It worked...barely.....using the "spacer bushing" and bolt concept.
-Putting the bolt and washer and nut into the gear level was difficult.
-Forcing the bushing through with the tool was relatively easy, just difficult to determine if the bushing was all the way through (bushing gets quite compressed in the procedure).
-Taking the bolt out after the bushing is in was very difficult in my situation as the bushing in place restricted the angle of entry/exit of the bolt and, as you all know, space is at a premium. In short, make the bolt as short as possible and/or as thin as possible in order to remove it after inserting the bushing.
I hope for my sake, I won't have to change the bushings for another 5-6 years.
But the shifter feels really sweet now. Thanks for everyone's input.