Hi Eddie - I must admit I prefer manual transmissions too, even on Yanks. My friend Sean won't have anything else - 3 Plymouth Barracudas, and most recently a Trans-Am homologation version of the AMC Javelin.
Do you have to use a T5 'box? I guess as long as the input shaft can be made compatible with the engine, you could use a Borg-Warner T10, or a Muncie 5-speed out of an 80's Camaro (sorry I prefer Chevy stuff to Ford
Then there's the old ZF 5-speed used on the Montreal (I had the same 'box in my Droop Snoot) - in a light car, it should be able to handle the torque.
Another good friend once made a manual Jag XJ6 using a Getrag 'box out of a Rover SD1. That thing could light up the tyres in the first three gears! Shame it got stolen (probably used on a bank job!).
Its a lot of work converting to a manual though - the appeal of slushboxes is their ready availability, but as you have already discovered, they are so finely balanced that they can often end up toast.
I used to shift my Chrysler A-904 manually - the shift lever was on the console and had a handly stop on the ratchet so you could flick between 1, 2, and D without overshooting into P. Very useful for twisty backroads
Sounds like big decisions in the 302 houshold. Good luck!