While the 4R70W isn’t a bad transmission, and probably one of the few automatics that doesn’t piss me off, I still rather have a manual. After searching for a small block ZF-5 that wasn’t overly priced or broken, I came across a M5OD out of a 4.2 V6 truck from a ’97 F150. The 4.2 trucks use the Small Bock Ford bell pattern (have to drill out the top two bolts to 7/16”), and they have the shifter tower further back than the older M5OD’s. Which makes it fit nicely into the Merc.
Now it is waiting on the bench to be stuck into The Merc.