Beginner's luck strikes only those rare few who, inevitably, are playing poker with you for the first time, or looking to build their first cool car. Mopar Muscle is rife with stories of guys stumbling across Hemi four-speed cars forgotten in the musty back corners of barns, when the ad merely said, "Old Dodge coupe for sale."

Todd LaMothe is one of those fortunate guys we all envy. Now, Todd as the proud owner of a black '65 Coronet, which he had occasionally raced and enjoyed regularly, was no novice to the ways of classic Mopars. What made Todd so lucky his first time around was the events that led him to the possession of this '80 Dodge Mirada.

Todd told us, "As I stood in my friend's machine shop, a silly, confused look appeared on my face. My buddy, Chuck Millen, had just made me an offer that I couldn't refuse. The offer was to trade cars-Chuck wanted my '65 Coronet and I was interested in his '80 Mirada."

Todd's Coronet was better suited to the hard labor of life on the drag circuit, and Chuck's Mirada was more tuned to handle both street and strip driving, though the Mirada currently ran faster passes down the 1320 than Todd's B-Body. So, the deal was agreed on.

As a friend of Chuck for years, Todd had watched the Mirada come into form, and knew what the Dodge was capable of. in his opinion, the potential for the '80 to soar had yet to be fully tapped. The Mirada sported a Wilwood four-wheel disc braking system that would bring the black hulk to a stop, a custom aluminum 11-gallon fuel cell, and a complete Aeromotive fuel system feeding the fuel to the carburetor. A high-flow, two-core aluminum radiator with twin electric puller fans and Mezeire electric water pump pushed the coolant through the block. So effective is the cooling system, the car rarely exceeds 160 degrees on the Auto meter temp gauge, one of a complete Auto meter cluster that reads off the vital signs in the ultra-black interior. A full NHRA-certified 12-point rollcage crafted by Racefab in Michigan, and a RJS five-point harness secures the pilot down to ensure a safe and enjoyable pass down the strip.

The J-Body's mechanicals were just as race-ready. A solid MSD 6+ digital ignition with a MSD coil and Moroso plug wires bring the spark on time. AVO 12-way adjustable race shocks balance the four corners, as the front suspension remains nearly stock, while the rear touts Tri-City Launcher Springs. The massive Dana 60 boasts a 4.56 spool-mounted gear and indestructible Strange Engineering axles.

The major catch in the deal was the lack of an appropriate engine and transmission. The interior, whose luster had faded from the first days of use in 1980, also needed some TLC. A quick resolution for the absent powerplant was found in a '76 pickup truck. By transplanting the 440 and 727 TorqueFlite into the Mirada, Todd had a complete car.

With the easy transition, the Mirada found itself at the local strips for the better part of the summer, making consistent 12-seond passes. That year, while competing at the Chrysler Classic in Norwalk, Michigan, Todd scattered his torque converter across the sticky asphalt. Todd pushed his black gladiator onto the trailer with aspirations for something more grandiose.