Got it done!!
Started early by gluing up the wood from the console following Mike Tangas' well written guide. Glued and clamped the plastic legs while I was at it. Then, in an effort to not remove the entire console, pulled the under-dash panels so I could remove the carpet from both sides of the tunnel. This allowed me enough room to spread the fresh air plenum just enough to get a 1/4" drive 10mm socket and extension in to remove the mounting bolts of the shift assembly. Went under the car and popped the clip off the shift rod.
Back inside car, not enough room to lift full assembly out, so I used a 17mm flare wrench to loosen the locking nut on the shift handle, top part of assembly came out easily. This allowed enough room to pivot the lower section and remove it. On the workbench, disassembled, cleaned, put in new bushing on shift lever, bushings on each end of the shaft in the assembly, and bushings on two-legged spring. Tip--order the spring if you do this job, mine has a broken leg and I had to put it back in that way. Old bushings ranged from poor condition to broken to little pieces. Slop in the shifter made it appear as if neutral safety switch had failed, reality was shift lever on tranny not in proper location from bushing failure. Reassembly was reverse, and pretty straight forward. Tip--do not turn shift nob to straighten it after reassembly!! This causes lock nut to loosen and the removal of what you just put together. Get it straight, then lock it.
Messed around with other stuff while waiting for glue to dry on console cover, that went flawlessly. Thanks to the info on this forum about shifter bushings and specific help from Tangas, $4.00 in parts and overnight service from FastLane, got the problem diagnosed correctly and the repair done right the first time.
'02 C230 Kompressor
'89 560 SEL "Frau BlueCar" (retired April 2004)