WELLS, Maine — After 17 years out of her possession, Betsy DiCapua was reunited with the piece of her family she hoped to find. Finally, the shiny blue 1955 Buick Special was back home sitting in her driveway. Back in the same family, with the same amount of love it had seen for the first 46 years of its life.
In 1955, Betsy’s great-great-grandfather, Fred Bennett purchased the car from Dover Buick for $2,984.04 — according to the original bill of sale that remains in Betsy’s possession. Bennett’s love for the car went beyond a typical appreciation. So much so, that he only drove it on Sundays, never once took it outside in the rain, and kept track of all receipts and work that was done to it over the years.
When Bennett died in 1982, he left the car in near perfect condition for Betsy’s family. Betsy was 24 years old, and like her great-great-grandfather, Betsy and her family took loving care of the car as it became an important part of their family.
During a drive one day, the Buick lost its brakes. Betsy’s mother, staying calm behind the wheel, used the emergency brake the entire ride home. Three generations of the family were in the car — all making it home without a scratch. Betsy’s mother turned to her and told her, “Growing up poor you learn to drive cars without brakes.”
While Betsy remembers that day vividly, her most cherished memory with the car is the day she married her husband Sam DiCapua at the Cliff House in Cape Neddick. They rode in the car to their wedding. “It had such a huge backseat it felt like we were in a carriage,” Betsy said.
As the years and memories with the car grew old, so did her family members. Her father died and her mother was diagnosed with cancer. “The car became too much so my mom sold it in 2001,” Betsy said. “I felt very sad that the car was gone.”
When the car was sold, it had only accumulated 40,000 miles in 46 years. It still had never been exposed to as much as a rain drop. Betsy had always felt a connection to the car and regarded it as much more than just a vehicle. “That was the car for me,” she said.
Seventeen years passed and Betsy and her husband Sam had never once seen the car despite continuing to talk about it. “I’d bring it up frequently,” Betsy said. “All the time we’d have talks about buying it back.”
As Betsy and Sam’s 30th anniversary approached this summer, they reached out to find where the car ended up. After getting in contact with the person they sold it to in 2001, he put them in touch with the car’s current owner. Fritz Dauth, of Cape Neddick, had purchased the car recently and was talking to previous owners to get more information about it. One of them told Dauth that the DiCapua’s were interested in buying the Buick back.
Dauth called the DiCapua’s about the car and invited them to come take a look at it. “I had only had the car for three weeks, but they had to get this car back,” Dauth said.
As soon as the DiCapua’s saw the car, the memories came rushing back to Betsy. “We went to look at it and I immediately burst into tears,” Betsy said, adding that she thought, “If we don’t buy it, it’s going to be lost forever.”
Right before Labor Day, the DiCapua’s bought the car back from Dauth for $11,000. It had 51,000 miles on it and a little bit more wear and tear than when they last saw it, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed.
“I really feel like it was supposed to come back to us,” Betsy said. “I’d like to have it for my daughters when they get married.”
Betsy says she and her husband have gone out for rides in it almost every night when the weather allows.
For Betsy, history really does repeat itself. “Sam and I were driving recently and it lost its brakes,” Betsy said.
“I know what to do!” Betsy told Sam, remembering that ride many years ago with her mother when they lost the brakes.
“These brakes are a pain,” Sam said. “But I love this damn car.”
In a rainstorm recently, a tow truck came to pick up the car at the DiCapua’s house in Wells and bring it to get the brakes fixed. Betsy says the car will get new brakes and work done on the engine in the coming months. Then in the spring, the DiCapua’s will continue to take their nighttime cruises and cherish it.