“It’s time,” says Black Ghost owner ahead of historic auction
Greg Qualls, a cinematographer and vice-president of a Detroit-based film company, drives a widebody 2021 Dodge Challenger with a shaker hood, a six-speed manual transmission, the Scat Pack package with the 392-cubic-inch Hemi V-8. And like his father’s famous car, it’s painted black.
“But with a red interior,” Qualls says. “That’s my personal touch.”
Godfrey Qualls’ 1970 Challenger R/T SE, the legendary Detroit street racer known as the Black Ghost, has houndstooth upholstery.
If you aren’t familiar with the story of the Black Ghost, it would show up, in the early 1970s, for the occasional street race at night in Detroit. After terrorizing the competition it would disappear, often for weeks at a time. The unknown driver didn’t stick around to hang out with the other hot rodders, and he didn’t mix at malt shops or mall parking lots. The car would show up, race, win, and disappear.
There was a reason for keeping a low profile. Godfrey Qualls was a Detroit police officer, specifically a motor jock (shorthand for a motorcycle patrolman). Getting caught could mean the end of his law enforcement career. So rather than socialize, he vanished—thus the nickname, the Black Ghost. (Read Kirk Seaman’s definitive account here.)
When Godfrey died in 2015, he gave up the Ghost to son Greg, who had no idea of car’s one-time notoriety as a Woodward Avenue terror. He—and the rest of the world—definitely know now. Thanks in part to the Hagerty Drivers Foundation, the Black Ghost’s story was circulated widely in 2020, culminating with its induction into the National Historic Vehicle Register in the Library of Congress. Now, the mystery-laden muscle car is going up for sale at Mecum’s Indianapolis auction in May.
Mecum broke news of the consignment at the auction house’s Kissimmee auction, going on now, including the Ghost in a special. Parked next to the 1970 Challenger is the “new” Black Ghost, a 300-unit tribute model Dodge is building as part of its “Last Call” promotions marking the current Challenger and Charger’s final model year. The 807-horsepower 2023 “Black Ghost” even has the alligator-hide-like vinyl roof that Godfrey Qualls didn’t particularly like, but settled for, when he bought the Mopar new.
As it sits now, the 1970 Black Ghost isn’t in perfect shape. A nick here, a scratch there—the patina being part of the story, many would argue. “It’s an original unrestored survivor, and it’s in driving condition,” Greg says. “All I did was work on it in my dad’s garage to make it drivable and safe, because I wanted to drive my dad’s car.”
Greg took the Challenger to a car show for the first time in 2017, knowing nothing of its true lore. Before long, the stories started rolling in. “I began finding out about my dad doing the street racing and stuff. It surprised me. It surprised me a lot. I was like, ‘Why didn’t my dad tell me?’”
Many, including Greg himself, thought he would keep the Black Ghost forever. “The main reason is it’s a chance to help my family, to give them opportunities they may not have otherwise,” he tells Hagerty. “And the timing is right, as it seems like we’re transitioning out of gas cars.
“Family, that’s the key to all this. And it’s something I think my Dad would be OK with. But I think it’s shocking a lot of people. It was a hard decision to make. My dad didn’t say don’t sell the car, he said just don’t give it away.”
So what does Greg think the Black Ghost will bring when it crosses the block in May?
“I don’t know,” he says, “That’s a question I just can’t answer.”
John Kraman, on-air analyst for the Mecum Auctions television broadcasts, can perhaps offer an answer. Mecum is known as a muscle-car specialist, and with Kraman in the midst of the 4200-car Kissimmee sale, we’d say he’s pretty well-versed on the subject.
“Number one,” Kraman says, “It’s been a family-owned car since new. It’s not one of those cars that has been messed around with, and who knows what sheet metal or powertrain components have been changed. It’s original.
“Number two: It was ordered brand-new by Godfrey Qualls and he decided to make it really special with the color, a four-speed manual, 4:10 gears with the Track Pack, plus he ordered it as an SE, something seldom seen on a Hemi car. So it’s an R/T SE, so it has the deluxe interior and the smaller back window, and he added power windows and an AM/FM stereo. It’s a high-option Hemi car in black, certainly the only one like it—there were only a couple dozen R/T SE Hemis built. The car is rare in itself. It’s in all-original condition—the paint, the interior, the engine, and it’s got the story. It’s an urban legend.
“In 1975, he put the car away, stuck it in the garage. And that was it. He went back into the military—he had already served as a paratrooper—took another tour, ended up with a Purple Heart, came back, finished out his career as a police officer, retired. And right before he passed away he signed the title over to Greg.
“There’s a lot of great cars we see,” Kraman explains, “but we don’t know the story. And those stories add so much. But this car is so much more than a story; the hardware is A-list in the muscle car world.”
Even if the survivor Challenger never made its name as the Black Ghost, it would still bring big dollars, the Mecum broadcaster says: “I would think the car, on its own merit, would bring in the million-dollar range.”
Hagerty valuation specialist John Wiley offers more perspective. “Unrestored, culturally iconic muscle cars such as the 1968 Bullitt Mustang sell for well over seven figures, and it’s not unreasonable to expect the Black Ghost might do the same,” Wiley says.
Regardless of the final figure, it’s safe to say that Greg Qualls and his family aren’t taking this step lightly. Their hope is that they will be much better off thanks to Godfrey’s comparatively modest investment in a new Dodge, more than fifty years ago. “I’ll be sad to see it go,” Greg says. “But it’s time.”
Check out the Hagerty Media homepage so you don’t miss a single story, or better yet, bookmark it.
Sell it, send the kids to college in their own (new) Challengers (get mom one as well I say…) and don’t have to worry about someone stealing the original.
So sad to see such an historic survivor leave the family. Who knows, in another 10 or 25 or 50 years, it would fetch much more. But let’s see someone restore what needs to be fixed and put it back on the Detroit streets, and especially on Woodward Ave again. We have a similar vehicle, but it’s reputation only relates to a small sleepy rural town on SW Ontario. Not that same for this Detroit legend. On another note, we are all so glad it’s history came to light in the past few years. It’s an amazing story … on that makes legends….
I say leave it. This isn’t a show car, its prime wasn’t all about looking pretty. It was a real-deal street racer, and its little nicks are from each of its battles past. Seems like a shame to strip its history like that.
I’d love to hear more about that car if possible. I cover classic car history and my restoration project on my youtube channel. If there’s a lot of info on the Ontario car I’d love to hear it. Look me up on facebook. “Vic’s Garage”
I think it is sad to see it leave the family. It’s a piece of history and it was your dad’s car. If it was me I would not part with it yet.
I discovered this car through watching the Hagerty documentary :The Black Ghost: Street Racing Legend.
Fantastic film on an incredible machine with an amazing story. It is hard to argue against the sale since it is expected to bring BIG money for the family. The legend will live on!
His comment about gas cars being on the way out was merely an additional footnote to the reasons he gave!
Your missed the point.
His family has learned of, and embraced the entire story of it’s past.
They have that forever in their hearts.
But with all things of this world, there comes a time when it is good and right to pass them on, to let them go and to share them with others.
He told your this was not easy. I’ve been there! But you WEIGH each factor in the situation carefully and go over it and over it.
If you cannot see that in his comment that this was a difficult decision then you have yet to gain such insight thru being in the same situation.
I’m certain that each family member gave their input or he would not be at peace with the decision.
Your cannot make a judgment on this! No one outside their family CAN.
Because we have NO FREAKING IDEA about their situation or their feelings or their hearts with regard to this very personal thing.
I am 67 years old and have experienced great loss of very special, unique, one of a kind items of my own that I had hoped to pass on or revive to their former glory or simply continue to enjoy and cherish…
From those experiences I have learned that each had it’s good and bad attributes where at first, it seemed only to be bad.
Imagine for just s moment, that something YOU did because of who you were and what you were interested in at the time (like his dad getting that car and living that dual life)…
would years later be able to ensure a good, stable future for your whole family after you were gone!!
What a wonderful thing indeed!
I have bought and own MANY different things that I have a huge interest in, from stamps, to coins, collectible toys, artifacts, artworks and cars. NONE of them is highly valuable but each has some significant value.
And added together? They are not ONLY things that I wanted and enjoyed. They are ALSO, and we’re planned to BE from the beginning, parts of the estate that will be passed to my daughter when I’m gone.
She has enjoyed them while I’m alive and she may keep some or none.
But their value is the estate that I created to help ensure a GOOD FUTURE for HER!
SO, THEIR DAD would be SO HAPPY to know that his simple passion to own and race that car, r will result in providing for his family in a way he could have never dreamed of…
let alone have achieved,
on a policeman’s salary!!
He is one happy dad right now to see this.
And his wife and children will cherish every part of his legacy, forever!
Saying it’s time to sell because gas cars are on their way out seems short sighted. Does he think all internal combustion cars will be outlawed or less marketable? If the former ever comes true the latter would be the opposite. This is one of those rare investments not damaged like the government has done to my IRA. I’d hang on to it i possible because sending kids to college no longer has the value it once had.
Nice story behind the car. Don’t understand why the son is selling a rare car his dad gave to him as he was dying of prostate cancer. From the video it never ventured out of the Detroit City limits. Always showing the car around some industrial area. Not what Detroit looks like starting at 6 Mile Rd where Woodward begins it’s 8 lanes, 4 north bound and 4 south past some of the wealthiest area of Detroit. right up to the City Limits at 8 Mile Rd. North of 8 Mile Rd on Woodward is where all of the real action occurred. 4 Lanes in each direction. With light every half mile with action at every light. Mostly racing from a roll, 4 across. From Ferndale 8 Mile Rd out to Bloomfield Hills (Twp) at Square Lake Rd (20 Mile) and back. No bombed out abandoned builds and homes as depicted here. Unfortunately non of us who raced Woodward or Thursday nights on Northwestern Hwy for years ever heard of it nor remember seeing it! A stock street Hemi was not much of a competitor. He should keep the car!
I saw the car at Amelia Island, Florida last year, so it has certainly has ventured outside the Detroit city limits. People that tell Greg to keep the car have no idea what his situation is and what he wants for his kids. He’s a great guy and I hope he gets a ton for it.
Don’t want to cause any issues, and with much respect, but my ’69 Hemi RR 4-speed, back in the day, was a car to be reconned with. An exceptionally strong running car. My brother-in-law, a drag racer, said he had never raced a street-driven-every-day car that ran so strong. The people who assembled this car did a heck of a job in May of 1969.
I 100% disapprove of this decision. But I guess I’m too sentimental and would actually honor someone else’s wishes.
Looks like this family includes two kids who will be college age soon enough, the market for Boomer era muscle cars is about as hot as it could be with Boomers rapidly aging into retirement and wish fulfillment time, and there’s extensive evidence that everyone involved is doing what it takes to maximize the final price. What grandfather wouldn’t want his grandkids to have the greatest opportunities in life? Of course it’s going to be an emotional moment, but this family is making a very, very wise choice. Loving a car is no reason to deny your children the advantages money can bring.
This car is a legend partly truth and partly fiction. but the legend was not passed on to the family. Now is the time the legend is tied to the family, an inheritance to sustain them.
It would be a shame to restore an Iconic vehicle with such a pedigree and legend. It’s only origional once.
Absolutely wonderful tale of the car and its history. Especially like the part where Greg didn’t know the full story of the urban legend he inherited until strangers filled him in.
I can understand the decision to sell the car. Cars are central elements of our (the Hagerty collective’s) lives, but I try to seek balance among all the elements of life, and sometimes something has to give. And in this case, the car is giving back in a big way. Someone else will get to add this car to the story of their lives, and pass down the history as well.
GLWA, as they say.
Couldn’t let go of dad’s car
I had a 71 challenger black. 340 4 barrel I wish I had it back . And he will wish he wish he had the black ghost back
I am absolutely loving this journey of the “Black Ghost”. I have been keeping up with it since the release. It would have been an honor if I could have seen it in action just 1 time. I envy you, Mr. Greg for having such a story and legacy to share. By your story, Your father was honorable, smart, and very wise. I know he is looking down on you smiling. I will be watching the show in May.
It’s just a car.
But then again….it’s not “just a car”.
I was a So CA street racer in the 50’s. LOTS of fun. Hopefully the new owner will leave it “as is”.