The Mecum Spring Classic auction put two famed Mopar rides from 1970 on the block: The Dodge Challenger “Black Ghost” and the Plymouth Barrauda Rapid Transit System Show Car. The Black Ghost was a secret to the world until less than 10 years ago, a bit of Dodge lore some might have thought was apocryphal. After being rescued from a garage in Detroit, lightly restored, put on the show circuit, placed in the National Register of Historic Vehicles, and turned into a limited edition of the modern Dodge Challenger in a very short span, Mecum settled on a pre-sale estimate of $1 million. The C-body coupe came close, 8 minutes and 14 seconds of bidding getting up to $975,000 before the 10% auction premium. Add that premium, the Black Ghost cost Florida collector Ryan Snyder $1,072,500.
In 1969, decorated Army veteran and Detroit Police Officer Godfrey “Dennis” Qualls ordered the 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T SE in a spec that experts say was one-of-one that year. Dodge made just 23 examples of a Challenger with both the R/T and Special Edition packages for 1970. On top of that, Godfrey upgraded the standard 383 cubic-inch V8 and three-speed manual to the 426 four-barrel Hemi V8 with a four-speed manual transmission and pistol-grip shifter, and added options like the Summer Track Pak and Gator Grain roof. He paid $5,272.40 after the $17 destination fee. He’d get the car out to run illegal street races on Detroit’s Woodward Avenue, usually winning, never showing himself — being a police officer and all, you know — then disappear until he returned to another night of racing and winning on Woodward. This kept up until the late 1970s. No one saw the car outside of races, no one figured out who the driver was, no one knew where the car went.
Godfrey didn’t share part of his secret until shortly before he passed in 2015, telling his son Gregory for the first time about the car but not telling his son about the street racing. Godfrey had put less than 50,000 miles on the car in 45 years. Gregory got the car running again but didn’t restore it, leaving the patina and paint nicks as they were. It wasn’t until he began taking the car to shows that he found why the car was so important to the Mopar community. That importance turned into the third-highest sale of the night at the Mecum Spring Classic, after the ‘Cuda Rapid Transit sold for $2.2 million including the buyer’s premium and a Ford GT Heritage Edition sold for $1.38 million.
The Black Ghost’s new owner said he plans a deep cleaning and keeping the car in circulation at shows, a touchstone for the fans who put the Challenger in the spotlight for the first time. He also said the Gregory and his family are welcome to visit the car when they want. “At the end of the day,” Snyder said, “it’s his dad’s car, I’m just the new caretaker,” Snyder said.