I guess I'll be weighing in on the "cold pressure in coolant system means bad things" side of this discussion. Read on for further info.
Well things aren't going so well. I went to the parking garage without calling first so that I could see the car cold. First thing was the large amount of coolant under the car. Next was the pressure in the coolant system. Then I released it an confirmed that the pressure builds up promptly upon starting the car. No rough gurgling under acceleration, but quick pressure build up.
So I decided immediately to take it to my mechanic, Nick. They carefully washed the entire engine and inspected it for all the leaks. When the belly pan came off we had all three fluid types in great quantities: engine oil, ATF, and coolant.
This was a dramatic change from 2500mi ago when I had the pan off to change oil and had small quantities of ATF and oil.
Now for the bad news. The coolant comes out of the head at a place above the head casket on the rear cylinder (I saw the fresh coolant on the clean head too). Nick says that in his experience this nearly always proves to be a cracked head. The oil leak at the casket and front seal is pretty heavy too. And the transmission seal leak is too bad to ignore any longer. I also have a rear bearing that needs replacing.
My wife and I have decided that we like the car well enough to continue to invest in it.
I'd appreciate any opinions on the following prices. Also anything I should be sure to do while I have the head off?
Labor to remove and replace head and front seal: $1300.
Labor to replace the transmission seal & rear wheel bearing: $500
Nick recommends a new head only. Nick gets his for $1850.