Sometimes fathers are that way. My son never wanted to learn. He's an Excutive Chef! Now thats not my work path. (very proud of him) My father was a tech at a Chevy dealer for 43 yrs. he did not teach me much as we could not seem to work well together. You were suppose to be born with it as you were his kid! My rant.
Changing to a manual if you have donor cars is not to hard. Just time consuming. One nice thing about Geo's is the wiring harnesses seem to be built for ease of change. Just change it all. Might be easier to fix one of the manual cars? Or are they rust buckets. One thing I've found in Mich. they are biodegradable even if you don't want them to be!