The saber-toothed tiger became extinct around 8000 BC because, in part, the last of its ice age victims died. Now, 10,000 years later, the Hellcats are once again on the way out, this time thanks to humans—specifically, the humans who came up with the electric powertrains that make supercharged V-8s look like glorified Briggs & Strattons. The Hellcat’s successor will be electric, but for now, you can still buy a Challenger stuffed with the most thunderous 807 troglodyte horsepower ever extracted from burning petroleum. Take a look at the 2023 Challenger Black Ghost, the second special edition from the back in Dodge’s Last Call series.
Not to be confused with the Rolls-Royce Ghost Black Badge, the Black Ghost is like a beefed-up Challenger Redeye that pays homage to one of the original 426-powered badasses, the 1970 Hemi Challenger RT/SE that dominated Detroit’s street-racing scene back in the day. The Black Ghost, as it’s called, has a distinctive gator-grain vinyl roof and a white stripe on the tail, and gets its nickname because its owner, Godfrey Qualls, doesn’t tend to keep chatting after races—understandable, given that Qualls is a city cop. Qualls died in 2015 and left the car to his son, who recently sold it at the 2023 Mecum Indy auction for $1,072,500. Although there is only one original 1970 Black Ghost, Dodge is building 300 of the 2023 tribute, and for the bargain price of $103,010, including the $2100 gas-guzzler tax.
The Black Ghost is the sixth of seven Last Call cars—the last being the Challenger SRT Demon 170—and it’s more than just a tape and stripe package on the Challenger Redeye. No more, granted, but when your special edition is based on a car that already has 797 horsepower, where do you go? Apparently, the tachometer goes up as the Black Ghost squeezes an extra 10 horsepower from its supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 courtesy of a revised powertrain calibration from Challenger Super Stock. Peak power arrives at a fuel cut of 6400 rpm, 100 revs more than the less powerful variant. This would definitely come in handy in situations where 797 horsepower isn’t enough.
Other than that, the Black Ghost is basically a Challenger SRT Redeye Widebody that almost learned the definition of the word “subtle.” For example, there’s no ruby-eyed Hellcat badge, with the grille, flanks and rear spoiler sporting a simple throwback Challenger script. The paint is Pitch Black except for the white deck stripes, and the black gator pattern roof vinyl evokes the original Qualls. Chrome hood pins provide reassurance that the twin scoop hood won’t fly in your face as you complete the 128 mph quarter mile course.
That’s the trap speed we saw in the 2019 Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye Widebody, en route to an 11.6-second quarter mile, and we expect the Black Ghost to be very similar. That’s because it, like all Hellcat Challengers, is ultimately limited in appeal. Throw some drag spokes on it and head over to a prepped surface and it’ll definitely hit the 10s (we’ve seen Redeyes on stock tires clock very low 11s at the strip), but in practice, the Black Ghost is a burnout machine. The Redeye hits 60 mph in 3.8 seconds, but that’s with plenty of discipline at launch. Mash the throttle carelessly and you’ll make leisurely progress forward while the Pirelli P Zero All Season 305/35R-20 tires transform themselves from rubber to heat, noise and smoke. That also applies even if the Ghost is already rolling at backroad speeds—this is one of the few cars you might pull out for a pass on a 55-mph road and pause to think, “Better make sure it’s connected before I open wide here. ” It’s telling that the Redeye’s top-gear 50-to-70-mph acceleration time, 2.2 seconds, is almost identical to the 2.1-second 30-to-50 mph time. At 30 mph in the Hellcat Challenger, you’re definitely still thinking about the tires.
The Challenger’s whole schtick is that it’s a muscular goon built to go fast in a straight line and annoy the next-door neighbor with a BMW, but 807 horsepower demands some matching efficiency in handling and braking. And while the Black Ghost isn’t quite as nimble, it’s also not a one-trick machine like the muscle cars of yesteryear. The SRT Redeye Widebody chassis clone challenger equipped with Pirelli P Zero PZ4 summer rubber clings to the skid pads at 0.98 g and relies on its six-piston Brembo front brakes to stop from 70 mph in just 153 feet—or about the same as a Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Z51. The Challenger will do it at every turn—check out the Power Chiller mode that uses the air conditioning system to cool the engine intake instead of the cabin—but it’s serious about more than just horsepower and quarter-mile times.
While transiting between stoplight drags, Black Ghost invokes the most unsettling brand of nostalgia—not for 1970, but for the present. It’s like how parents can be nostalgic for moments with their children even as they are happening, because time moves endlessly forward and those moments flow into the past. With cars, it’s unusual to wander into that mindset because the next thing should usually be familiar, but just a little better. The Last Call Dodges, however, is something different.
Whatever outrageous performance and goofy tricks the upcoming electric Banshee model has to offer (and the ridiculously loud “exhaust” sound), the Black Ghost represents the end of an era. Not just for Challengers or Hellcats, but the whole experience, a rumbling exhaust and a supercharger that whines and feels the rear end shake sideways when the transmission slams into the next gear. We’re used to planned obsolescence, but not the unplanned kind that suddenly makes 807 horsepower seem outdated. The 2023 Challenger Black Ghost has more in common with the 53-year-old namesake than its 2024 successor, and whether that makes you feel sad or optimistic, it does. Sorry, guys. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.
2023 Dodge Challenger Black Ghost
Vehicle Type: front engine, rear wheel drive, 5 passenger, 2 door coupe
supercharged and intercooled pushrod 16-valve V-8, iron block and aluminum heads, port fuel injection
Displacement: 376 in36166 cm3
Power: 807 hp @ 6400 rpm
Torque: 707 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm
Wheelbase: 116.2 inches
Length: 197.5 in
Width: 78.3 inches
Height: 57.5 inches
Passenger Volume. F/R: 56/38 feet3
Trunk Volume: 16 feet3
Curb weight (C/D approx): 4500 lb
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
60 mph: 3.7 seconds
100 mph: 7.4 seconds
1/4-Mile: 11.5 seconds
Top Speed: 200 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 15/13/21 mpg
Ezra Dyer is one Car and Driver senior editor and columnist. He is now based in North Carolina but still remembers how to turn right. He owns a 2009 GEM e4 and once drove 206 mph. Those facts are mutually exclusive.