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The Ford manual says to remove the heat shield and get it from the bottom. There are posts here saying it's possible to get from the top.

I was able to get the exhaust manifold heat shield off, but I had to pry it apart and the interlocking fingers are no good now. How do I go about putting this together in the end? Before I go any further, I want to have realistic expectations so I won't be left without a usable vehicle.

I was specific with the configuration, because there are several variants of alternators and mounting methods depending on the engine, emission standards (California vs rest of the US), and transmission. I also understand 2005 and 2006-2007 are different with regard to the placement of PS fluid reservoir.
 

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2004 ZX3 SVT EE. 2004 ZX3 SVT
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No need to remove the manifold heat shield. If you unbolt the roll restrictor mount on the transaxle you can pry the engine assembly forward a bit and the alternator easily slips out the bottom.
 

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X2 for pbfoot comments above.

In my 2004 2.3 PZEV, the Alt does not look like it would exit the engine bay via the top-side without some magic-lube and some very unique effort.
Separately, the Alt does exit the engine bay underneath the engine, without too much work. Once the dogbone engine mount (roll restrictor mount) is removed, you can "swing" the engine forward via prybar methods, and you then gain that 1.5 or 2 inches of extra space needed to get the Alt out from the bottom-side. This "engine swing" is only required VERY BRIEFLY in order to get the Alt out of OR back into the engine bay area.
When doing the "engine swing" I used a second person for this step. It is possible to do this step by yourself, but it would be very difficult. Swing engine AND also maneuver the Alt into position (for exit or for entry) would be a good mechanical challenge for a single person.
 
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