namely, the celebration trip to Cold Stone after I got the heat working in The Great White Whale of a car.
got there right at closing, they took pity on us and whipped a couple of treats. we got back in the car, headed over to Menards for some screws to help hold the car door together (lost one) and headed home.
slippery slope drive... the car was barely moving in forward. got home, started looking up transmission issues in Grand Marqs, and managed to get to work and back for two days.
Friday, really sloppy coming off a stop, ordered some likely parts online, and got a case of ATF. seems there is a generic gunk-up issue that resolves with a new filter and uprating from Dexron II/Mercon to Mercon V in the 1995 and later transmissions, a new variant.
the next weekend, after letting my car sit a week and using Cheryl's, blocked up the car and slid under yet again. I have jackstands, but they don't appear solid enough to me, I've wiggled the whole car underneath them. I jack the car up as needed, and slip an assembly of cut-up 6x8 and 8x8 landscape timber underneath the frame. once the jack goes down, I body-slam that side of the car. no movement, barely a ripple on a glass of water put on the hood, I'm ready to work underneath the thing.
cranked around the engine with a wrench on the crank pulley bolt until I had the drain plug for the torque converter handy, drained that thing and as much ATF as would seep over from the tranny, reinstalled with torque setting, and started taking the pan bolts out. an excellent opportunity, by the way, to get the last two sizes of micrometer torque wrenches I didn't have on sale at Harbor Freight. about a quart of ATF left in the pan, as well as a monster beard of little fine metal shavings on the pan magnet. was scraping those off for quite a while, it was like microfine mud.
swapped filters, cleaned the pan to eat out of, reinstalled everything, refilled, put the car back on the ground... mostly have reverse, no forward. Eric was in the vicinity, he came over and found another 2-1/2 quarts of ATF would go in while I revved the car, so the converter hadn't refilled. still no forward.
we ended up having a junkyard pull tranny shipped in to John's, and had them do the mechanicals. I don't have the strength on my back or side to wrestle a damn transmission around, even if I rent or buy a tranny jack. they have guys, hoists, and tools I don't. easy $500 decision there.
it's running, but I couldn't see the road going home in the dark, rainy night. next evening, put a headlight restoration kit in, realigned the lenses, all is well.