window Blinds.
-Rear Heating


Mazda Bongo & Ford Freda Optional Extras
-ABS (1996 on)
-Drivers Airbag
-Alloys Wheels
-Towing Kits
-Cd Changer
-Front NudgeBar


Mazda Bongo & Ford Freda Measurements and Weights
Length 4.60 Mtrs
Height 2.10 Mtrs
Width 1.70 Mtrs
Weight 2325 Kg,s
Towing 2800 Kg,s

Interior Layout of both the Mazda Bongo and the Ford Freda
2 Front seats/Driver and Passenger
Central sliding Bench (reversible)
3 seat 60/40 with belts.
Rear split sliding/folding bench
3 seats.

Upper birth sleep 2 adults 7'0 x 4' 2
Lower birth sleep 2 children 6'2 x 4' 2


Mazda Bongo & Ford Freda Technical & Engine Specification
SGL 5 Model is 4WD (Permanent)
Engine is in line 4 Cylinder
2500 DIESEL INTERCOOLER TURBO
Max.POWER:130PS(135Bhp)/4000rpm
Max.TORQUE:294Nm/2000rpm
Mpg Urban 28, Extra Urban 34.
Source: http://www.algysautos.com/BONGO_TECHNICAL.html

Any comments on whether this vehicle has the capability to complete a full Trans-Africa trip…