Well, after three hours of 'work', things are largely as they were yesterday. I spent some time this morning cleaning the axle tubes (cleaning off the surface rust, ensuring the sand is gone, etc.) and attempted to fit them to the transmission with the gaskets. The first issue came when I attempted to fit the axle tubes to the transmission. The bag of nuts and washers disappeared. As in, *poof!* fucking gone...after looking around for fifteen minutes, I realized I was running out of time so I took the opportunity to clean and organize the workspace, put away tools, wipe down the counter, and get ready for tomorrow. Never found the nuts. I bought new washers and nuts while I was out doing other things.
A couple of hours later, I tried to fit the axle tubes with two gaskets (the standard number per side, according to the Bentley), hand tightened the nuts and the axles tubes were loose. I pulled the whole assembly apart - thinking something must have been skipped - but, alas, nothing was amiss so I put them back together again using a little more gear oil as the lubricant for assembly. Down to one gasket and everything fits just fine - but with two gaskets - the axle tube flops around easily.
So, for shits and grins, I called the transaxle shop - gave them the lowdown on what was going on and the response I got was "It should require three gaskets per side, occasionally two. If you're using one, there's something wrong with the flange or the axle tube." I explained that this transmission had never been apart until recently and the axle tubes appeared to be straight and the flanges are not warped or bent in any way. Beyond the initial response and advise on how to seal the gaskets, nothing else was offered, so the call ended.
I took the whole thing apart again - because I was secretly hoping for a shit ton of practice - and put it back together, inspecting everything along the way to make sure nothing was incorrect. It's kind of hard to fuck this up but I figured I'd give myself the benefit of doubt anyway. Once again, it all went back in just as it came out - smoothly. No burrs, no hangs, no issues with assembly. Only one gasket per side. I measured the thickness of the gaskets - .03mm each. The parts book references two gasket thicknesses: .01mm and .02mm. I am really hoping that I just have thick gaskets and everything is going to be fine once I get it all back together.
So, tomorrow, I'm going to pull it apart one last time, check the whole assembly again, reassemble it and hope that it doesn't just grenade on me the first time I drive the car. I'm still not terribly motivated to work on this car anymore but it's got to get done at some point - might as well get it done soon.