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AAAHU Black Automotive & Transportation History Uncovered presents a fascinating history spanning over 148 years.
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The research material and photographs are designed to aid students and enthusiasts with African American Automotive History.

Celebrating Black Automotive & Transportation History Uncovered:Mel FarrDid you know?In 1998, Farr was the first African...
17/05/2022

Celebrating Black Automotive & Transportation History Uncovered:
Mel Farr
Did you know?
In 1998, Farr was the first African American dealer to be ranked #1 in Black Enterprise Magazine's Top 100 list of all black-owned businesses with revenues of $600 million. Farr owned the top black-owned business in the United States and the US's 33rd largest auto dealership. Additionally, he was also selected Member Emeritus by FMMDA.
For more fascinating information on Farr and others who impacted Black Transportation history read their stories here as well as links to follow

Celebrating Black Automotive & Transportation History Uncovered:A. Phillip RandolphDid you know?
10/05/2022

Celebrating Black Automotive & Transportation History Uncovered:
A. Phillip Randolph
Did you know?

Celebrating Black Automotive & Transportation History Uncovered:Ellenae Fairhurst owner of the first-ever Black-owned Le...
03/05/2022

Celebrating Black Automotive & Transportation History Uncovered:

Ellenae Fairhurst owner of the first-ever Black-owned Lexus dealership. Lexus of Huntsville is located in Huntsville, Alabama, and is the nation’s 48th largest dealership owned and operated by an African American. When COVID-19 hit the U.S. her dealership, didn't hesitate to conform to the nuance that now allows consumers to customize their car online and have it delivered to their homes.
For further reading scroll down to a short bio.

25/04/2022

Black Automotive & Transportation History Uncovered presents a fascinating history spanning over 148 years.

Celebrating Black Automotive & Transportation History Uncovered:Elijah J. McCoy (May 2, 1844 – October 10, 1929)Beginnin...
18/04/2022

Celebrating Black Automotive & Transportation History Uncovered:

Elijah J. McCoy (May 2, 1844 – October 10, 1929)

Beginning at a young age, Elijah McCoy showed a strong interest in mechanics. His parents arranged for him to travel to Scotland at the age of 15 for an apprenticeship in mechanical engineering. He returned home to Michigan after becoming certified as a mechanical engineer.

Despite his qualifications, McCoy was unable to find work as an engineer in the United States due to racial barriers; skilled professional positions were not available for African Americans at the time, regardless of their training or background. McCoy accepted a position as a fireman and oiler for the Michigan Central Railroad. It was in this line of work that he developed his first major inventions. After studying the inefficiencies inherent in the existing system of oiling axles, McCoy invented a lubricating cup that distributed oil evenly over the engine's moving parts. He obtained a patent for this invention, which allowed trains to run continuously for long periods of time without pausing for maintenance.

McCoy continued to refine his devices, receiving nearly 60 patents over the course of his life. While the majority of his inventions related to lubrication systems, he also developed designs for an ironing board, a lawn sprinkler, and other machines. Although McCoy's achievements were recognized in his own time, his name did not appear on the majority of the products that he devised. Lacking the capital with which to manufacture his lubricators in large numbers, he typically assigned his patent rights to his employers or sold them to investors. In 1920, toward the end of his life, McCoy formed the Elijah McCoy Manufacturing Company to produce lubricators bearing his name.

McCoy married Ann Elizabeth Stewart in 1868. She died four years after their marriage. In 1873, McCoy married Mary Eleanor Delaney. In 1922, the McCoys were involved in an automobile accident. Mary died, while Elijah sustained critical injuries from which he never fully recovered.

Elijah McCoy died in the Eloise Infirmary in Detroit, Michigan, on October 10, 1929. He was 85. He is buried at Detroit Memorial Park East in Warren, Michigan.

"Elijah McCoy Picture". Argot Language Center. Archived from the original on 2018-01-24

Elijah McCoy, inventor profile". National Inventors Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 2018-1-28.

"Midwest Regional U.S. Patent and Trademark Office". USPTO. Retrieved January 24, 2018.

Celebrating Black Automotive & Transportation History Uncovered:William McDonald Felton Son of Sonny Felton was born in ...
04/04/2022

Celebrating Black Automotive & Transportation History Uncovered:

William McDonald Felton Son of Sonny Felton was born in Marshville Georgia around 1876. Not much is known about Felton’s early life due to poor record-keeping concerning black people in those days his exact birth year is unknown. Felton married Josephine Kitts, a British West Indies woman and they had a
son William Mcdonald Felton Jr and a daughter who died as a child.
Felton was a watch repairer in Marshville Ga and in 1898 he moved to New York City and opened a shop that repaired watches, clocks, and, guns.
In 1901 Felton partnered with a chauffer school.
In 1902 William Mcdonald Felton opened The aero Transportation and Sales Company he earned enough money to open up the 59th street theatre and other clubs in the all-black district of New York
City.
In 1910 The Auto Transportation & Sales Company encroached 4 stories of a 7 story building with 15 employees.
In 1914 William Mcdonald Felton expanded his business by moving to Harrisburg Pennsylvania and opened the first black auto and airplane mechanics school in the growing aviation industry. Black men, caucasian men, and women were recruited by offering separate classes by gender his entrepreneurial instincts led him to be the first to ever offer classes by gender using alternate days of the week.
In 1923 Feltons Feltons Newly constructed auto and Aero Mechanical School being the first Black man to own a flying school and airstrip, Felton made his intention to expand on his $100,000 flying school he was met with resistance from local Caucasians which postponed the expansion.
In 1924 Felton used his genius to expand by creating a home study program wherein students took lessons sent and received by mail to learn the repair of automobiles and aircraft.
In May of 1927 Feltons school was destroyed by fire. William Felton McDonald died in 1930.

William McDonald Felton (earlyaviators.com)
William McDonald Felton – Digital Harrisburg

Celebrating Black Automotive & Transportation History Uncovered:Ben HardyDid you know?
23/03/2022

Celebrating Black Automotive & Transportation History Uncovered:
Ben Hardy
Did you know?

Roberts Motor Co. advertisement from a Kansas City Call special issue, July 27, 1928. Missouri Valley Special Collection...
17/03/2022

Roberts Motor Co. advertisement from a Kansas City Call special issue, July 27, 1928. Missouri Valley Special Collections.
Homer Roberts was as persistent in the 1920s as any car salesman today, but his goals reached well beyond the next sale. With enduring determination and a love of the motorcar, Roberts was the first African American to own an automobile dealership in the country.

Roberts was born in Ash Grove, Missouri, and grew up in Wellington, Kansas. He attended Tuskegee Institute and studied electrical engineering at Kansas State Agricultural College. He moved to Kansas City but found no one here willing to hire a black electrical engineer. The army put Roberts’ talents to use during World War I, where he served in the signal corps and rose to the rank of first lieutenant.

Roberts began selling automobiles in 1919, using a curbstone as his office. He soon moved to indoor quarters and his sales increased. In 1923, he purchased a two-story building at 1826-30 Vine that fronted the corner of 19th and Vine. The $70,000 Roberts Building contained a restaurant, several shops, offices, and a garage and showroom for Roberts’ "Motor Mart."

By 1928, Roberts had sold more than $2 million worth of cars, mostly to African Americans. His entire sales, clerical, and garage staff was African American. Although he specialized in the Hupmobile, Roberts sold many other domestic models. His status as a dealer to the black community gave him permission from automobile manufacturers to sell several makes.

Roberts moved to Chicago in 1929 to open the Roberts-Campbell dealership in the Grand Hotel. He served with the Army in World War II and was transferred to the Pentagon, where he served in the public relations department. He continued working in Chicago in the public relations field after the war until his death in 1952.

The Roberts Building still stands on Vine Street, its glazed brick walls a tribute to a local automobile enthusiast and solid businessman of the 18th and Vine community.

Primary Sources:
The Kansas City Call
Secondary Sources:
Mecca of the New Negro
National Register of Historic Places: Multiple Property Documentation Form, 18th and Vine Multiple Resource Area
Acknowledgment:
A previous version of this essay is published on kchistory.org: http://kchistory.org/content/biography-homer-b-roberts-1888-1952-automob..

Celebrating Black Automotive & Transportation History Uncovered:Wendell ScottDid you know?The first African American dri...
16/03/2022

Celebrating Black Automotive & Transportation History Uncovered:
Wendell Scott
Did you know?
The first African American driver in NASCAR, and the first to win a race in the Grand National Series.

Celebrating Black Automotive & Transportation History UncoveredSangulani ChikumbutsoDid you know?
15/03/2022

Celebrating Black Automotive & Transportation History Uncovered
Sangulani Chikumbutso
Did you know?

Celebrating Black Automotive & Transportation History UncoveredPullman PortersDid you know?
14/03/2022

Celebrating Black Automotive & Transportation History Uncovered
Pullman Porters
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Celebrating Black Automotive & Transportation History Uncovered Garrett Agustus MorganDid you know?
11/03/2022

Celebrating Black Automotive & Transportation History Uncovered
Garrett Agustus Morgan
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10/03/2022

ABSORB EXPAND & CONNECT
Black Automotive & Transportation History Uncovered

Celebrating Black Automotive & Transportation History Uncovered Lonnie JohnsonDid you know?
07/03/2022

Celebrating Black Automotive & Transportation History Uncovered
Lonnie Johnson
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Celebrating Black Automotive & Transportation History UncoveredGeorge Washington Carver & Henry FordDid you know?
25/02/2022

Celebrating Black Automotive & Transportation History Uncovered
George Washington Carver & Henry Ford

Did you know?

Celebrating Black Automotive & Transportation History Uncovered Dorothy VaughnDid you know?
24/02/2022

Celebrating Black Automotive & Transportation History Uncovered
Dorothy Vaughn
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Celebrating Black Automotive & Transportation History Uncovered: Patricia CowingsDid you know?
24/02/2022

Celebrating Black Automotive & Transportation History Uncovered:
Patricia Cowings
Did you know?

Juanita Powell Baranco was born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Shreveport, Louisiana. She is the Executive Vice Pres...
09/02/2022

Juanita Powell Baranco was born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Shreveport, Louisiana. She is the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Baranco Automotive Group, which she co-founded with her husband, Gregory Baranco in 1978. It was one of the first African American owned car dealerships in the metropolitan Atlanta area. The Barancos’ also own several other car dealerships including Mercedes-Benz of Buckhead and several Acura dealerships. Juanita earned her high school diploma and continued her studies earning her B.S. degree and her J.D. degree from Louisiana State University. She practiced a successful law career before becoming the Assistant Attorney General for the state of Georgia

27/01/2022

As a U.S. Historian, I tasked myself with the responsibility of recognizing frequently unmentioned and unknown Black American's. I aspire to create and proudly display a unique collection of Black men and women who contribute, both past and present to the United States and abroad Automotive history. Join me in this most fascinating journey.

Celebrating Black Automotive & Transportation History Uncovered:Did you know?Bessie Stringfield
22/01/2022

Celebrating Black Automotive & Transportation History Uncovered:
Did you know?
Bessie Stringfield

21/01/2022

Celebrating Black Automotive & Transportation History Uncovered:

African American contributions to transportation: Did you know?ARCOLA PHILPOTT (1913–1991) PIONEERArcola Philpot spoke s...
17/01/2022

African American contributions to transportation: Did you know?
ARCOLA PHILPOTT (1913–1991) PIONEER
Arcola Philpot spoke several languages, studied social sciences at Loyola University, and attended City College while in Los Angeles.
In 1942 The Los Angeles Railway was hiring women as streetcar and bus operators. Arcola Philpott applied and became the first African American woman hired. Philpott drove railcars on the “F” line from 116th South Vermont Avenue to Union Station terminal. Philpott’s hiring in Los Angeles created a major shift in hiring practices across the country. Philpott later moved back to Chicago, where she worked as a journalist, a nurse, and in museums and libraries.

Celebrating Black Automotive & Transportation History Uncovered:C. R. Patterson & SonsDid you know?
16/01/2022

Celebrating Black Automotive & Transportation History Uncovered:
C. R. Patterson & Sons
Did you know?

Celebrating Black Automotive & Transportation History Uncovered:George Washington Carver Did you know?
13/01/2022

Celebrating Black Automotive & Transportation History Uncovered:
George Washington Carver
Did you know?

Celebrating Black Automotive & Transportation History Uncovered:Bessie ColemanDid you know?
11/01/2022

Celebrating Black Automotive & Transportation History Uncovered:
Bessie Coleman
Did you know?

Black Automotive & Transportation History Uncovered:Lewis LatimerDid you know?
10/01/2022

Black Automotive & Transportation History Uncovered:
Lewis Latimer
Did you know?

Davis Chrysler-Plymouth opened on November 11, 1963, at 11825 Dexter Avenue at Elmhurst, Detroit, Michigan. Ed Davis bec...
28/12/2021

Davis Chrysler-Plymouth opened on November 11, 1963, at 11825 Dexter Avenue at Elmhurst, Detroit, Michigan. Ed Davis became the first African American to be awarded a new-car franchise from one of the "Big Three" automakers.
This photo: Yellow-Pages phone book advertisement 1963.

Melvin Farr was born November 3, 1944, in Beaumont, Texas. During Farr's teenage years, he helped his father, Miller Far...
29/11/2021

Melvin Farr was born November 3, 1944, in Beaumont, Texas. During Farr's teenage years, he helped his father, Miller Farr Sr., a truck driver, to purchase older model cars needing work from the junkyard. His father sold them out of the family's front yard and named Farr's New and Used Automobiles operation.

Farr graduated high school in 1963 and attended Santa Monica City College before his notable years at UCLA. He was drafted in the NFL and selected in the first round by the Detroit Lions in 1967. Farr retired from the NFL in 1974.

At the time, the Detroit Lions owned was William Clay Ford Sr., the last surviving grandson of Henry Ford. Few people knew, but Farr worked for Ford Motor Company in the dealer development division during the off-seasons of his NFL career. A year after retiring from the NFL, in November 1975, Farr invested $40,000 to purchase a boarded-up Ford dealership in Oak Park, Michigan.

The Energy Crisis Recession, January - July 1980 caused Ford Motor Company sales to suffer. During the crisis, Farr appeared in commercials and dubbed himself "your superstar dealer." He promised that if the viewer came to Mel Farr Ford, he or she would receive "a Farr better deal!

Oak Park, Michigan, was Farr's first dealership. He also purchased several Ford and LM franchises in other markets nationally.
Remarkably, in 1998, Farr was the first African American dealer to be ranked #1 in Black Enterprise Magazine's Top 100 list of all black-owned businesses with revenues of $600 million. Farr owned the top black-owned business in the United States and the US's 33rd largest auto dealership. Additionally, he was also selected Member Emeritus by FMMDA.

Farr turned his attention to focusing on vehicle programs designed to assist financially disadvantaged individuals in need of transportation. He concentrated on the growing need for minorities and disadvantaged consumers, the subprime and special-financing markets for automobile sales and financing. In 2000, Farr's franchise received negative press on his sales and credit practices. Farr sold his final dealership in 2003.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING
25/11/2021

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

CLIFF VAUGHS AND 'EASY RIDER'; MORE THAN JUST THE BIKES:The origin story of the 'Easy Rider' motorcycles, 'Captain Ameri...
18/11/2021

CLIFF VAUGHS AND 'EASY RIDER'; MORE THAN JUST THE BIKES:

The origin story of the 'Easy Rider' motorcycles, 'Captain America' and 'Billy's bike' (as they're now known), has been clouded by the very fact of their fame, the absence of their creator, and the odd, at times haphazard circumstances of the making of the film. Credit has at times been given to Dan Haggerty ('Grizzly Adams'), and many web and print stories repeat this misunderstanding; Haggerty did some repair to the machines and was their 'handler' at times, and possibly even re-created the 'ER' bikes, after they were used in most of the filming, and stolen before the movie was complete.
[The Vintagent posted the story of Ben Hardy and the building of the 'ER' bikes, in March 2009.]

Credit for the design of the 'Easy Rider' bikes (and other important aspects of the film, including the title!) is claimed by Cliff Vaughs, a civil rights activist, filmmaker, and biker (in the Chosen Few MC - a racially integrated club since 1960). Vaughs was a member of the SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), a direct-action civil rights group, and a figure in many of the famous sit-ins, freedom rides, and marches in the 1960s South. He participated in and photographed, many of the legendary civil rights confrontations of the era, although he missed the March on

Washington because he was "building a chopper" in his backyard. Vaughs was also a documentary filmmaker and made "What Will the Harvest Be?", about the rise of Black Power in the South, which included interviews with Martin Luther King, Stokeley Carmichael, and Julian Bond, and was aired on ABC-tv in the mid-60s. From documentaries, he moved into film production by the late 1960s. He was also, clearly, a motorcycle nut, and considered Ben Hardy his mentor in building, maintaining, and riding his machines.
https://sepedamotorcycle.blogspot.com/2012/01/cliff-vaughs-story.html

Brehanna Daniels was born in Virginia Beach, Virginia, on January 26, 1994, with her twin brother Brehon, to Kimberly an...
11/11/2021

Brehanna Daniels was born in Virginia Beach, Virginia, on January 26, 1994, with her twin brother Brehon, to Kimberly and Luxley Daniels. She is the first African American NASCAR tire changer. Daniels attended the Historically Black College and Universities (HBCU) Norfolk State University, played basketball on scholarship, and studied communications.
Daniels is 5' 4" and an intense, hard-charging focused human being who competes with men. She earns her place through weekly time trials. Daniels has 12 seconds to change a tire. Her driver races off the track at around 200 mph, Daniels vaults over a pit wall in a fire re****ed suit and helmet. She slides in front of the right rear tire. Ten seconds. Uses her power drill to remove five lug nuts. Eight seconds. The 24-pound tire is swapped with a fresh one. Seven seconds. She drills five lug nuts back on. Five seconds. She hops up, sprints around the car, and slides into the left tire. Three seconds. Again removes five lug nuts, the tire is swapped, drills five lug nuts on. Her time is up. The driver speeds off...
On a Monday in April 2016, Daniels was approached by Tiffani-Dawn Sykes, the university's NCAA eligibility specialist, and offered the opportunity to attend pit crew tryouts or videotape a six-hour baseball game for her campus internship.
Being unaware of NASCAR, and after watching a video of a pit stop during a race, Daniels was captivated and in awe. She accepted, and excelled at the pit crew tryouts, and earned a spot at the National Drive for Diversity Pit Crew Combine. Following graduation, Daniels accepted the position of tire changer in NASCAR and made history.
On June 2, 2017, Daniels became the first Black American woman tire changer to pit a race in a NASCAR series. On July 7, 2018, Daniels became the first Black American woman tire changer to change tires at the highest NASCAR level, known as The Monster Cup Series.
Witness Brehanna Daniels Changing Tires:
https://youtu.be/TN2WAFsm7r0

African American contributions to transportation: Did you know?Katherine T. “Kittie” Knox was a transportation pioneer w...
08/11/2021

African American contributions to transportation: Did you know?

Katherine T. “Kittie” Knox was a transportation pioneer who earned a living as a seamstress but found her passion in bicycling. Knox chose to ride a bike designed for men and instead of skirts Knox designed and wore baggy pants.

Knox became a member of the Riverside Cycling Club, one of the first groups for African-Americans. She established herself by often finishing ahead of her male competitors. In1893 Knox joined the overwhelmingly male League of American Wheelmen (LAW).

In 1894, LAW barred African-Americans from belonging to the organization. Knox challenged it at LAW’s 1895 annual meeting in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Knox attended the event and was told to leave, she showed her certificate as proof that she had joined LAW prior to the implementation of the whites-only policy. Some of the attendees were in favor of Knox, however, many attendees strongly objected to her presence, and Knox was expelled from the meeting.
Although Knox was unsuccessful in changing LAW’s discriminatory treatment against African-American bicyclists, Knox brought attention to and generated a public debate over the segregationist policy.

In 1900 Knox died of kidney disease. Katherine T. "Kittie" Knox left a legacy as a bicyclist and as someone who shed light on some of the obstacles facing African-Americans and women.

William B Johnson, aka Wild Bill, was born in 1890 in Maryland. There is not much known about his early life. Johnson is...
29/10/2021

William B Johnson, aka Wild Bill, was born in 1890 in Maryland. There is not much known about his early life. Johnson is the first African American to join the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA). He applied for a license and received permission from the AMA to race. Johnson is the first African American to own a Harley-Davidson dealership. Despite inaccurate records and a non-specific date, year, and month, Johnson signed on with Harley-Davidson c 1920. He started, built, and maintained his business in a converted blacksmith workshop until Johnson’s Harley-Davidson dealership was a household name. Johnson’s customers spanned through three generations and flocked from everywhere for 60 years to be serviced by his dealership.
Johnson was said to be a fearless hill climb racer throughout the 1920s and '30s. In his early racing days, Johnson raced in segregated race events. Following the new license for the AMA, he took part in a race in New York and won his Harley-Davidson class. People rumored that Johnson was granted AMA membership and allowed to compete after Johnson claimed he was Native American. Other rumors supported that Johnson was a central member of a Somers community. Therefore, with the community's assistance, it convinced the AMA to permit Johnson to race. Interestingly enough, the races took place on a local hill in Somers that was ideal for racing.
He competed regularly in New York, New England, and Pittsburgh, taking part in as many as 20 races each year. Johnson suffered an injury on occasion. In a race in Connecticut in 1930, Johnson lost control of his Harley-Davidson. Johnson recovered in three weeks, and he was racing again.
In 1969, Johnson’s Harley dealership became threatened in sales and service by a competitor, Pat Cramer. Harley Davidson allowed Cramer to open a dealership five miles away from Johnson’s shop. African Americans surmised that it was the attempt to force Johnson out of business. Johnson resisted attempts by Cramer to buy him out. With support from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, NAACP pressured Harley-Davidson to resolve the issue that Harley-Davidson had created.
Cramer cooperated under threat of having his dealership license revoked. Cramer and Johnson began to work together and became friends. After falling from his motorcycle during icy conditions, Johnson stopped riding at the age of 82. Johnson suffered physical damage to include the inability to use his arms. Until his death, Johnson maintained his dealership at the age of 95 in 1985.
The Harley-Davidson Museum commemorated Johnson and his history is preserved inside the Town Hall, Somers, New York, Westchester County town west of I-684 near the building he operated his dealership.

Jenell R. Ross is the President of the Bob Ross Auto Group in Centerville, Ohio. The Bob Ross Dealerships include three ...
28/10/2021

Jenell R. Ross is the President of the Bob Ross Auto Group in Centerville, Ohio. The Bob Ross Dealerships include three franchises: Buick, GMC, and Mercedes-Benz. Mercedes-Benz of Centerville is the first African-American-owned Mercedes-Benz Dealership in the world. Currently, the Bob Ross Auto Group has the distinction of being the only Mercedes-Benz and Buick-GMC Dealerships owned by an African American ‘Woman’.
Jenell facilitates a team of managers representing the operational departments within the dealership. She develops long-range goals, objectives, and policies for the Bob Ross Dealerships and works to maintain an open line of communication with 100 employees. This year Bob Ross Auto Group will celebrate 47 years as a Buick Dealer, 42 years as a Mercedes-Benz Dealer, and 39 years as a GMC Dealer. Jenell is the only second-generation African-American Woman Automobile Dealer in the country.
THE HISTORY
In July of 1997, Jenell accepted the leadership role of the dealerships after the untimely death of her father Robert P. Ross Sr., who in 1974 started the family-owned business in Richmond, Indiana. Ms. Ross, in partnership with her mother, Norma, and brother, Robert Jr., served as the dealership’s executive management until the passing of her mother, Norma J. Ross, in April 2010. Under Jenell’s leadership, the Bob Ross franchises have continued to rank as a leader in Buick, GMC, and Mercedes-Benz sales and customer service leader.
In July of 1997, Jenell accepted the leadership role of the dealerships after the untimely death of her father Robert P. Ross Sr., who in 1974 started the family-owned business in Richmond, Indiana. Ms. Ross, in partnership with her mother, Norma, and brother, Robert Jr., served as the dealership’s executive management until the passing of her mother, Norma J. Ross in April 2010. Under Jenell’s leadership, the Bob Ross franchises have continued to rank as a leader in Buick, GMC, and Mercedes-Benz sales and customer service.
An extensive renovation for Mercedes-Benz was completed in 2011 and again in 2018 according to Autohaus standards of the company. In 2012 and 2018 the Bob Ross Buick GMC facilities were renovated meeting the requirements from the GM Facility Image Program.
The Bob Ross Auto Group represented the Fiat brand from 2011-2018 and represented the Alfa Romeo brand from 2014-2018.

26/10/2021

Black Automotive & Transportation History Uncovered presents a fascinating history spanning over 148 years.
The research material and photographs are designed to aid students and enthusiasts with African American Automotive History.

Godfrey Qualls was born on January 18, 1942, in Nashville, Tennessee. His parents were Cleolous and Mary Qualls. Godfrey...
26/10/2021

Godfrey Qualls was born on January 18, 1942, in Nashville, Tennessee. His parents were Cleolous and Mary Qualls. Godfrey served as a paratrooper in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. After being injured by a gr***de in the mid-1960s in the United States Army during the Vietnam Conflict, he received a Purple Heart.

Godfrey reenlisted in the National Guard. He served for 18 more years as a Special Forces member, retiring in 1994.

Qualls became a Detroit Police Officer, for a time, he was assigned to the parking unit. Eventually, Godfrey spent his working hours riding around Detroit on a police-issued Harley Davidson.

The early 1970s served as the height of the muscle car era for Americans. NASCAR wasn't integrated; therefore, the hot rods racers across America weren't either. In specific our research focuses on Detroit, Michigan, motor city, where Woodward Avenue and even more secluded back streets served as the best places to race these muscle monsters.

Although few people knew the driver's identity, no one knew when the Black Ghost might appear, but they certainly knew where. Everyone on the circuit knew that nobody did it better than a sinister Hemi-powered 1970 Challenger R/T SE known as the Black Ghost.

Appropriately nicknamed the Black Ghost, the triple black exterior paint with a Gator Grain black vinyl top and black interior never stuck around. This mysterious car and driver possessed an uncanny timing for materializing, winning, and then vanishing.

“It would appear on Woodward, make a couple of passes, (and) then you wouldn’t see it for a month or two,” Mopar collector and mechanic Dean Herron says in the latest video release from the Historic Vehicle Association, which celebrates the car’s addition to the National Historic Vehicle Register. “Everybody knew the car existed, but nobody hardly saw it.”

The Black Ghost appeared in the spring of 1970, crushed every competitor, and quickly disappeared into the darkness well before anyone could ask, “Who was that?” Days, months, and weeks passed, and then the menacing 1970 Dodge Challenger would reemerge from the shadows, destroy the competition, and vanish. The legend grew, and then one day, the Black Ghost disappeared completely.

The Detroit Free Press interviewed Godfrey’s son Gregory who revealed that the family wasn’t aware of his father’s street racing. Gregory told The Detroit Free Press, “I’d know Dad was taking the car out because starting it shook the house.” Gregory also remembers his dad taping a $100 bill to the dashboard and daring him to grab it under hard acceleration. Gregory told The Detroit Free Press, “I never touched that bill.”

Like any family man, CBS Detroit reports that Godfrey became very busy toward the end of the 1970s, and as a result, the Challenger ended up in the back of the family’s garage, where it didn’t move for years. Today, the Historic Vehicle Association reports that the infamous challenger still has just 45,000 original miles.
However, The Detroit Free Press reports that Godfrey’s racing days didn’t end there as he would help his son Gregory tune his racing models in earlier years and pickup trucks as a teenager. Even during this time, Gregory wasn’t aware of his father’s racing history. He only came to learn his dad’s story after he passed away in 2015.

Dean Herron says. “That is one very unique individual—and car. All these big Mopar collectors would kill to go to the dealer and order this car. And he, Godfrey Qualls, had the foresight (to do it). I think he’s one of the smartest guys to ever order a Hemi car.”

Qualls ordered his Challenger with the R/T and Special Edition (SE) packages and the monstrous 426—a 23 percent upcharge of $778.75 ($5522 today)—but he made sure to include the Super Track Pak with four-speed manual transmission and floor-mounted Hurst pistol grip, which sent power to a Sure-Grip Dana 60 with 4.10 gears. For style, he equipped the hardtop street bruiser with a “bumblebee” white stripe on the tail, hood pins, houndstooth interior, and the actual conversation piece—the Gator Grain black vinyl top.

Qualls’ car is one of just 23 Hemi four-speed R/T SE Challengers sold in the model’s debut year, and it is possibly the only car ever built with these specific performance options.
Gregory, his son, jokes that the Gator Grain was a mistake. “He wanted (plain) black vinyl, but (Dodge) screwed it up royally,” Gregory Qualls says. “He loved it and he didn’t love it at the same time.”

Godfrey had overcome prostate cancer in 2008, but the cancer was back with a vengeance, having metastasized into his bones. In 2014, Godfrey invited his son over for a beer and told Gregory he wanted to show him something in the garage. Godfrey pulled the cover back on the Challenger, and the two cleaned it together. “I didn’t know at that time,” Gregory says, “(but) I think he was trying to tell me that he was sick.”

By December 2015, Godfrey was in the hospital and nearing the end of his life. On December 21, he asked Gregory to retrieve an envelope from his house and bring it to him.“It was the paperwork for the car,” Gregory says.

“He (Godfrey) signed the title right there and gave me (Gregory) the title. It almost put me in tears because I never wanted the car that way. As he hands me the title, he says, ‘Don’t give my [expletive] car away.’ That’s exactly how he said it.”
Godfrey Qualls died on Christmas Eve, 2015.

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