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Updated: April 29, 2024 30th Anniversary

Life in the fast lane: Mainers recall what car they were driving in 1994

Provided Photo Eat your heart out, Austin Powers: Al Noyes was driving a Jaguar in 1994, baby.

The Ford Taurus was the most popular U.S. passenger car in 1994, with close to 400,000 vehicles sold that year, according to Car and Driver magazine. To find out what Mainers were driving, we asked a handful of business movers and shakers to take a ride down memory lane.

“Back in those days I changed cars frequently since I never wanted to tie a car up for very long,” says Adam Lee, chairman of Lee Auto Malls, the state’s largest auto dealer group.

“I think I was driving a Nissan Maxima, which at the time was the nicest car I ever had,” he recalls. “They sold for around $24,000 back then, and today they range from $33,000 to $45,000. Frankly, that is not as much of an increase as I thought it would be.”

Al Noyes, CEO of BW Walch, an educational publishing company in South Portland, wasn’t in Maine at the time but on the other side of the country, in California.

“In 1994 I was in Silicon Valley driving a convertible Jaguar, my company car, and met my wife,” says Noyes. Today, he drives a BMW sport-utility vehicle.

As the mother of two young children in 1994, Nancy Marshall opted for practicality on the road.

“I was driving a bright red Dodge minivan,” says Marshall, CEO of Marshall Communications.

“I had two sons — a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old — so I had two car seats in the van, and I was driving a lot for my work, because I still lived full-time in Carrabassett Valley but I was doing a lot of work in Augusta for the Maine Office of Tourism,” Marshall says. “I thought I was stylin’ with that minivan.”

Convenience was also front of mind for Andrew Silsby, president and CEO of Kennebec Savings Bank. His car in 1994: “A brand new, white Dodge minivan that was clearly going to be the answer to all transportation needs starting a new family,” he says.

Martin Grohman, the mayor of Biddeford and a consultant to law firm Eaton Peabody, feels just as nostalgic about the Volkswagen Corrado he was piloting in that era.

“So much fun,” he gushes. “Fast, stick shift, looked cool and was great to drive. I sold it to raise the money to start CorrectDeck,” a composite decking he founded that’s now called DuraLife Decking. “Probably a good trade long-term but it does tug at the heartstrings.” Grohman now drives a Tesla Model Y.

At least one person we talked to was behind the wheel of the most popular car that year.

“In 1994, I was driving my sturdy, boxy four-door Ford Taurus sedan,” says Nancy Strojny, assistant district director for SCORE Maine, the statewide business mentoring organization. “It was chocolate brown with a tan interior. ‘Wow, that’s a cool ride,’ said no one ever.”

Luckily for Strojny, it was a company car and a high-valued perk, she says, noting that 1994 engines offered decent power but prioritized fuel economy. The technology features of the Ford Taurus, discontinued in 2019, she recalls as “minimal” from her company car days.

“When I left that company in 2001, not surprisingly, I bought a BMW,” Strojny says.

As for yours truly, in 1994 I was living in Budapest and relied on public transportation, including buses, an underground metro and — my absolute favorite — above-ground trams that traverse the Danube River to connect Buda and Pest.

Years later in Brussels, Belgium, I drove a a two-passenger Smart — ideal for parking in a congested European capital, and it could hold its own on the highway. In Maine I have a Honda Fit. It’s a similar blue to “Smartie,” but much better suited to New England winters.

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