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It's my understanding that late 97 models of the m8 got "more durable" goodies in the 4r70w. Question is, what internals were upgraded and how early did they start this on "late models?"
 

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I thought it was 98 that got better direct clutch frictions, better stub shaft, accumulator pistons (this might be a part year 97 thing, my 97 Cougar had the old aluminum/o-ring style pistons), mechanical diode, valve body changes to lessen impact of 4->2 shift, and externally harness pinout difference and newer style MLPS.
 

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DD will tell you that "about half the 97's" he opens up have the Mech Diode - MLPS won;t help you but if you rotated Tranny guts you can hear the Mech Diode "clank" - To the best of my knowledge a 97 lacking Mech Diode is no better than a 96.
 
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