Story of The Black Ghost, a Hemi Challenger street racer, told in video

Credit: Original article published by Classic Cars Journal.

The remarkable story of The Black Ghost, a 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T SE packing a 426/425-horsepower Hemi V8 that was a notorious drag racing champion on the streets of Detroit, is told in a new full-length video presented by the Historic Vehicle Association.

That Hemi Challenger coupe is an iconic muscle car in unrestored preserved condition with 45,000 original miles and now in the possession of the son of the Detroit police officer who bought it new, and then led a double life when off duty as a street racer.

The Challenger was honored by the HVA in October as the 28th vehicle to be added to the Historic Vehicle Registry, the HVA’s ranks of automobiles documented at the Library of Congress as significant historic vehicles.  At the time, the HVA promised to create a documentary about this special machine from the muscle car era.

The newly released 40-minute video not only tells the story of Godfrey Qualls, the combat veteran and Purple Heart recipient who special ordered and raced the Dodge, but that of Chrysler’s development of the Hemi-powered Challenger and Plymouth ‘Cuda that shocked and awed upon arrival for 1970.

Qualls was a Harley-riding traffic cop in the Detroit police force who, when off-duty, was an elusive competitor among the street racers, scoring win after win in backstreet drags, and then fading out of sight until next time, with most people not knowing who he was, and no one knowing when or where he would show up again.

The Challenger remains in original preserved condition | Historic Vehicle Association photos

“This car was called The Black Ghost on the west side of Detroit,” a commentator says in the beginning of the video. “It would come out, win a lot of races, and disappear.”

The video also tells a heartfelt family story, featuring Gregory Qualls, the son of the racer who died of cancer in 2015.  The Challenger had been parked in the family garage for decades before the father’s death.  He had bequeathed the Dodge to Gregory, who took it upon himself to get the car running again with the help of friends and an intrigued Mopar expert. 

The Challenger is now back on the street in essentially original condition, with all the bumps and nicks of its early life, which include, Gregory says in the video, the small dent caused by him accidentally dropping his bicycle against it many years ago.

Gregory Qualls at the wheel of the Hemi Challenger that his father raced

When the 27-year-old Qualls ordered his new Challenger in 1969, he created something rare and special, the HVA said in its announcement of the national honor:

“Qualls checked virtually every option when configuring his ultimate muscle car,” according to the HVA. “It is one of just 23 four-speed Hemi R/T SE Challengers built in the model’s debut year and is likely the only Challenger with this unique configuration of performance and trim options.”

The muscle car’s preserved condition as well as its terrific back story prompted the HVA to induct it into the nation registry as a car that represents a significant piece of US automotive history.

The Historic Vehicle Register was established in 2013 in collaboration with the U.S. Department of the Interior to permanently archive significant historic vehicles within the Library of Congress. So far, 28 vehicles have been selected and documented, with the full list available on the HVA website.

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