After 40 Years In Hiding, One Of America’s Most Popular Street Racers Came Out Of Hiding

The “Black Ghost” needs no introduction to most muscle car historians. There have been legends of a mysterious black Dodge Hemi Challenger street racer that dominated Detroit in the early 1970s for decades among hot-rodders.

Yet, some had thrown off the Black Ghost as an urban legend since they were aware of how rumors can take on a life of their own and how they seem to spread on their own.

A unique car characteristic it never stayed out long enough for anyone to meet the driver only added to the mystery.

There were a few things that were crystal clear: the Black Ghost always knew when and when to appear, it was extraordinarily skilled at avoiding law enforcement, and it always got the job done.

Between 1970 and 1975, it did this completely stealthily, and after that, for more than 40 years, it vanished into thin air, cementing its status as a ghost car.

Forty years is a long time, but instead of being forgotten, the Black Ghost’s story grows more complex.

The vehicle then reappeared in 2016. There were 23 R/T-SE four-speed Hemi coupes made for the 1970 model year, making the Black Ghost Dodge Challenger one among them.

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Although most of those are four-speed, 1971-vintage convertible Mopars, Hemi-powered E-Body Mopars have long maintained the top rank in the muscle car world, frequently fetching more than seven figures at auction.

Despite this, the Black Ghost is undoubtedly a contender to surpass the $1 million mark because it is a one-family car, a (largely) unrestored Hemi survival car, and most importantly because it has a well-documented history as a successful 1970s street racer in the Detroit region.

The Black Ghost’s 1970 Dodge Hemi Challenger Is Back!

 

Since the Black Ghost first appeared seven years ago, it has been revived, traveled the nation, and appeared at some of the greatest muscle car events, including the Carlisle Chrysler Nationals and the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals.

Numerous interesting stories have been written about it, and with help from the Hagerty Drivers Foundation and the Historic Vehicle Association, the Black Ghost was added to the National Vehicle Registry at the U.S. Library of Congress in 2020.

Now that it is in the open, the Black Ghost has won over new and old fans, and there are questions regarding the vehicle and its owner. What’s the backstory of this? This is a common question. We also had questions, but now we have the answers.

1970 Dodge Challenger Black Ghost To Be Auctioned At Mecum Auction

The Black Ghost 1970 Dodge Hemi Challenger R/T-SE will be offered for auction by Mecum at their Indy event on May 19, 2023.

Godfrey Qualls, a Detroit motorcycle officer, placed a special order for the vehicle from Raynal Brothers Dodge in Detroit sometime in October 1969. Qualls had earlier proven himself as a paratrooper with the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, earning him the Purple Heart for suffering grenade shrapnel injuries.

Qualls crossed the line between being a police officer by day and a street racer at night as a thrill-seeker. Because of this situation, Godfrey Qualls kept his nocturnal activities hidden from his family, friends, and coworkers.

Godfrey Qualls: The Black Ghost’s Mysterious Owner

Godfrey Qualls preserved his secret until the very end, which may not seem like a huge deal, but most street racers usually like to tell anybody who would listen about their secret adventures, expanding the big-fish story with each recounting.

The concept that a street racer could be so modest as to conceal such an infamous car with a flawless record for so many years until his passing is fascinating, irrespective of the car’s performance.

We can only speculate that Godfrey Qualls, an enthusiastic gearhead, had the chance to hear firsthand reports of his own exploits through the years, but he generally remained mute to protect his job and family.

Gregory Qualls Revives The Hemi Challenger Black Ghost

Gregory Qualls, Godfrey Quall’s son, currently owns the Black Ghost. The 49-year-old Detroit film director claims he had no idea about his father’s history of street racing when he was just a year old and has since grown to accept it with equal measures of pride and awe.

His father retired the car from the streets when he was just a year old. The Challenger was just a random car in the garage when his father died, with blankets and boxes on top.

Godfrey realized his time was running out when his bone-attacking prostate cancer returned from remission. Godfrey gave his son Gregory instructions to find the Challenger’s paperwork and bring it to him from his hospital bed on Christmas Eve of 2015.

Godfrey passed away without telling his son the history of the car shortly after giving it to Gregory.

Gregory recently spoke with us about his attempt to find out more about his father’s secret life, but before we share it with you, we have some encouraging news. Dodge will only produce 300 Black Ghost Challengers in recognition of Godfrey Qualls’ long contribution to the nation and the city.

2023 Black Ghost Special Edition Of Dodge’s Final Call

As part of Dodge’s year-long “Last Call” farewell tour, SRT has been tasked with producing 300 Black Ghost copies for the 2023 model year, all of which will be widebody Jailbreak Redeye Challengers powered by an 807-horsepower 6.2-liter Hellcat Hemi and an eight-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission.

They all have a Pitch Black exterior with a white bumblebee stripe, a unique faux gator-grain roof, chrome “Dodge” lettering on the nose, 305/35ZR20 tires on 20-inch Satin Carbon rims, retro “Challenger” emblems on all four sides, black interior with Alcantara and leather seating, and exclusive Black Ghost badging.

The 2023 Black Ghost’s starting manufacturer-suggested retail price is $99,315, but if the present pattern with Hellcat-powered cars continues, the car’s limited supply will push the real price higher.

SEMA 2022: Black Ghost Model Unveiling

At the 2022 SEMA exhibition in Las Vegas, where it was on display alongside Dodge’s six other 2023 Last Call special editions, we had the opportunity to see the brand-new Black Ghost limited edition.

Although we haven’t taken a Black Ghost through its paces yet, we have tested out a number of widebody Challenger Redeye models before this one, including a 2021 SRT Super Stock with a virtually identical powerplant, and we can assure you that the performance is explosive.

Dodge, in our opinion, did a fantastic job of recreating the essence of the original Black Ghost, and the SRT team is to be praised for creating such an excellent tribute.

When the original Black Ghost and the 2023 SRT special version met in a historic encounter at MCACN this past November, Godfrey Qualls would have been impressed. His son Gregory had the opportunity to see it in person (photo below).

Gregory is going through a thrilling moment right now, so we recently sat down with him for an interview. He said the following.

Gregory Qualls Interview

HOT ROD: Tell us about your father and your childhood with the car.

Gregory Qualls: It was always in the garage. Boxes were placed on top of the car in the garage, and it was covered with horse blankets.

When I was a little child, around the age of seven or eight, I used to ride my bicycle, and occasionally when I brought it back into the garage, it would lean over and hit the car. Its door and fender both have dents.

HR: What is the history of this car for those who are unaware of it?

GQ: People are fascinated by the car because, like me, they are unaware of it. I’ve never heard anything from my dad concerning the car.

My childhood perception of the car was that it was simply my dad’s car in the garage because I only discovered everything about it after he passed away. It was just a regular car wrapped in a blanket.

My dad’s brother owned a 1968 Dodge Charger that was all black with a white stripe and had a 440 Magnum in it.

Knowing how my dad is, I learned this when I went back and spoke to my uncles and family, which made me giggle.

Yes, you need to put the big Hemi in there. My dad would constantly argue with his brothers. Also, the Hemi was probably quite expensive at the time, and you just couldn’t afford to get it.

So, when it came time for my dad to get his car, he wanted to outdo his brother, so he ended up getting a Challenger instead of a Charger. It was the same color, all black with a white stripe, but this time a 426 Hemi was in it in place of the Charger’s 440.

HR: The history of the trailer hitch is interesting. Tell us about that.

GQ: My dad liked motorcycles just as much as he loved cars. My father had a 1968 Norton Fastback as well as Triumph, BSA, and BMW motorcycles, so he added a trailer hitch to the car so he could tow his motorcycles.

HR: Your father worked as a Detroit motorcycle officer. As a police officer who also participated in night street racing, your father must have experienced some cognitive dissonance.

GQ: He spent 37 years as a police officer in Detroit. He was a motorcycle policeman who maintained traffic laws. I don’t know how my dad handled street racing while he was a cop, but he was a very powerful man and a good leader.

He was a good person. Fair. A decent man. He was a man who valued morality and principles above all else, which seemed strange coming from a police officer, you know. He might have had a wild side, too.

He enjoyed the thrill. Speed was his thing. I believe that had a significant impact on his jumps. He frequently recalled his time in the military, when he served in the 82nd Airborne as a paratrooper and routinely jumped out of aircraft.

From the stories he told me, he has performed over 300 jumps. He stated he enjoyed jumping so much that it became an addiction for him. So, I believe that was a major factor in the cars’ power and torque as well as their speed and sense of adrenaline.

HR: Your father had no intention of using an alligator vinyl top. How did that take place?

GQ: My dad originally bought the car in all black, and it was also going to have the shaker hood package and a black vinyl top. In October [1969], he had placed the car’s order. He, I believe, missed the ordering deadline.

Only a few cars were produced since they lacked the crumple zone on the hood, which was necessary. He, therefore, got the car on December 5. It lacked the vinyl top he wanted, as well as the shaker hood. By chance, it arrived with the gator grain. Something happened.

Dad was somewhat upset about it. He liked the car, but at first, he didn’t enjoy it all that much. Yet with time, he began to like the gator grain.

Nevertheless, based on what I understand from what his friends and other people told me, he was more upset about the shaker hood.

As a result, he either sued Chrysler or the dealership. He also purchased the shaker hood package for the car and was meant to take it to the dealer to have it installed, but he never did so because he was afraid of the dealer damaging his vehicle.

HR: Are there any dents or marks with a backstory?

GQ: [Laughs] Yeah, the car has quite a few dents and scratches. It must be what gives the car its personality, I suppose.

Some of those dents and scratches are my fault because, as a child, you play with your bike, then when you go home, you quickly put it in the garage to get inside the house before it was dark. Sometimes, you know, you don’t fully extend the bike’s kickstand, and the bike slides and falls down directly onto the car. Several of those are, therefore mine.

HR: How did you feel when you first learned what this car was and when it entered your life?

GQ: Before my father’s passing, I actually had no idea what the car was. On Christmas Eve of 2015, he passed away. Around March 2016, I pulled the car out. I didn’t learn about the car’s history until roughly a year later.

I first learned about my dad’s stories in 2017 when I accepted an invitation to drive the car at the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals (see photo above). Yes, I remember this car, people would say as they approached me. This car was raced by your father on Telegraph and Woodward.

Your father was merely a myth or an urban legend. I was shocked to learn that my dad had kept this information from me since, while some people knew he was a police officer, many others had no idea who he was or even that the car existed.

What?!’ “What are you talking about?” I asked. Did he race? Because the folks who saw the car assumed it was simply a story, it came as a surprise to them as it did to me. They didn’t consider it to be real. They were amazed was I—when they realized it was a real car.

HR: Do you have a favorite story in particular?

GQ: Two stories I came found were somewhat interesting. One, in particular, stands out: I don’t know the last name of the man, but his name was Bud. He and I met at the Autorama.

He approached me and said, “Yes, I raced your dad. I raced this car. He was driving a 4.30 rearend Barracuda with a 440 six-pack engine that was yellow and, I believe, had a black stripe on it. He had a good setup. He didn’t appear to have a slow car at all.

He claimed that after lining up next to my father, they took off, and he passed him in first gear as they came from the hole. Then, in second gear, my dad simply passed him womp, straight past him and won over him.

The same car that he had raced just two weeks before was then visible to my father as he was in the squad car. The police officer says, “Come on, I’ll give you another chance,” and Bud says he realized it was your father when he saw him out the window.

Possibly this time, you can defeat me! Two weeks ago, I defeated you.” So he was encouraging him. That made me laugh so hard. While some people were aware that my father was a police officer, others weren’t.

And there is still another story that I heard during Autorama. I constantly hear these stories in Detroit. A man from Mancini Racing approached me and inquired about my father after recognizing the vehicle.

He mentioned that my father used to visit the old store on Davison and Six Mile in Detroit because my father was a police officer for the Eleventh Precinct. Because of his work at Davison, my father used to go there.

The men he interacted with when he went into the shop knew him, but they said, “Your dad always used to brag about the car, but we never saw it.” They found that to be interesting and were amazed to see a real car at the Autorama.

HR: What do you think the car will bring at auction?

GQ: I hope that whoever purchases the car will truly appreciate its history and backstory and that they will treat it well.

Maybe they could treat it like a time capsule, whether they display the car and do something more than I can, or perhaps they could put it in a collection or something similar to a museum where they can share it, and others can view it.

That’s my hope, but if it doesn’t, there isn’t much I can do about it, so I make an effort not to stress out too much about it.

HR: Do you want to add anything to the other stories about the car that have already been told?

GQ: Congress’s library. Perhaps some people are aware of it, but perhaps many are unaware of it. I visited the Carlisle Chrysler Nationals in 2018.

I attend non-judged car events only. I don’t make judgments or engage in that. I simply enjoy being able to drive the car there, display it, and share my dad’s story.

But, for some reason, as I keep attending the events, everyone insists that I get a trophy since the car deserves it. Despite the fact that I don’t want it, I reply, “Fine, I’ll take it.”

Consequently, as a result of the Historic Vehicle Association’s funding, I was able to receive the National Heritage Award in 2018. They spoke with me, enjoyed the story, and then requested my contact details.

Two years passed, and I paid them no mind. The Historic Vehicle Association called me back and introduced itself, saying, “Yes, we would like to induct your car into the Library of Congress.” I was shocked.

It is vehicle number 28 on the Hagerty Drivers Foundation’s national registry. The Bullitt Mustang also won the same award.

Special Thanks

The Black Ghost has been operating well for years since its discovery, and Gregory Qualls would like to thank Eric Laesch, Darrell Reid, and Dean Herron for their help.

Apart from the rebuilt original master cylinder, brake booster, distributor, fuel pump, carburetors, and brake system, nothing on the 1970 Dodge Hemi Challenger R/T-SE has been changed or added.

Only the tires, radiator, clutch fan, gas tank, hoses, vacuum lines, spark plugs, plug wires, and fluids have been made from new reproduction parts.

Can’t even imagine that a car had a back story like this. Did you know about this car? Please let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to spread the news so that we can hear from more people.

Our mission is to take you on a thrilling ride down memory lane, exploring the history, design, and unforgettable moments that define the golden era of automobiles.

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