Sale of the Week

"Black Ghost," a notorious Hemi street racer, tops $1M in Indy

by Steven Cole Smith
20 May 2023 3 min read

On the afternoon of May 19, 2023, a “legendary” 1970 Dodge Challenger RT/SE rolled onto Mecum’s auction block in Indianapolis. 8 minutes and 14 seconds later, the hammer fell on the high bid of $975,000, just shy of the oft-predicted $1 million the car would go for. With the buyer’s premium, the final figure amounts to $1,072,500.

Why was it legendary? Because back in the day, the car, equipped with a 426-cubic-inch V-8, a four-barrel carburetor and a four-speed manual transmission, would appear at night on Detroit’s Woodward Avenue, a strip famous for impromptu (and illegal) drag races. The Challenger took on all comers, rarely losing. Then the car would disappear.

The owner and his car never stopped by the local hamburger stand or any other street-racing gathering spots. Days could pass, and the car wouldn’t show. It was a ghost—a black ghost with an alligator vinyl roof and unassuming little hubcaps. Read the definitive history here.

In the late ’70s, the Black Ghost disappeared seemingly for good. However, it was sitting in the garage of the house owned by Godfrey Qualls, a Detroit police officer who likely would have lost his job had his bosses known he was the pilot of the treacherous Black Ghost. Hence the disappearing act.

Godfrey Qualls died in 2015. He left the Ghost to son Greg, who had no idea of car’s one-time notoriety as a Woodward Avenue terror. Greg—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.


Greg got the car running, making a point of leaving it absolutely stock, complete with nicks and parking-lot dents. “It’s an original, unrestored survivor, and it’s in driving condition,” he told in January. “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.”

When Greg, a cinematographer by trade, began to take the car to shows, he heard stories and more stories about his dad’s exploits. Until then, “I had no idea,” he said.

The Mecum auction announcers were counting down the cars to the Ghost—30 cars away, 10 cars away, “we are five cars away from the Black Ghost!” Though it was the hero of the afternoon, the Black Ghost kept good company amidst a lot of very collectible muscle cars. The car preceding it, a Craig Breedlove–prepared 1968 AMC Javelin, hammered for $68,000. Ten lots later a period-customized 1970 Plymouth Cuda, one of the four “Rapid Transit” show cars, sold for $2.2M.

But the Black Ghost got even more attention. When it crossed the block the lights dimmed, and blue spotlights—perhaps a tribute to Godfrey’s profession—panned the coliseum. Greg and his family appeared, and he spoke briefly about the car’s history. His son would be the one to drop the gavel, assuming the reserve was met—which, apparently, was $950,000. When the reserve came off, the bidding continued, ending at $975,000.

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 told 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.”

Godfrey Qualls paid $5272.40, including the destination charge of $17. The car arrived on December 5, 1969; experts believe it is the only 1970 Challenger to exist with all of the options the car has.

Regardless of the final figure it sold for, it’s safe to say that Greg Qualls and his family didn’t take 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.”


  • Mark Magnuson says:

    Such a cool car, and what a story. I’m curious if anyone knows what duties the bolt on trailer hitch was used to pull with this Hemi powered thumper??

    • The Real Jake says:

      Godfrey Qualls had the trailer hitch installed so he could trailer his 1968 Norton Commando motorcycle to the racetrack.

  • James C Gilstrap says:

    I was told a 1963 and another CRC Carbon Fiber cars were sold. How do I see the pictures.

  • T. says:

    I really am hard pressed to believe this “story” and am saddened that Hagerty got pulled into this highly unbelievable hype over this car. Yes it is a unique almost one of a kind vehicle, but the stories told over the past few years have nothing but big doubts surrounding them. Anyone can search, you’ll not find any realistic truths.
    Thats one awesome car, but the clames don’t fly. IMHO, This car was never modified enough to win much of any street race in the 1970s. no matter how it was optioned.

  • Gary Bechtold says:

    Duplicate article again. I would have kept the car if it was my dad’s.

  • paul s murray says:

    I’m leaning towards agreeing with T. This car doesn’t seem worked to the point that it was the end all and be all in street racing during it’s day. I’m also wondering if the SE option might have included some extra sound deadening for instance as well, which tended to be surprisingly weighty. But then again who’s to say. I might have been somewhat reluctant to dent the floorboards if someone poked their head through the window and said ” You know he’s a cop right?” or maybe Qualls had a gift for pulling holeshots. He probably got plenty practice on duty in a 440 Fury cruiser. Either way- ” When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

  • Loren Moore says:

    I only went down Woodward two or three times in my ’60 fuel injected Corvette. I never could find a race! My Vette was pretty quick on the street. When reading about ’60 fuel injected Vettes the magazines always said a four speed 4:56 posi would on get 35 mph in first gear. I always got 60 mph out of mine. I beat a Jack Grey Ford on the street that was always advertised on the radio as running at Detroit Dragway. Beat a supercharged Pontiac on the street. I rarely lost, would get a tune up and find the guy who beat me then beat him. My Vette was delivered with an experimental alumnum radiator. A GM suit would visit my car about twice a year. A buddy made a recording of the car in ’62 and mailed it to me in Vietnam. I was at Kontum Advisiors Camp. I loaned the tape to kid and one night while I was on guard duty the kid played the tape on a four track stero and turned it up it full blast. I am on guard duty at midnight and I heard my Vette tearing through the compound through all four gears! It sounded like it was really there flying through! It was really cool to hear that!!!!

  • Not A Fool says:

    If the Ghost was sold on BaT, the Mopar community would have shredded the vehicles ability to be anything more than a 14 second fast grocery getter. Hence, why an auction house was a willing and necessary partner.

    In today’s ideological environment, this vehicle checks the boxes. Add in auto influencers and a new truth is created. Those who believe anything Hemi beat everything else, are not knowledgeable of the street racing scene. The same people believed a 77 year old basement dweller.

    The story of a unique build, war hero, police officer was more than enough. However, that would not have gotten it in the registry and set the chain of events.

    BTW – who was the winning bidder? The movie company?

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