Brad Bowling
May 1, 2004
Photos By: Lek Hennie

The next time you have to wait two days to receive a Mustang part by UPS or stand in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles for an hour to register a new car, consider it a blessing. Being a Mustang owner in the United States is a breeze; all it takes is a good credit rating and a stack of parts catalogs to put a cool Pony on the road.

Not so for our friends overseas, where getting an American car legalized can be an enormously expensive, time-consuming, and frustrating chore on par with elective dental surgery or an IRS tax audit.

In the Netherlands, about 15 miles from the 700-year-old capital city of Amsterdam, lives a floral-arrangement wholesaler whose passion in life is all things Ford, but especially Saleens. Hennie Lek, who says he came by his weakness for Fords genetically-his father's affliction began with the purchase of a '61 Galaxie Starliner and eventually led to a new '80 Mustang Cobra-bought an Amsterdam-assembled '66 Mustang in 1984. Yes, the Ford plant there built Mustang coupes for sale in the Netherlands and France during 1966-1967; only a dozen or so are known to still exist. It was an extremely rough car, but Lek's enthusiasm was boosted by the original 289 and four-speed transmission. At the time, he had no idea the factory-installed sliding sunroof was an unbelievably rare and valuable option, so it was eliminated during restoration.

Lek enjoyed his classic performer, which he still owns, but was convinced that late-model Mustangs were the way to go in the modern world. Since European Ford factories stopped producing Mustangs in the '60s, his collection of high-performance Fox and SN-95 ponies reveals Lek to be a man of great patience and perseverance.

His first late-model was a black '87 GT hatchback with a five-speed he quickly traded for an automatic-equipped '88. Lek attended an All-Ford Nationals in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and fell in love with one of Steve Saleen's early Mustangs on display; so, when his '88 was destroyed in a wreck, he went shopping for a similar ride. Hemmings Motor News led him to a dark blue '88 Saleen hatchback with an automatic transmission and only 16,000 miles. After flying to New York and driving to Long Island for a testdrive and inspection, Lek and his father bought 88-0543 and made shipping arrangements.

"My wife and I so thoroughly enjoyed the Saleen," Lek recalls, "that during the next decade we drove it 52,000 miles through Italy, across the Russian border and into Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Luxemburg, Belgium, France, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Norway. Our '88 has even visited North Cape in Norway-the northernmost point you can reach by car!"

Lek's enthusiasm for the Saleen was rewarded with nearly trouble-free mechanical performance. As of its semiretirement in 1999, when an imported '96 SVT Cobra assumed its daily driver duties, only the transmission required any repairs.

Lek let his parents check out the next Saleen to enter his collection: a '97 S-281 former Budget rental car he located in Dallas. The red convertible, number 97-0018B, was shipped to the Netherlands in a 20-foot container filled with various pieces of high-performance equipment from the Saleen parts department, including a hard Speedster tonneau, chrome wheels with new tires, and a Series II Eaton supercharger. The dark charcoal Recaro seats were back-ordered and eventually arrived separately.

In 2003, Lek realized he needed a more practical vehicle for his growing family, something with all-wheel drive and room for four people with luggage. He discovered a Saleen XP8 Explorer advertised in New York with V-8 power, and flew to the East Coast to inspect it in person. Blizzard conditions prevented a proper testdrive, but Lek was impressed with 99-0013's condition and the fact it had once worn the coveted "01" bumper decal as a SEMA display vehicle. The Explorer has been the family's daily driver since its arrival.