Street racing is dangerous and highly illegal, but some of the best automotive stories and icons came out of those scenes in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Unsurprisingly, many came from Detroit, and the car from one of the Motor City’s most entertaining stories is heading to auction. “Black Ghost,” the 1970 Dodge Hemi Challenger R/T SE (special edition) that dominated Detroit street racing in the 1970s, will cross the auction block at the Mecum Spring Classic in May.
This car is exceptional on its own, but the story and people behind it are what make it so remarkable. A Detroit police officer named Godfrey Qualls bought the car new in 1969 after a stint in the Army. He found success racing on some of Detroit’s most famous stretches of pavement, including Woodward Avenue. Qualls’ approach to racing is what earned the car’s Black Ghost nickname, as he would disappear for weeks or months after each race.
Qualls and Black Ghost continued their winning ways until 1975 when he parked the car and didn’t share much about his time behind the wheel. Qualls died in late 2015 but passed the car to his son before his death.
Though mysterious in its early days, the Black Ghost is no longer in hiding. It’s been featured in numerous articles and photo spreads, and its distinctive styling elements are almost as cool as its backstory. The vinyl roof features a unique gator skin pattern, and the car’s badges are a colorful pop against the nearly all-black exterior.
If all that isn’t enough to drive a bidding war, the car’s rarity should put it over the top. It’s one of just 23 1970 Special Edition models equipped with a 426 Hemi and a four-speed manual gearbox. On top of that, the Challenger is generously equipped with other go-fast parts, such as a Hurst pistol grip shift lever and a Dana 60 rear differential.
Last year, Dodge announced a “Last Call” series of cars as a sendoff for the Charger and Challenger. The automaker dedicated one of the seven cars to Black Ghost (shown in the gallery below). It’s got way more horsepower and technology, but it does share the original’s faux gator skin roof. Dodge also said it would only build 300 of the cars, making it more common than the original but still quite rare by today’s mass production standards.