“I started my collection with the Mazda MX-5, and then one time, I had the chance to share this collection with some friends – enthusiasts of the MX-5 – and I saw in them the happiness to see that particular car.
“But I feel I was really happy to share my collection with other enthusiasts. And so this came up – the idea to, at the very end, open a resort, where the resort is not only a beautiful resort, but is a resort linked to the collection of MX-5s. And you cannot only see the collection, but drive probably the most sought-after Miata you have in your mind or have seen in the books.”
That pretty much sums up Andrea Mancini, founder and proud owner of ‘Miataland’ in Italy – named after the world’s best-selling two-seat convertible sports car, known elsewhere around the world as the Miata and Eunos Roadster.
A man almost more passionate about sharing his passion of the Mazda MX-5 with others than he is about his own incredible collection, Mancini is one in a million.
“In 1998, I was working in a Ford dealership in Rome, and a girl wanted to trade in her MX-5 to buy a new Ford Ka,” Mancini recalls. “I was completely crazy at that moment, ‘I want that car, I want that car,’ I told myself.”
‘That car’ was a 1994 first-generation Mazda MX-5, originally from Germany. Black with a tan roof, as Mancini tells us, the humble 1.6-litre NA was “nothing special, but really beautiful”.
Already in possession of a new Ford Ka, which he’d obtained at “a very special price because I was working at the dealership”, Mancini made the decision to trade in the Ford for the little MX-5. His first.
“I remember the first drive – top down – from the dealership to home… It was something incredible.”
Despite the somewhat fanciful name, ‘Miataland’ is not a theme park. It’s a soon-to-be-opened resort in central Italy where fans of the Mazda MX-5 can come, relax, and drink in all that Umbria and the beautiful Province of Perugia has to offer, all while getting up close and personal with one man’s exquisite private collection of more than 30 MX-5s, Miatas, and Eunos Roadsters.
Finally buying his first in 1998, Mancini was already long smitten with the Mazda MX-5 – the Japanese brand’s take on the many classic British sports cars that preceded its 1989 world debut.
Now, you might be wondering why an Italian car enthusiast, living in Italy, who can afford to have a car collection, doesn’t have a collection of Italian cars – Alfa Romeos, Ferraris, Fiats, Lamborghinis, Lancias, or Maseratis.
To this, Mancini says, “I’m not sure.”
“First of all, because at first, I wasn’t thinking about a collection. First I bought an MX-5 because I liked the car.
“I remember the first time I saw the car in a magazine – in an Italian car magazine. There were two new cars: the front-wheel-drive Lotus Elan, and the Miata. The Mazda had less power but I appreciated the design more, and it was rear-wheel drive. I started at that moment to think about a Miata.”
Think about it so much, did Mancini, he stopped in at a Mazda dealership almost every day while riding his motorbike home from university, just to see the car.
“I had more than 10 brochures of the Miata. It cost 30,500,000 Italian Lira at the time ($23,500), but that was too much for me, as I had no revenue because I was studying."
Regardless, the damage was done. Something had been implanted inside his brain. “The seed had been planted,” Mancini confesses.
Cut to today and Mancini’s collection totals 39 unique, special, and limited edition Mazda MX-5s, with Miataland now home to a converted and renovated 17th century stone farmhouse, comprising three standard double-rooms, three suites, and one two-room apartment – all with en-suite bathrooms.
Keeping the MX-5 theme going, the colour palette of each space pays homage to that of a limited edition Miata. This means three standard double-rooms in Sunburst Yellow, Mariner Blue, and Merlot, three suites in Soul Red, M2 Blue, and British Racing Green, and one two-room apartment in Crystal White. Pretty cool.
Located about 150km north of Rome and 8km southwest of Collazzone, the villa also features a swimming pool, and a main residence where Mancini, his wife Claudia, their two dogs Mixie and Eunos, and Mancini’s right-hand man Stefano Cidda, all reside.
“We bought this place around two years and a half ago,” Mancini reveals.
“We started lots of works because the place was not like this condition now. We are almost ready, but some things we need to finish.”
And when the front gates at Miataland do officially open – hopefully in a matter of weeks – not only will guests get to bask in the beauty of the area, but with Mancini’s goal of sharing his passion and love of the MX-5 with any and all like-minded enthusiasts, stay at Miataland, and you’re guaranteed to be able to get up close and personal with his entire on-site collection.
Although the man himself admits not every car will be handed out to each and every guest, those deemed worthy will still likely get the opportunity to drive something truly special themselves.
Fortunately, Mancini will also have two newer cars on hand to ensure no one misses out on the Miata experience: a brand-new fourth-generation 2.0-litre ND MX-5 Sport (supplied with support from Mazda Italy) and a specially-ordered MX-5 RF.
But where does one keep all of one’s cars? A barn. That’s right, a barn.
“Yes, this was one of the most important points in order to buy the property,” Mancini explains, “Because now it’s absolutely impossible to find or to build [a barn] such like this in a rural area.”
Built 35 years ago to house a previous owner’s car collection, Mancini tells us the barn was later converted to accommodate horses, but has since been returned to support “the original scope” of keeping special cars protected from the elements.
Currently chock-full with 32 MX-5s – the other seven split between Mancini’s on-site workshop or outside the barn under car covers – Mancini says, while he likes all the cars, the barn is where some “really special” Miatas live.
Really special Miatas, such as a Mk1 NA MX-5 sporting a full Pit Crew Racing conversion.
A vintage-style retro conversion dreamt up by the Japanese tuning and body-modification company, the Pit Crew Racing MX-5 is powered by a tuned engine, and features Soul Red paint borrowed from the latest fourth-generation ND MX-5, “just to have something completely different”.
“It’s a really cool car this one,” Mancini tells us.
Next up, Mancini shows us a 2004 Velocity Red second-generation NB Mazdaspeed MX-5 Miata.
One of the first factory-turbocharged Mazda MX-5s on the planet – along with Mazda Australia’s 2002 NB-based turbocharged MX-5 SP – Mancini’s boosted Mazdaspeed Miata is originally from Florida, and came standard with an IHI turbocharger, a front-mounted air-to-air intercooler, an upgraded six-speed manual transmission and upgraded Bilstein suspension, and 17-inch Racing Hart alloy wheels.
“It’s a very balanced car, because it’s… the right power on the right chassis,” Mancini says. “So, it’s perfect.”
Next, Mancini diverts our attention to a mental-looking supercharged 1.8-litre wide-body 1993 NA Eunos Roadster Mazdaspeed B-Spec 1.8.
Sporting a tough bodykit from Japanese tuning house Nopro, the white rocket is also equipped with race suspension and drool-worthy Mazdaspeed bucket seats. Very, very cool.
Even more mental, though, is the dark-coloured NA Miata sitting next to the Nopro-kitted Mazdaspeed.
Appearing relatively tame by comparison – apart from some intriguing bonnet vents – this particular MX-5 is anything but.
Known as the ‘Mega Monster’, this wee NA packs one hell of a punch, with its standard four-cylinder engine swapped out for a supercharged 5.0-litre Ford Mustang V8. Yup, for real.
Originally from Monster Motorsports in California, this circa-1000kg MX-5 packs around 300kW of power – or 400hp – and it sends it all to those poor two rear wheels. No surprise then when Mancini tells us, “So when you give full gas in third gear… you have slipping.”
“Probably it’s too much,” Mancini says smiling, before moving on to walk us through three particularly highly-prized MX-5 models.
Back in 1990, Mazda Motor Corporation founded a little-known performance arm called M2 Incorporated, officially launching the program in 1991.
Based in Tokyo and primarily focussed on the development and production of vehicle parts and accessories, M2 Corp also produced limited-number special edition versions of popular models, including several desirable MX-5s – three of which can be found tucked into Mancini’s Miataland barn.
Dubbed the ‘Cafe Roadster’, the 1991 M2-1001 was limited to 300 units and featured vintage-inspired interior and exterior enhancements, fixed-back bucket seats, stiffer M2-specific suspension, and an uprated version of the standard car’s naturally-aspirated 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine.
With an upgraded camshaft and exhaust system, more aggressive pistons, a lightweight flywheel, and the employment of various weight-reduction measures, the 98kW M2-1001 was full of “lots of goodies”, as Mancini describes it.
“It was really unbelievable. They sold this car at double the list price of a standard MX-5.”
This was followed in 1992 by the more luxury-focussed M2-1002 ‘Vintage Roadster’.
Scoring a mildly tweaked exterior compared with its predecessor, the M2-1002 traded performance-tuned components for a standard engine, gearbox, and chassis combination, plus wood trim and ivory leather. However, the model ultimately proved less successful than the M2-1001, with only 100 ever built and sold.
Then in 1994, the last MX-5-based M2 production model would be assembled before M2 Corp closed up shop in April of 1995.
Pitched as the ‘Street Competition Roadster’, the M2-1028 was based on the newer 1.8-litre five-speed manual-equipped NA MX-5, and was only available in either Dark Blue or Chaste White.
Again limited to 300 units, the M2-1028 was effectively a road-registered, race-ready concept, “Like the RS is for Porsche,” Mancini explains.
Under the bonnet sits an engine strut brace, and the most powerful Miata-based M2 engine ever developed, producing around 104kW of power.
Benefitting from a tuned engine control unit (ECU), improved exhaust, higher compression ratio, and a lightened flywheel, the M2-1028 also came with a six-point aluminium roll cage, an aluminium ‘duck-tail’ boot lid, firmer suspension, and lightweight wheels.
Tipping the scales at around 960kg, the super-special MX-5 was further specced with glass-fibre racing bucket seats, sized to suit individual owners.
“This car is really simple,” Mancini tells us. “It’s the pure concept of racing for Mazda: not too much horsepower, but really, less weight and be fun.”
Next, Mancini pulls back the plastic cover on a super-tidy Grace Green second-generation 2000 NB MX-5 Miracle.
Powered by a 1.8-litre BP-series MX-5 engine, the Miracle was a special edition model limited to 50 units. Teaming a six-speed manual gearbox with a Torsen limited-slip rear differential, the Miracle was topped off with an interior combination of wood and white leather.
Interesting story… The NB Miracle is actually the second MX-5 Mancini ever bought. But while Mancini’s extensive collection includes his second-ever love, it does not include his first – not through lack of trying, however.
You see, with finances still tight, Mancini was forced to trade in his first Black 1994 NA MX-5, in order to afford the limited edition Miracle he so lusted after.
That said, years later, Mancini would happen across his first NA – albeit looking worse for wear – and leave a business card under the wiper, along with a note telling the owner that if they were interested in selling the car, he might be interested in buying it. He never got the call.
Lastly, Mancini introduces us to a divine Montego Blue 1994 NA Eunos Roadster RS-Limited.
Still looking neat and sharp, the RS-Limited is one of 500 Japanese-market specials to have ever been made. A total peach.
Loaded with a 95kW 1.8-litre engine, a lightened flywheel, Bilstein suspension, a Torsen limited-slip rear differential, and gorgeous 15-inch BBS wheels, the RS also scored super-comfy carbon-Kevlar Recaro bucket seats.
One of the stranger cars in Mancini’s collection includes an NA MX-5-based Ferrari 250 GTO replica. Although, the barn also houses a 1990 BBR MX-5 Turbo from Brodie Britain Racing (BBR) in the UK, a 1994 Eunos Roadster V Special II 1.8, a 1999 MX-5 10th Anniversary, and a 2010 MX-5 Open Race race car – one of only two to have represented Italy in Mazda Europe’s 20th Anniversary Open Race endurance event.
A true man of the world, Mancini’s personal collection also goes beyond his MX-5s, and includes a few other non-Miata Mazdas, such as a convertible FC RX-7, an FD RX-7, an RX-8, a still-cute 121, and an early 1990’s (323) Familia GT-R. For some European flavour, he also has a Peugeot 205 GTi, an E36 BMW M3 Convertible, and an E46 BMW M3 Coupe.
As for the car he’s most passionate about, however, it’s the humble little Mazda MX-5 by an Italian countryside mile.
“You need to drive this car,” Mancini urges. “Everyone of my friends who drives this car, wants to have this car. It’s incredible. And it’s the experience of everyone.
“The father of my wife said to me, ‘Andrea, I want to drive something different,’ and I found the 10th Anniversary. And he became crazy – at 65- or almost 70-years-old. He was always top down. It’s unbelievable.”
So, if you’re a true fan of the Mazda MX-5, Mazda Miata, or Eunos Roadster, or even if you just happen to find yourself somewhere between Rome and Florence, do what you can to stop into Miataland. Meet the man behind it all, check out his genuinely incredible collection of cars, and share with him his immense joy and passion for what is his, and the world’s, favourite two-seat convertible sports car.
Click on the Gallery tab above for more Miataland images by Glen Sullivan and David Zalstein.
Videography by Glen Sullivan.
Note: CarAdvice would like to thank Andrea and Claudia Mancini and Stefano Cidda from Miataland, as well as Mazda Australia, for all their help and support in making this story possible. Grazie ragazzi.