OK I think I solved my own problem.
IntelBurnTest may be bug-ridden: http://www.xtremesystems.org/forums/showthread.php?t=197835&page=35
i7 stock 64mb ram 8 threads = fail
i7 stock standard ram 8 threads = pass
i7 stock maximum ram 8 threads = fail
i7 stock 128 mb ram 8 threads = pass
i7 stock tried all above 16 threads = pass
i7 OC same results as above
9450 quad stock same as above
9450 OC same as above
tested 2 other i7's same results as above.
Hope this makes it clearer.
Yes it does, thank you again for your contribution
Looks like the new Linpack binary (created by Intel in April 2009) doesn't like certain test size combinations with 8 threads.
So the conclusion is: 16 threads for single Core i7 w/ HT, 32 threads for dual Nehalem servers, and "Auto" for everything else, yields the most accurate results"
And it sounds like there are even more bugs later in that thread.