The Black Ghost is the Dodge Challenger’s penultimate goodbye | Top Gear
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The Black Ghost is the Dodge Challenger’s penultimate goodbye

Second-to-last Challenger revives a Detroit street-racing legend

Published: 27 Sep 2022

Now that the ‘new’ Challenger is now just one more step away from its last goodbye, it’s probably worth distilling what made it such a desirable thing in the first place. There’s any number of reasons, of course – affordable muscle, the warm glow of Made in Murica and so on. But in a nutshell, it’s because it was so much like the old one.

And the penultimate ‘Last Call’ Challenger rather doubles down on that score. It’s a callback to the original ‘Black Ghost’ of the Seventies, and includes graphics that hark back to the ‘gator skin’ pattern roof vinyl, as well as the vintage-correct white tail stripes and script Challenger logo.

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And while these Proustian visual cues are all well and good, nostalgia by itself is a façade as empty as a Potemkin village. To truly work as a modern interpretation of the original, it needs to show the same spirit as the original.

So what was the original Black Ghost about? Well, it was a black-on-black (naturally), Hemi-powered Challenger, with an officially rated 425bhp that was a... generous understatement. Somewhere around 470bhp was probably closer to the mark, meaning an old, loping, 7.0-litre pushrod V8 from 1970 was capable of more than one horsepower per cubic inch – nothing to sniff at half a century ago.

Perhaps needless to say, the original Black Ghost was the absolute king of the streets in its home town of Detroit, routinely cleaning up Corvettes and hotted-up Chevelle 396s on the wide, empty streets of industrial areas.

So, was it a one-off, a skunkworks special or secret race car? Nope – just an extraordinarily well-optioned Challenger, bought by an ex-paratrooper by the name of Godfrey Qualls, and street raced where it was safe, empty, and far enough away from the cops to not have to worry about police attention. And Qualls had more reason than most to avoid unintended and untoward run-ins with Detroit’s finest: he was one. A motorcycle cop, to be precise. Hagerty has the full story, which is absolutely worth checking out.

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The modern Black Ghost, then, needs to be a Dodge Challenger that’s fitted with factory-available options... just the kind of options that deliver awe-inspiring, mildly terrifying straight-line performance. And you know by now what that means.

Yes, it’s the 6.2-litre supercharged Hemi, good for 807 horsepower in the Black Ghost, and likely the reason it rides on 11-inch-wide wheels and features six-piston Brembos. Oh, and bonnet pins (obviously Dodge calls them hood pins), which does give some indication of how Dodge expects the new Black Ghost to be driven.

In a nutshell? Much like the old one.

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