1957 Jaguar XK140 is a 40-year project - so far

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Even judges are not immune from that wifely law that clearly states, as every wife knows, “Don’t bring it home until you check with me first.”

A judge in Nashville, Tenn., ignored that unwritten law in 1965 when he, without prior approval, became the third owner of a white 1957 Jaguar XK140 drophead coupe. Because the first and second owners had been doctors, the judge tried to convince his wife that the sleek car must be in good health.

Spotting fluids dripping onto the garage floor, the judge’s wife was not convinced.

Invoking the wifely law, she commanded, “Sell the car.”

That’s where young lawyer Jim Sasser entered the picture. He was practicing law in Nashville, loved the looks of the Jaguar, and quickly became the fourth owner. Fortunately, his wife, Mary, was a novice at the wife game and was unaware of the wifely law. “She was indifferent about the car,” Mr. Sasser recalls.

He soon learned the 14-foot, 8-inch-long car with the 3.4-liter, in-line six-cylinder engine, required 26.5 pints of oil and 30 pints of coolant to be happy. Keeping the fluid levels topped off and the 16.75-gallon gasoline tank full, he enjoyed the car during the next decade.

The small occasional seats behind the front bucket seats seemed to have been made for the Sassers’ young children when Elizabeth and Gray came along.

In the mid-1970s, with the odometer nearing 85,000 miles, the well-worn Jaguar was put in storage with restoration in mind.

In 1976, Mr. Sasser was elected to the U.S. Senate for the first of three terms, a Democrat representing Tennessee.

Finding time for the restoration was difficult, but, eventually, work on the Jaguar began. Mr. Sasser soon decided that the shop doing the work was taking too much time as well as charging more than he wanted to spend. Work ceased.

While visiting constituents in the mid-1990s, he saw an impressive, freshly restored car. The owner of the car told him that Robert Wooley in Rossville, Tenn., a little town outside of Memphis, was responsible for the outstanding restoration.

The senator’s car was auditioned and was deemed to be of restoration quality.

The work began about the time in 1995 when Mr. Sasser was appointed as U.S. ambassador to China.

When you are on one side of the world and your car is being restored on the other side, it is important to have a full measure of trust between the two parties.

While he was in China, his Jaguar’s engine was rebuilt, with a Type C cylinder head, as well as the four-speed manual transmission. One mechanic told Mr. Sasser that his transmission “looked like a Studebaker truck transmission.”

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