1970 Dodge Challenger RT S/E (Qualls Challenger)
1970 Dodge Challenger R/T SE (Qualls Challenger)
Date(s) of Construction
Delivered December 5, 1969
Original Owner and Use
Daily driver and street racer
Present Owner and Use
Display and limited exhibition
Designer / Engineer / Builder
Dodge Division/Chrysler Motors Corporation
National Historic Vehicle Register
This vehicle has been selected based on the following criteria:
Associative Value – Events – A vehicle associated with an event or events that are important in automotive or American history.
This Dodge Challenger is highly representative of the famed muscle car/pony car era and horsepower wars of the 1960s and early 1970s. The Challenger was Dodge’s late entry into the “pony car” game some three years after GM and five years after the sales leader Ford. Despite their late start the Challenger and its Plymouth cousin, the ‘Cuda became automotive icons due to their bold styling, performance minded engine options, and spectacular marketing. The enormous HEMI left an indelible mark on car culture as a street racing legend and this car backs that up.
Design or Construction Value – A vehicle that is distinctive based on design, engineering, craftsmanship or aesthetic value.
While there are plenty of emblematic muscle cars out there, it is hard to top a triple black, first year Challenger featuring the unique combination of desirable options in unrestored condition with nearly every component a numbers-matching part and single-family ownership history. The styling and performance of the 1970 Challenger is among the most significant of the era and this car communicates that in a way that others cannot.
Informational Value – A vehicle of a particular type that was the first produced, last produced, has an element of rarity of its type,
or is among the most well-preserved or authentically restored surviving examples.
Original, preserved cars allow historians and enthusiasts an authentic glimpse into history that is unparalleled by stories or photographs. While nicer, lower-mileage, unrestored 1970 Challengers certainly exist, this well used example gives an unvarnished glimpse into the classic muscle car era tale of street racing, daily driven, blue collar, Detroit built, American performance coupes. The ultra-low mileage, untouched survivors are important time capsules demonstrating how the cars left the factory, but this Challenger symbolizes the lives the cars lived and the stories of the people that drove them. Qualls’ car was used, abused and then frozen in time right when the golden era of muscle and pony cars came to a close.
Layout: Front-engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine: 426 cid, V-8, carbureted, 425 HP
Trans: Manual, four-speed, A833
Suspension: Front – Independent, torsion bars / Rear – Solid axle, leaf springs
Brakes: Front – Disc / Rear – Drum
Dimensions: Length – 191″ / Width – 76″ / Height – 51″
Track: Front -59.7″ / Rear – 60.7″
Weight: 3,996 lbs
Price: $5,272.40 (1969)
In 1969, 27-year-old, combat veteran, Purple Heart recipient and Detroit Police Officer, Godfrey Qualls special ordered this sinister 1970 Hemi Challenger. Qualls didn’t leave many options unchecked when he put pen to paper, including the R/T and Special Edition (SE) packages. Not only did he equip his dream car with the monstrous 426 HEMI engine (a $778.75 or 23% up-charge) but he made sure to include the “Super Track Pak” with four-speed manual transmission, shifted via a floor mounted Hurst pistol grip sending power to a Sure-Grip Dana 60 with 4.10 gears. For style he equipped the hardtop street bruiser with a “bumble bee” white stripe on the tail, hood pins, houndstooth interior and the real conversation piece – a “Gator Grain” black vinyl top. It is one of just 23 HEMI 4-speed R/T SE Challengers sold in the model’s debut year and is likely the only car ever built with this configuration of performance and trim options. Interestingly, Godfrey actually ordered the car with the coveted “shaker” hood scoop though the car did not come with it. Frustrated, Godfrey took Dodge to court over the issue and would eventually receive the distinctive hood. He never had it installed, as he was afraid to leave the powerful car with young mechanics at a dealership overnight.
Qualls initial use of the Challenger lived up to the muscle car legends of stop-light-to-stop-light escapades and late-night action. In stark contrast to his day job as a motorcycle police officer enforcing traffic laws, Qualls took the Challenger out on the weekends and tested the HEMI’s power against the best of the era. Known as the “Black Ghost” because he would seemingly vanish for months after making a few runs on Woodward, Telegraph or Stecker St., Qualls was rarely bested in his street racing days. He ran straight pipes and slicks but primarily left the Challenger stock; that is, except for a trailer hitch used to haul his Norton café racers to the track. Towards the end of the 1970s Qualls re-enlisted in the Army, married and started a family. The street racing took a backseat, though, the Challenger remained the family’s only car – Qualls even taught his wife Kathy to drive in the Challenger. She used it as a daily driver with the second carb linkage removed to tame the motor’s power.
It wasn’t long until the temperamental, high-performance coupe began showing its disapproval as a family car and mechanical gremlins presented themselves. Busy serving his country, his community, and his family the Challenger was put into the corner of the garage for safe keeping and the family got a more practical car. Qualls served as an Army Reserve Green Beret travelling all over the world and continued on the Detroit Police force in between deployments for the rest of his life. Through all this, the Challenger remained in the garage safe from the elements but not Godfrey’s son, Gregory, who bumped his Schwinn bicycles against the car as small kid, unaware of the significance of the dusty automobile. Although Godfrey made a few efforts to sell it over the years, he never could part with the car. It was left just as it was when parked, save a few dents and dings from bicycle handlebars.
In 2016, after his dad’s passing, Gregory worked with friends and family to bring the car back out as a tribute to his father. Completely unrestored, save a few maintenance items to ensure the car runs and drives safely, the Challenger has just over 45,000 miles. Gregory shows the car regularly with his wife Charmaine, son Gregory and daughter Gabrielle. One day he hopes to pass the car to his son to enjoy and care for.