The story behind Woodward's legendary street racing car nicknamed the 'Black Ghost'

Posted at 8:36 PM, Aug 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-23 14:52:20-04

(WXYZ) — Woodward was synonymous with street racing back in the day. We found one legendary street racing car nicknamed the "Black Ghost."

The legendary car is a 1970 Dodge Challenger RTC with a 426 Hemi, all black and white with a gate, and a green top.

"They only made 59 of these cars and back in 1970, it's four speed," said Gregory Qualls. "My dad used to go out and street race it and nobody knew who he was. So he would come out and he would race. And then after he beat you, he kept going and he would disappear. And so, the street, you know, the street crowd gave you the name the Black Ghost."

Gregory Qualls didn’t know much about his dad’s Challenger growing up, because his dad, Godfrey, had stopped driving the car when he was about 5 years old.

"When my dad was living, I didn't know anything about the Black Ghost, I didn't even know that it was his nickname. I didn't even know my dad raced the car," he said. "I just remember the car ... it was just in the garage ... and then sometimes my bike would tip over and hit the car. And then I was like, 'oops, hopefully my dad is not going to notice the dings, the scratches over time.' I didn't know then, it was just a car at that time."

Godfrey would race on Woodward, Telegraph and on a street called Stecker.

There was a good reason Godfrey protected his true identity, he was a Detroit Police officer and military man.

"As a police officer in your, you know, drag race, I mean, you know, you could probably lose your job ... so I would imagine, you know, he had to stay on his tippy toes and go out and do his thing with the racing and then you just disappear," he said.

After Godfrey passed away in 2015, Gregory inherited the car. He began taking the car to shows in 2017 and that’s when he started learning about the car’s extraordinary past.

"And hundreds of people will come up and say, 'you know, I remember this car, your dad used to race this car. That's the Black Ghost.' You know, they thought it was a unicorn. People didn't even think the car existed. Then when they saw it for the first time, it was like, wow, it really did exist. And and there it was," said Gregory.

The Black Ghost has also been recognized by the National Historic Vehicle Register. It’s one of 29 culturally significant vehicles whose history has been documented.

"The longevity of the story will move on, will live on long beyond all the rest of us here, because the average is about 499 years for the information that will be kept in the Library of Congress. So the Challenger and the Qualls' family story will be told for a very long time," said Diane Parker, vice president of the Hagerty Drivers Foundation.

Gregory feels its history every time he gets behind the wheel.

"I feel my dad's presence in the car, you know, it's just a unique experience driving the car and ... being a manual, you know, shifting and feeling all the little details of the car as you drive in it," Gregory said.

As for future plans for the Black Ghost?

"The future of the Black Ghost is to go down to my son. You know, I want to make sure that Gregory has a chance to drive the car so he can drive his grandfather's legacy," he said.