Gonzo Bongo: 1986 Mazda Bongo Brawny Diesel Truck

Living in southern California has its pluses and minuses as car lover. One of the positives is that cars do not rust away. The big negative is the smog rules making imported vehicles nearly impossible to legally drive. So this Japanese import with a clean California title is a unicorn. Find this 1986 Mazda Bongo Brawny offered for $14,500 in Santa Barbara, CA via Craigslist.

The Mazda Bongo is a cabover van and pickup truck manufactured by Mazda since 1966. It has been built with rear, middle, and front-mounted engines. This SE28M variant (Brawny) is a long-bed pickup truck equipped with a diesel engine, manual transmission, 4WD, and a 9 foot long bed. What’s not to love?

This Brawny features a Mazda 2.2 liter (2,184 cc) 4 cylinder diesel engine (engine code R2). The engine is not common in the US but info on the interwebs indicate it will last forever. The R2 is mated to a 5-speed transmission and transfer case for 4WD activity. The rear axle is a dually which provides extra carrying capacity. I’ve read up to 1.5 tons but don’t quote me.

The exterior features bedsides that fold down for loading but do not appear to lock in the down position. The door graphics have faded so the 4 in 4WD is no longer visible. The interior is basic cloth bench seat with AC and heater.

Mike D is a big fan of older Japanese cars.

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From the seller:

condition: excellent
cylinders: 4 cylinders
drive: 4wd
fuel: diesel
odometer: 51000
paint color: white
size: mid-size
title status: clean
transmission: manual
type: truck

The long-wheelbase version known as the Bongo Brawny was also introduced, three months before the regular Bongo. The Brawny was larger than the regular Bongo in by all key measures (wheelbase, length, width, height, and weight). In export markets this model was again sold as the E-series. In Australia, Ford differentiated the long-wheelbase versions with the “Econovan Maxi” identifier. In Korea, it is also known as Kia Wide Bongo for truck variant and Kia Besta for van variant.
Selling this truck is bittersweet. I told myself I would never sell this truck, but I have an opportunity to buy I boat so must sell it. It runs great with no problems. I have all the records of maintenance, and have the title and other paperwork on hand.
Another reason this truck is so valuable, aside from it being a workhorse truck with very low original miles built in Japan for the Japan market, is that it is registered in California. Thats right. California plates. Let me tell you it is very very hard to make this happen here. But I did it and it is 100% legit. No funny business.
I am looking to get what I am asking for and don’t want any lowballs or to trade for anything. CASH ONLY.
Please email me to ask any questions about the truck.

Bongo Brawny LONG BED. (9′)

SE28M / R2 4 Cylinder diesel engine

2200 cc


5 Speed
3109 lb
Power steering