The Story of the Black Ghost: How the legendary street racing car landed in a Virginia garage

Posted at 1:42 PM, Feb 16, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-16 22:10:40-05

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- They’re serious about cars that scream fun at American Performance LLC in Chesterfield County, Virginia. Inside their garage, you’ll find more muscle than you will at most gyms. Owner Frank Badalson is considered the nation’s preeminent Mopar expert and has a 50-plus-year body of work to prove it.

“We like to keep original cars original,” Badalson said. ”They’re fast and they attract a lot of attention.”

The Northern Virginia native refurbishes classics like Dodge, Plymouth, and Chrysler with such precision, jobs can take months if not years to complete. The work is not cheap.

"Cars like this sell in excess of $200,000," he said.

While Badalson has laid his hands on nearly every type of Mopar ever made, one vehicle that recently arrived at his shop he called "a very rare car."

“There is quite a story behind it," Badalson said. “It is called the Black Ghost."

The Story of the Black Ghost

Detroit Police Officer Godfrey Qualls purchased the car in the early 1970s. The former Green Beret and paratrooper modified his Mopar to burn rubber through Motown.

”He got back from Vietnam in 1970 when he got the car and ordered it,” Badalson said. “The car was prepped primarily for street racing.”

The Black Ghost

Godfrey would win the race and then disappear into the night.

“As the legend goes, he would engage in these races, stop light to stop light, turn a corner and would never be seen again," Badalson said. "No one ever knew who the driver was."

Qualls couldn’t reveal his true identity, of course, because he served on the Detroit Police Force in the Traffic Department.

The Black Ghost

“He took a lot of chances racing this car on the streets," Badalson said.

In The Dark

Growing up, Gregory Qualls never knew the extent of his father’s lightning-fast street cred and led foot.

“My Dad loved cars. He always talked about cars, especially high-performance cars. He was very much into that. Just look at the car he bought,” Gregory Qualls said.

After years of racing, Godfrey Qualls put the brakes on his underground exploits.

The Black Ghost was retired and left to deteriorate.

"For me as a kid, it was my Dad’s old car just sitting in the garage," Gregory Qualls said. "But to my Dad it was very special to him."

The Black Ghost

Those who raced against the Black Ghost never forgot and neither did Godfrey. 

“That was his baby. That was his baby. That is why kept it for so long,” his son said.

With the retelling of each tale, the legend of the Black Ghost grew.

“It has evolved into a great story and it is a true story,” Badalson said. “It was a formidable street racer. There is no question about that.”

Only a few dozen of these cars rolled off the assembly line. The Library of Congress is even recognizing the Black Ghost as culturally significant.

American Performance Technician Dave Inglesby said he found it thrilling to work on a unique piece of Americana.

“They had to call it the Black Ghost. I think that is so cool because he came in and ghosted away," Inglesby said. “It is like sitting in a movie car. It is like climbing in the Bat Mobile or the Monkey Mobile. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

'It Just Keeps Going'

Gregory Qualls said refurbishing his late father’s pride and joy proved too costly.

“When we decided to sell the car it was a rough decision,” Gregory said. “It was hard to let it go. I knew I had to let it go. I couldn’t take care of it like I wanted to.”

The Michigan native and his family drove the Black Ghost to the auction block where the sale of the car, much like its former driver, created a buzz.

“It was one of the star attractions of the auction,” Badalson said. “They knew that this car was going to bring a lot of attention.”

The Black Ghost

Last May with the eyes of the automotive world watching, the 54-year-old car dents, scratches rust and all sold to a buyer in Florida for $1,000,072.

The Black Ghost’s new owner contracted Frank Badalson not for a complete overhaul but to provide a touch of TLC.

“We are pleased to have this car in our care,” Badalson said.

“Man, I was happy. I was happy that Frank has it. I know he is going to take care of the care and he is going to do my Dad justice. I know he will,” Gregory Qualls said.

Keeping the integrity of this classic intact is paramount.

”Being that it is designated as a National Historic Vehicle I think it is significant that we have it. I’m honored to have it,” Badalson said.

Legend of the Black Ghost 01.jpg

Godfrey Qualls died in 2015 at the age of 73. Gregory finds comfort in knowing his father’s car is rolling on from the shadowy streets of Detroit and into the spotlight.

“It just keeps going. Whenever I think the story is going to stop it just keeps going,” Gregory said.

Just like the spirit of the Black Ghost which will soon flex its muscle once again.

“It was a part of my Dad’s life and I wanted to learn about that side of my Dad’s life. And why he kept this car. What was so special about this car? What was so important about it to him? And I found out.”

Watch Greg McQuade's stories on CBS 6 and If you know someone Greg should profile, email him at

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