So, just as an update, I installed the VHII pickups in the goldtop - ended up chasing down ground problem afterwards - and they've been in for a couple weeks.
The neck is just killer. Deep, almost nasal quality. You can hear the notes - not choking them off at all - and there's no ice-pick. I like this one a lot.
The bridge I'm still working with... I'm really not certain how to describe the issue. It's just... meh... no character to it. Like I said, I'll work with it and adjust things for a while.
But the neck is a keeper.