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This Police Officer’s 1970 Dodge Challenger Was Secretly a Street Racing Legend

The 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T is already a beloved muscle car. However, the one we’re covering today has a unique history. That’s because this Challenger was owned by Godfrey Qualls, a Detroit police officer who made a name for himself as a mysterious street racer. According to CBS Detroit, the officer would drag race, win, then vanish for months at a time. Given his elusive behavior, other racers began referring to the infamous Challenger as the “black ghost.”

Police Harley-Davidson by day, Dodge Challenger R/T at night

A photo of a 1970 Dodge Challenger in a photo studio.
1970 Dodge Challenger | Historic Vehicle Association

Officer Qualls purchased the Dodge Challenger brand-new in 1969 when he was 27 years old. According to CBS Detroit, Godfrey selected almost every option available, including a houndstooth interior and a gator grain black vinyl top. Aside from the funky top, the Challenger R/T SE featured a 426 HEMI engine and a four-speed manual transmission. According to The Detroit Free Press, the car cost Godfrey $5,272, or about $37,405 in today’s money.

During the 1970s, CBS Detroit reports that Godfrey spent his working hours riding around Detroit in a police-issued Harley Davidson. However, when his shift ended, he would hop into his Dodge Challenger and hit the streets. According to The Detroit Free Press, Godfrey would win drag races then disappear for months at a time. As a result, other street racers named the mysterious Challenger the “black ghost.” Now we know that the car was stashed away in his garage as he spent time working and with his family.

“I’d know Dad was taking the car out because starting it shook the house.”

A photo of a 1970 Dodge Challenger in a photo studio.
1970 Dodge Challenger | Historic Vehicle Association

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The Detroit Free Press interviewed Godfrey’s son Gregory who revealed that the family wasn’t aware of his father’s street racing. Gregory told The Detroit Free Press, “I’d know Dad was taking the car out because starting it shook the house.” Gregory also remembers his dad taping a $100 bill to the dashboard and daring him to grab it under hard acceleration. Gregory told The Detroit Free Press, “I never touched that bill.”

Like any family man, CBS Detroit reports that Godfrey became very busy toward the end of the 1970s, and as a result, the Challenger ended up in the back of the family’s garage, where it didn’t move for years. Today, the Historic Vehicle Association reports that the infamous challenger still has just 45,000 original miles.

However, The Detroit Free Press reports that Godfrey’s racing days didn’t end there as he would help his son Gregory tune his pickup trucks. Even during this time, Gregory wasn’t aware of his father’s racing history. He only came to learn his dad’s story after he passed away in 2015.

The Qualls family brought the Challenger back to life

A photo of a 1970 Dodge Challenger in a photo studio.
1970 Dodge Challenger | Historic Vehicle Association

After his father’s passing, Gregory and some friends took it upon themselves to bring his dad’s Dodge Challenger back to life. In recognition of the car’s historical value and infamous story, The Historic Vehicle Association has decided to induct it into the National Historic Vehicle Register alongside a 1921 Duesenberg. Gregory told CBS Detroit, “My father would be thrilled that not only is the car is in running condition but also going on the National Historic Vehicle Register.”

As of today, Gregory told The Detroit Free Press that he mostly drives the Challenger on short runs with his 13-year-old son. This Challenger will live on as Gregory aims to pass it down to his son one day, keeping the historic street racer in the family.