Right, after taking it all apart and doing repeated reboots I found the problem, namely the on board IDE controllers (yes I know). If one, say the primary is on-no problem, but if you enable both in the BIOS-kernel panic. So therefore if you have a similar problem try setting the Master/Slave and running your equipment off one of the IDE sockets only (after disabling the other in the BIOS natch). I still don't know if it's my hardware or the kernel, but to be honest it's probably both, however here are the facts:
The newer kernel, the larger one i.e. distro. bootdisk, won't load with both on, but will if one's disabled.
The newer kernel will load if it's a simpler one i.e. like Slackware's
bare.i-IDE support one, even if both are on.
The problem is NOT distro. specific
All the older kernels, right up to the last major releases work fine regardless of the settings.