I'll be the first to admit I'm not a good person to bring into your discussion. I've been a Ford person since the 1964 World's Fair, seeing the Mustang close up. 90% of the vehicles we have owned (my wife was an original owner of a '66 Stang) has been Ford's, I own 2 Ford compact tractors, most of the projects I worked on in my career were Ford's, I've been to the Arizona and Mi proving grounds ... I bleed blue. I don't think the dealership service managers who I dealt with for 25 years understood the situation. I knew how the OE side operated, I let myself be blind. So I'm as Pi**ed at myself as much as Ford, and the posting of my video was trying to warn others.
With the errors I found, the best you can do is hang in there and hope yours is not as bad. I hope yours is not as bad.
Each step of my journey through my motor was predicated with "it can't be this bad". It was and still is, a difficult project to work on. A lot of money was invested as you've done, and it's hard to justify more into a 16-year-old east coast truck. The only reason this has not been hooked and dragged to the local yard is trying to use it as a teaching tool. My grandson has an interest in restoration, miles away, maybe it will help his journey. Or others dealing with this. I may even get the motor back in before it rusts apart.
For me, it probably would have been better to get a short block from Ashville right from the start, if not just from a time perspective.
If you haven't seen the "discovery" video, I'm linking it. Getting it back together has a time and money angle, along with it's just so damn hard to acknowledge how bad I messed up with every step. Plus I'm trying to do the videos, so 15 minutes of work, go through the video, then repeat like 5 times ..... I'm slow.
GOT or the video, both cataclysmic.
Hit the top of the vid to go direct to YT to see in HD.