I created a new default machine using VMware Server with the basic settings matching that of the target machine, copied the resulting .vmx file into the folder of the target machine. (I could have just modified the original .vmx file, but just decided to start over cleanly.)
So now the vmware machine tries to boot, but fails with the following message:
One or more of your disk files were created by a more recent version of VMware software and are not supported by this version of VMware Server.
Then I modified the vmdk descriptor file from:
ddb.virtualHWVersion = "7"
ddb.virtualHWVersion = "4"
Worked like a charm :-)
I don't know if this will work in every case, but it might be helpful to someone.