Was the plate gasket actually blown or was the other piece on the channel plate? The metal etc that you found in the pan, suggests it was not a gasket failure or a gasket only failure.
Looks like fun, this weekend was smoking hot here. Great job, always nice to see the work pay off when it drives w/o any issues. (cough cough Steve)
A few tips/tricks for you.
1. An axle has a compression clip holding it into the trans. Constant pressure on the axle doesn't work well. You need to push the axle into the trans with a prybar behind hit and then quickly pop it out with the prybar. This compresses the ring and allows it to pop out. Always grab the axle from behind the CV joint or you may pull it apart.
2. Removing the brakes is extra work that isn't needed.
3. No need to remove the sway bar. If you remove the endlinks, it can be pushed up and down to get the power steering rack bolts out.
4. You can buy an adapter to convert your floor jack to a trans jack. However an ATV jack is much more stable and once you learn how the engine in the various bodies like to sit with the chain on top, you'll know exactly how to setup your trans on the jack. I have 3/4" board that sits about 2" under the front of the trans pan. Otherwise the engine and trans make contact at the rear ear of the engine and lining up would be a pain.
5. The chain and 4x4 when connected correctly are very safe, shouldn't be a need for the hoist (and it would be in the way of trying to pull the trans with a jack. I tend to like to drop the subframe and then undo all the underneath stuff. It'* much quicker w/o the sub in the way. Should mention it'* not the safest method, but the faster.
00 Regal GS: All kinds of cool stuff.