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Shifts are clunky like when you engage the clutch there is a clunk or is it hard to shift? If you're going to spend $500 on mounts I'd be sure to check or replace the trans mounts, motor mounts and especially the snub mount in front.

You might want to have someone watch the engine while you let the clutch out with your foot on the brakes to check for movement as well. I'm sure it's normal for there to be some movement but if you hear a clunk or there is a sudden jerk or excessive movement that would indicate bad mounts for sure.

It sounds like there is excessive movement 'somewhere' and by putting the stiffer flex pipe on the failure point was moved to the cat. I'd imagine flex pipes are cheaper than cats so if you can't find a cause it might be cheaper in the long run to go back to the stock flex pipe.
 
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