I do have an update. The shop was too busy to take my car back in as of the last post, but the job was finally scheduled on the 13th. To make a long story short, the head was removed and no problem was found per the mechanic. I do have a number of pictures that he sent via phone that I can upload over the weekend. However, he said that there was considerable debris and muck in the intake manifold, as well as whatever it is that is responsible for crankcase ventilation in the bottom end of the motor, and something having to do with the valve cover. He replaced the intake manifold and valve cover. Said the car no longer smokes but I started it up yesterday to move it and there was a puff of white smoke. Less than before, but it was there. Additionally, the water and ABS lights were on after reassembly but systems appear functional (car even runs at a slightly lower temperature than before)
He said that's all he can do for me, so I'm just going to move on from it.
Now to add another layer to this and probably fodder for a new thread...
Some may recall that I mentioned a hunting idle and very occasional stalling issue--which I assume is unrelated--he replaced the OVP relay and the plug connector that attaches to the harness. He also swapped out the throttle actuator with one I had hanging around for testing purposes. The one that came with the car had a 2004 date code, this spare had a 1995 code and was therefore suspect.
Took the car out from the shop after he said he'd tested it for a full day and it promptly died on me within a mile. Had it towed back. Next day he said he'd reinstalled the 2004 actuator, so I came to collect the car. Wouldn't start. Had him take me to work, called at my lunch break, and said the car was ready.
Returned to collect the car. The idle was very high in neutral (~1500) and about 900 in gear (about 400-500 rpm higher than I was accustomed to). Other than that it ran very well. Drove a good 15 miles or so without incident. Shut the car off a couple of times too to ensure that it would restart. Third time, however, it would just start and die. I could barely put it into gear before being able to move it, so I had to leave the car in a local parking lot, have someone from work give me a ride back to the office and then return that evening to call AAA to have the car towed back home. Mechanic is calling leaving messages postulating that the fuel pump or actuator are at fault, which I don't dispute, but I've chosen a new shop after discussing my situation with the proprietor of said shop. He's willing to examine and feels he can give a definitive diagnosis without any willy-nilly pissing-in-the-wind postulating but cannot take my car for at least a week.
The car runs terribly now. Sputters, misses, if it doesn't stall altogether. Water light is still on, but ABS light is out. Check engine light intermittent as it has been.
For reference, MAF, ECU, starter harness, fuel pump relay, fuel pressure regulator, and engine harness have all been replaced on the car during the last 12-18 months.
So right now I'm beyond the oil burning issue because I can't even use the car without worrying that it will conk out at the foot of my driveway. When it stalled the first time after I picked it up end of last week, the only place I could manoeuvre it into was in front of a fire hydrant!