Well - we fought the good fight, but might be at square one again.
I located a tranny at A&A, Ray came over and we got it, then spent all day installing it (not the worst trans I have ever done, but a beast anyhow).
It sounds like it's at least as bad off as the old one. HOWLS in 1st, second, FIFTH, and makes grinding noises at idle or in reverse. Monday I'll be calling the yard to see what we can do. It was cheaper than the one from Clay's, but I doubt it will last very long at all. The fluid in it was murky as well.
It has to be better than this. I have to rely on this thing. I'd rate it as barely drivable, and a goner for sure in no time. Hopefully A&A will back up their parts. Clutch slaves and throw out bearings for these are pricey too - a hundred bucks. (It's a single unit).
If I had known all of this to begin with, a 2.3 would have been out of the question.