From your photos, the Earl S paint job looks pretty good. How does it look up close?
It looks pretty good, but as good as you should expect from a $250 paint job. It wasn't masked too well around the trim here and there, but as the owner - I'm the only one who would ever notice. None of the trim is far off enough to catch the attention of a casual glance, nor detectable from about 6 feet away. With only a single window on the car and body colored bumpers, they didn't have that much masking to mess up on. The paint itself is a good continuous coat, no drips or bubbles anywhere.
I got my Civic painted a little over a year ago, and they did a good job on that as well. In both cases I sanded down the black trim that was flaking and masked it and painted it black before getting it painted. Also in both cases, I wished I had done it the other way around. I had learned my lesson the first time, but the second time I was getting the convertible painted for the wedding and had it painted just about 3 days before. The reason being was that you can't wash a newly painted car for several weeks, so I just did it right before hand to have a clean car that day. I painted the trim beforehand obviously because covering a new paint job with masking tape isn't a wise choice.
As for the XFi transmission not being able to handle the extra weight of the car, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. I've got a CRX HF transmission in my 4-door Sedan. The HF is in the 1700 lb range, while my sedan is over 2100 lbs! Sure, I drive like a grandma, but that's what gets the best mileage.
I checked my door jam for the official curb weight and was surprised to find the little guy weighs in at 2290lbs. I knew it before, but it's one of those things where you know the car is about 600lbs+ over the weight of the hatchback and it seems so crazy that you just think you're exaggerating and have to check the facts to make sure. Considering the guy is lugging around 640lbs more car and a 360lb passenger, that's a half ton over the weight of an XFI. What if I were to change the stock trans to have a 5th gear ratio similar to an XFI instead? 95% of the driving will be done in 5th anyway.
All of you guys have made excellent suggestions, some a little more radical than I might be comfortable with - but I take them into consideration all the same (I have spent a bit of time day dreaming in traffic on how one would go about making a detachable tear drop roofline. I was wondering what some more basic suggestions would be such as the best wheels and tires, thermostat, intake system, etc.