Well, a little update on the current situation. This is the rental that my dad is driving:
(just a pic in the same color...) It only has 20k on the clock, and it is garbage.
So I have been looking far and wide for a new Jeep. There was an amazing 2006 Wrangler in Patriot Blue that slipped through the cracks. It had 70K, a d44, and was only $10k (agreed upon price). I loved it because it was RHD (so that means it has the 42rle). Surprisingly that one had a better tranny than mine did.
I have looked at a few others, and I am still trying to get into something right. It is surprising how many miles are on most of these fricken things, and how many dealerships think they have gold. I have a few emails from the local stealership that has a 2006 LJ with the 6-speed. I have them at this point making me the offer
They have had it since August so I guess they want it gone.
There is also a 2006 with 32k for $13.4K (buy it now o.b.o on eBay). It was a theft recovery, so it has an NY rebuilt title. I want to go look at that, but my mom keep fighting more than NY would for registration. She doesn't know the process, and she doesn't want the money tied up. I said it wasn't a problem as long as we could register it before they got their money (this does happen to be a dealership).
UGH... the search has me frustrated because of the time line. I am busy most of the week, so it is hard to make time to go see any. I was pretty tempted to buy a '97 for about $2500 just to drive around till I find the right one, but it was garbage. It had the 4.0l with the 5-speed, but the suspension was saggy, there were rattles everywhere for something that was never offroad, the lights didn't work, smelled strongly of smoke ect. ect. Book is about $3,500 in that shape, but I still wasn't wasting my time on that, and I never got it above 35mph.
I think I will just have to wait it out to find something. Shooting some emails tonight, hopefully something pans out.