The adrenaline rush of driving the legendary Black Ghost Challenger
Gregory Qualls laughs a lot when he drives his father’s pride and joy. Who wouldn’t? Sliding behind the wheel of the 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T SE and experiencing the incredible power of the legendary Black Ghost is the stuff of fantasy.
For most of us, it’ll stay that way. Thankfully, the Historic Vehicle Association has provided a virtual ride-along.
“It’s hard to explain,” Qualls says in the HVA’s latest video celebrating the Ghost’s addition to the National Historic Vehicle Register. “You get kind of an adrenaline rush. You feel like you’re a part of the machine.”
The Challenger is known for both its triple-black appearance—black exterior paint, Gator Grain black vinyl top, and black interior—and its mysterious penchant for showing up on the streets of Detroit, beating every opponent brave enough to challenge it, and then vanishing for weeks at a time. It was owned by Army veteran and police officer Godfrey Qualls. Gregory learned about his father’s antics after his death in 2015, but he has embraced both the Black Ghost and its street-racing prowess.
The survivor car is powered by Chrysler’s top-of-the-line Hemi, a 426-cubic-inch V-8 that produced a reported 425 horsepower (but was likely closer to 470 hp). Godfrey Qualls not only ordered his dream car with the R/T and Special Edition (SE) packages and the monstrous 426 Hemi, but he made sure to include the “Super Track Pak” with four-speed manual transmission and floor-mounted Hurst pistol grip, which sent power to a Sure-Grip Dana 60 with 4.10 gears. Qualls’ car is one of just 23 Hemi four-speed R/T SE Challengers sold in the model’s debut year, and it is likely the only car ever built with these performance and trim options.
“When you hold this pistol grip in your hand,” Gregory Qualls says, “you get that feeling of the power of the road.”
Grinning from ear to ear as he runs through the gears, Gregory continues, “If you’ve never driven a muscle car before, you kind of have to be careful. If you’re slamming it into first gear when you’re taking off, the car will get sideways on you, and then you slam it back into second gear and the car will start straightening out. That’s normal for these cars.
“Most people will get scared and hit the brake. They won’t put the power and the full throttle into it, and they’ll get the car loose and spin it. The car likes to go. That’s what it’s designed for.”
At one point, Gregory verbalizes how it feels when he really gets on the accelerator. “As you go from first into second, there’s a little rush there. It’s like, ‘Woah, hang on baby!’ … It feels really good … Yeah! That right there is what it feels like to drive a 426 Hemi.”
We’re thankful he brought us along.