Richard Gentle

Richard Gentle -, among other things, is a Mazda Bongo owner, writer, teacher and web designer, based in West Yorkshire.

“I always wanted to own an expedition vehicle, but eventually, I realised that cost and practicality had to mesh with the dream. Already a Jeep owner, I enjoy my 4-wheel drive and for me, a prerequisite was to have the same on my expedition vehicle. I also reminded myself that I live in the UK and not on the continent, so space on some of the roads, and places to park up, can be more restrictive. It was then that I put a search into eBay for 4-wheel drive campers and motorhomes and discovered Bongos. Most were located over 80 miles away, but one was, as they say in my part of the world, down the road. It was only after I bought it, that I remembered I actually knew two people with Bongos (one a family man, one a single woman) who separately told me how much they loved them. The other thing that swung it for me, was the interior build quality and the ‘James Bond’ style electric window blinds (see ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’, Karl Stromberg’s sea palace, ‘Atlantis’).

“When I bought my Bongo, I was told about a facebook community, and a couple of businesses local to me. What I have come to realise, is how much of a following Mazda Bongo’s and Ford Freda’s have and what a friendly and supportive bunch the Bongonauts are.”

The Bongo Buddy website has been created as a direct result of Richard’s experience of the various facebook groups, forums, and businesses, who support Mazda Bongo and Ford Freda owners and realising that quite a lot of owner requests for help and advice are repeated in many different places across the Internet. Bongo Buddy’s aim is to aggregate the best information available and present it in one location, in a clear and easily accessible way, therefore enabling any UK Bongo owner, wherever they may end up, to access timely information.

“The Bongo, for me, is an ideal vehicle. It is mostly well designed, easy to drive, and about the same size as my Jeep – in terms of ground footprint: (approximate measurements shown below)

1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee: 4.5m long (14.9 ft) x 1.8m wide (5.9 ft)
1996 Mazda Bongo Friendee: 4.6m long (15 ft) x 1.7m wide (5.6 ft)

“Both of my vehicles are quite old, but regular checks and maintenance usually keeps them running without too many issues.

“PS I’ve never really been one for naming my vehicles, but in the tradition of many Bongonauts, I have relented and named mine, ‘Frisky’.”

A Personal Conversion Story

After trying various seating arrangements, I ended up removing all of the rear seats and building my own bespoke conversion. I wouldn’t say it was perfect in terms of cabinet finish, but it’s been very practical, for a person travelling alone.

And just for fun…