Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, sweepstakes, and more!
A True Fast and Furious Story? The Real-Life Tale of the Black Ghost
“It doesn’t matter what’s under a hood. The only thing that matters is who’s behind the wheel.”
As we’re pumping gas for the Fast X premiere this week, The Fast Saga has come a long way from Los Angeles street racing. Unlike parts of some of the later movies, the whole story of The Fast and the Furious could’ve actually happened. Dom Toretto and his family became legends in the community much like "The Black Ghost," a real street racing legend from Detroit in the 1970s.
According to Hagerty Drivers Foundation, who interviewed several members of the family and friends of the mysterious driver, a 1970 black Dodge Challenger would sporadically show up at drag races, roll the competition, and disappear for an indefinite period of time. Not much was known about the Black Ghost though, as “everybody knew the car existed, but hardly no one ever saw it.” Taking a page from this incognito mode would’ve been smart for Dom when he had a Wanted Poster taped to his back.
The Black Ghost disappeared in 1975, when the driver rejoined the military as a Green Beret, but just like a ghost, the legend never died. Everyone in the street racing community seemed to know about it. The races took place mostly on Stucker Street, a houseless industrial area, where for years cars would line up only to take a quarter-mile beatdown at the hands of the The Black Ghost.
The driver of the Black Ghost
The mysterious driver for the mysterious car turned out to be Godfrey Qualls, who was raised in Tennessee but moved to Detroit for automobile jobs. Sounds about right. He became a traffic officer where he’d give out speeding tickets so he had to hide his love for the sport, kind of like Brian O’Conner. Go figure. At 27 years old, Qualls bought the car; after making some tweaks to the already 426 Hemi engine, he was off to the races.
Godfrey’s best friend, Curtis Neal, described to Haggerty how competitive they were about racing, and yet they “were as close as brothers could get. It wasn’t the situation where you would want to fight one another. It was, okay, I’ll get you next time.”
Now, there is no evidence of The Fast Saga drawing inspiration from this, but this friendship sounds a lot like Dom and Brian. That of course assumes Neal always lost to Qualls…sorry Brian.
One cool story involves when Godfrey’s son Gregory was still a kid. They got in The Black Ghost together and Godfrey taped a $100 bill on the dash. He told him if he could “reach the $100 bill, it was all yours.” As the car zoomed Gregory to the back of his seat, needless to say, he couldn’t grab it. All the same, Godfrey sounds like a great father who valued family; we think him and Dom would’ve been friends.
In 2014, long after The Black Ghost had raced its last lap, Qualls called his son into the garage to pull the dusty tarp off the car. What Gregory didn’t know at the time was his father’s prostate cancer had come out of remission. They shared a memory wiping down the car together. Unfortunately, on Christmas Eve of 2015, Godfrey passed away, shortly after signing the car over to his son.
Gregory got the car running again, and felt his “dad’s presence and spirit” every time he drove it. It’s now a part of the National Historic Vehicle Register. Still, as the car's value has ballooned into potentially over seven figures, Gregory has now put it up for auction.
While there’s no way of knowing if Dom’s black Dodge Charger would come out on top of The Black Ghost, we know for sure they’re both dominant in their own right. We’re also sure they’d share the most important part of street racing competition: respect.
Fast X zooms onto the big screen this Friday, May 19. Tickets are on sale now!
Relive a small portion of the Fast Saga with Furious 7 and F9 — now streaming now on Peacock. If you want to catch up on the full story, however, click right here for our nifty guide on where to stream the first nine installments (plus Hobbs & Shaw).