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 Hagerty.com 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.”