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On several occasions, I have had inquiries or read about a so-called "D9TE high nickel 'X' block," including my seeing them for sale (advertised as such) on Ebay. These blocks are supposed to be identifiable by the distinctive "X" or "X's" in the lifter valley. As the story goes in every one of these cases, the D9TE-AB blocks with the "X" in the lifter valley are supposed to designate a higher quality cast iron recipe in which there is a high concentration of nickel added in these blocks for additional strength.

Having personally modified the 385 Series passenger car blocks to no end (hundreds of them), none of the blocks that I've personally had my hands on seemed downright superior over the other as far as the material is concerned. Of course at the block material level, a few percent of nickel one way or the other might not be readily noticeable to the end user's "feel" with his die grinder or drill bit. Boring bars might be another story, but compared to BBC blocks all the 385 Series blocks prove to have a material that cuts quite differently than the BBC block material. And when boring the cylinders of BBF blocks, we find that the bits on the boring bar regularly need dressing every couple of cylinders whereas the BBC blocks may have all 8 cylinders bored without lapping the bits at all during the process.

To get to the bottom of this "high nickel X" block rumor, I set aside three D9TE-AB blocks: one was your typical D9TE-AB block with no "X" markings in the lifter valley; the next was a D9TE-AB block with a single "X" at the forward-most area of the lifter valley; the last was a D9TE-AB block with multiple "X's" in the lifter valley. We all know what the lifter valley of the 385 Series block looks like; for those that have never seen the "X" markings, here are some pics:

D9TE-AB "X" Block:



Note the "X" just above the forward-most lifter valley vent hole and next to the "19." This is the specific "X" marking that I have heard many refer to as the designation for a "high nickel" block composition.

To be sure that no-one would come along and insist I analyzed a D9TE block with the "wrong 'X' marking," I also included a second block that was covered with several X's all over the lifter valley:

D9TE-AB "Multi-X" Block:



Although I have never heard or read about the above style "multi-X" features being referred to as a "high nickel" designation, I wanted to include it in the analysis so that no stones would be left uncovered.

We took iron samples from all three D9TE-AB cylinder blocks, about 1 cc of iron per sample, per block. Each sample was taken into a high tech laboratory and carefully prepared for analysis by using a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM). The SEM that we used is capable of "seeing" down to the atomic level. For those that are unfamiliar with SEMs, they can see items smaller than a wave of light (can see particles so small that light cannot bounce off the sample). To paraphrase in layman's terms, the ability for the SEM to see things this small is accomplished by literally bouncing electrons off the item and then "reading" the reflected electrons and digitally creating an image of the picture captured. The SEM can also decipher the atomic make-up of the sample at which it is looking. This highly, highly sensitive piece of equipment costs a half-a-million dollars:



Below are PDF reports of the analyses of these three blocks. Please note that there are several pages of each block report and only the first page of each report tells the story we're all interested in. (The subsequent pages within each report are analyses of casting anomalies that we zoomed in on in order to analyze and further answer questions while we were doing the study.)

Report #1 D9TE-AB block (without any X's): NO NICKEL in the iron alloy compostion. Click Here

Report #2 D9TE-AB block (with the single X): NO NICKEL in the iron alloy compostion. Click Here

Report #1 D9TE-AB block (with multiple X's): NO NICKEL in the iron alloy compostion. Click Here

As is evidenced by the three compositional analyses above, the D9TE-AB cylinder block iron--regardless of whether the casting is marked with a cast-in "X,", cast-in "X's," or no "X" of any kind--is all pretty much the same iron alloy, from block-to-block. Given the mass producton of these blocks (tens of thousands each year of production), it is perfectly fair and reasonable to say that the metallurgical composition of all D9TE-AB blocks is essentially the same and without any nickel in them, "X" in the casting or not.

I wish to emphasize one other thing aside from the primary point of this report: the fact that there is no nickel in any of the blocks is of no consequence to their structirual integrity; they are just as stong as the the day before these findings came to light. The purpose of this particular report is to dispell the myth that "X" blocks are "high nickel" blocks, and that rumor has just been proven a myth indeed.

Paul Kane

p.s.: All metallurgical reports are the intellectual property of High Flow Dynamics
 

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Thanks Paul this is some interesting and valuable data that also ties into what was found at the Block Summit while sonic testing many blocks: There are NO block casting numbers that are universally superior when it comes to overbore capacity. A D1VE, D9TE or other block can be just as good or just as bad as a DOVE-A etc despite claims/myths to the contrary.
 

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Thanks Paul this is some interesting and valuable data that also ties into what was found at the Block Summit while sonic testing many blocks: There are NO block casting numbers that are universally superior when it comes to overbore capacity. A D1VE, D9TE or other block can be just as good or just as bad as a DOVE-A etc despite claims/myths to the contrary.
I remember reading that and along with what Paul has found is some excellent info.
 

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Paul, I have also seen mention of a superior block that has multiple x's along the cam tunnel in the valley floor. I believe it was a C9, or D0 block. Maybe you've seen this as well:confused:
Whether or not the sellers actually believe they are superior, or are just trying to dupe the consumer IDK.
 

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Lifter valley differences

:confused:
Paul

Exellent information. Thanks.

I have a question about the difference in the lifter Valley design on the Multi-X block and the single x block.

The center vent is missing as well as what looks to be material in oil return area at the rear of the block.

Is there any gain in having this? It also appears that the rear oil return area is different in the single X block. The oil returns are in the raised portion of the block where the multi-X block has them in the the valley floor.

Not sure if any of this matters based on where the block requires additional strength.

Any advice would be appreciated. I do not have access to a large number of these blocks and I am starting to look for a new block for a 750 horse stroker. Based on this number I do not this I need an eliminator.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks Paul this is some interesting and valuable data that also ties into what was found at the Block Summit while sonic testing many blocks: There are NO block casting numbers that are universally superior when it comes to overbore capacity. A D1VE, D9TE or other block can be just as good or just as bad as a DOVE-A etc despite claims/myths to the contrary.
Agreed, Dave, and by that I mean that if the 385 Series blocks are used within their means then they are essentially all equally good candidates for high performance builds, be they D9TE or D1VE, etc. By the way, while this thread's primary purpose is do dispell the myth about the "X" blocks, the fact is we've done other block castings as well (of different engineering revisions). I want to learn whether the iron alloy might differ between the three casting facilties (DIF, MFF, CCP) that produced these cylinder blocks. Sometime later, I might post a blurb about the overall analysis of all the different blocks, but I am still working on that portion of the study. It is a painstaking, time consuming process (just prepping the sample for the SEM takes over 24 hours) and the equipment is not always available.

Thank you,

Paul
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Paul,

I have a question about the difference in the lifter Valley design on the Multi-X block and the single x block.
Good eye, parklay, in fact I noticed physical differeces myself between the two X blocks. While the physical shape of the blocks is not part of this metallurgical study, I'll try to anwser your questions.

The center vent is missing as well as what looks to be material in oil return area at the rear of the multi X block. Is there any gain in having this?
I think the multi-x block (that has fewer crankcase ventilation holes in the center of the lifter valley) is a later cylinder block. The two ventilation holes cast in the lifter valley (instead of the normal four) is perfectly adequate for crankcase ventilation and also minimizes the possibility of oil falling onto the rotating assembly. I can't say for sure why Ford would do that (and the big X's--structural?) but they seem to carry over from the A460 block....note that this is still just a passenger car block, though, and any block can have two of it's vent holes plugged by the builder if he cares to do so. The oil drainback holes at the rear of the lifter valley in this block are like most that I see.

It also appears that the rear oil return area is different in the single X block. The oil returns are in the raised portion of the block where the multi-X block has them in the the valley floor.

Not sure if any of this matters based on where the block requires additional strength.
This is the reult of just a different casting pattern being used when that block was poured. All the patterns are a little different. But you are correct that the transition from the floor of that block's valley to its china walls is more gradual and thereby has a lot more material in those areas F & R. (Drilling the front drainbacks in this blolck made for 1-inch galleries!). Is the block stronger because of its bulky form? Perhaps technically so, but in reality these blocks are not known to fail in that specific area, and so I don't know that they are necessarily any stronger. This was a personal block of mine for the every reason that you noted, but it ended up going into a customer's build who was going to make more hp than what I was planning for its use.

Any advice would be appreciated. I do not have access to a large number of these blocks and I am starting to look for a new block for a 750 horse stroker. Based on this number I do not this I need an eliminator.
750 hp and you need an Eliminator block? It certainly won't hurt and might be an advantage to have it....but we've built engines with that much hp, used strictly for drag racing (track only, not street/strip), and they were based around 2-bolt blocks. Keep it well tuned and you ought not have any problems. (If you want to discuss hp supporting capabilities of 2-bolt versus aftermarket blocks, please start another thread).

Paul
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Is there any nickel in the C9AE Boss 429 blocks?
RmK57,

We don't have any C9AE block material over here, but if you want to send a small sample we'll try to get it analyzed. First, please discuss with me where to take the sample BEFORE you go cutting into your C9AE Boss cylinder block.

Also, based on the analyses thus far, I am beginning to believe that there is a specific reason that Ford did not put nickel in their blocks. I think they intentionally opted for a different iron alloy recipe. The jury is still out on this speculation, as we need to study more blocks and then discuss with people knowledgable in iron foundry casting (and also some Ford engineers from back in the day) that we know. Hint: CHROMIUM ;)

Paul

p.s. We intend to analyze material from an A460 block as well.
 

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Also, based on the analyses thus far, I am beginning to believe that there is a specific reason that Ford did not put nickel in their blocks. I think they intentionally opted for a different iron alloy recipe. The jury is still out on this speculation, as we need to study more blocks and then discuss with people knowledgable in iron foundry casting (and also some Ford engineers from back in the day) that we know. Hint: CHROMIUM ;)

Paul

p.s. We intend to analyze material from an A460 block as well.
Have you, or do you know of anyone who's tested what the brand x and brand y guys were doing in their big blocks?
interesting to see some of the the different metallugic approaches they took.

ALSO my old man worked in a foundry for years, its not always scientific about what is going in the big pot I/E there could have been some substitutes for certain raw material..... may find differences within each brands stuff, most likely negligible but you never know.

you wont find pop cans going in them though..pop cans = liquid splatter = severe burns.
 

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This was interesting, a bit of actual rocket science. I wonder if we can scare up an engineer who decided what went into the iron recipe and why.

While it's a non-Ford question, do you know who used the hardest iron for gas engines? I've read (not tested in person) that it was International back when they made light trucks, then Cadillac and Oldsmobile of some decades ago.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
W

Have you, or do you know of anyone who's tested what the brand x and brand y guys were doing in their big blocks?
interesting to see some of the the different metallugic approaches they took.

ALSO my old man worked in a foundry for years, its not always scientific about what is going in the big pot I/E there could have been some substitutes for certain raw material..... may find differences within each brands stuff, most likely negligible but you never know.
Yes, we have analyzed a BBC block and will reference other brands as well. Again that might be disclosed in another report and not here where the emphasis is on th X blocks.


The large furnace crucibles at the foundries usually (but not always) have a baseline alloy recipe, and the ladel that gets a portion of the baseline recipe might have additional pellet-sized ingots of additonal metals added just before the pour. Not Always done that way, and yes I suppose their may be substitutions by some places sometimes... But I doubt we'll ever find proof of substitutions in our study because that would take a very large number of
blocks sampled for us to uncover. So far the material make up looks similar in most of them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
This was interesting, a bit of actual rocket science. I wonder if we can scare up an engineer who decided what went into the iron recipe and why.

While it's a non-Ford question, do you know who used the hardest iron for gas engines? I've read (not tested in person) that it was International back when they made light trucks, then Cadillac and Oldsmobile of some decades ago.
I have the name and contact info of a retired Ford 385 Series design engineer that was there. I don't feel I have yet garnered enough info for me to warrant calling him just yet...I don't want to begin pestering him with a multitude of phone calls from some crazy 460 wingnut, lol.

Van used to pour the Mack truck blocks back in the day, in Michigan. They (Mack engineers) used to show up with drums of special pellets and played with recipes by instructing him to "add two scoops of this and
one scoop of that per ladel" for a certain run of blocks that given day. Who has the hardest blocks? Don't know but it is noteworty that different recipes are usually for addressing several needs by the manufacurer and not only hardness.
 

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This was interesting, a bit of actual rocket science. I wonder if we can scare up an engineer who decided what went into the iron recipe and why.

While it's a non-Ford question, do you know who used the hardest iron for gas engines? I've read (not tested in person) that it was International back when they made light trucks, then Cadillac and Oldsmobile of some decades ago.
There is a LARGE difference between "hardest" and "toughest"; (at least in alloy steel there is).
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
There is a LARGE difference between "hardest" and "toughest"; (at least in alloy steel there is).
Yep, and that is exactly to what I was alluding in my post direcly above yours, Randy. Characteristics such as hardness, overall toughness, lubricity, corrosion resistance, etc are taken into consideration when determining the alloy recipe used for the application.

Thanks,

Paul
 

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Yep, and that is exactly to what I was alluding in my post direcly above yours, Randy. Characteristics such as hardness, overall toughness, lubricity, corrosion resistance, etc are taken into consideration when determining the alloy recipe used for the application.

Thanks,

Paul
Yes -- that's what matters. I didn't want to get too nerdy with the questions, but actually that's what I wanted to know. I was figuring that harder recipes would be used where quality was more important than cost, and where that was spec'd the full range of qualities you mention would also be pursued instead of "how fast and how cheap can we push these down the line".
 
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