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Install of 8.6 or 9.0 freezes

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Tried searching for a bit, but I didn't see anything in this forum that helped. If I missed something, I apologize--please point me in the right direction!
Got out the old beige G3 to play around with the other day. I decided I wanted to attempt to install OSX on it since I've got a zif 1Ghz upgrade sitting around and some extra hard drives.
My tale begins with a fairly stock G3. The original (I'm guessing) 6GB hard drive is an Apple OEM drive, but it has passed on. It had OS 9 on it and was running fine. Since the drive died, I decided to start with a new hard drive and 8.6 since the tower (by the way, it's a Rev. A) came with 8, right? I figured, perhaps wrongly, that the best path to OSX would be by running all the proper updates through OS 9. Sounds like 10.2 is fairly stable for the G3 tower without lots of tweaking, so that's what I was shooting for.
Well, here's what I did to prepare the drive and computer:
Pull extra RAM
Pull personality card (only card installed)
Replace PRAM battery
Set drive and CD-ROM to master
Boot to open firmware (set-defaults, reset-all)
Reset with p-r-opt-cmd dance
Then I booted to the 8.6 install disk. I ran disk setup and initialized the 80GB ATA drive (WD Caviar) with two partitions (7GB and 73GB roughly) since I was planning on working my way up to OSX and have read about the 8GB partition limitation. Just in case I installed the drivers for the disk with drive setup after I initialized it.
Restart, boot to 8.6 install disk. Run the installer, selecting the ~7GB partition. It freezes with four minutes left. That's not good!
I had three RAM modules, so I started from scratch and ran the whole procedure from top to bottom with each module. Same thing.
Tried the OS 9 install disk. At this point, I was a little frustrated. Maybe my install disk was messed up. Nope. OS 9 install freezes with seven minutes left every time.
Is it possible that all three RAM modules are corrupt? This computer has been sitting for quite some time. The PRAM battery was toast, hence the replacement. Oh, and by the way, the only things hooked up are the CD-ROM and hard drive. No ZIP or floppy attached during the installation attempts.
Am I missing something super obvious?
Thanks for taking the time to read this poor tale. I look forward to being enlightened.
The best answer: Jon - My goal now is to get this machine back to where it was in the not so distant past. I'd prefer not to start pouring money into it if I'm not sure that it will work. I'll keep that in mind if I do find a solution to my problem, or if I can fairly definitively narrow my problem down to the motherboard.
BDAqua - Thanks. I knew the reset-nvram didn't work on this firmware, and I--probably mistakenly--assumed that doing the p-r-opt-cmd dance took care of that reset. I'll try that in about an hour.
While I'm sitting around, I decided to test one more variable--the CD-ROM drive. Booted to the OS9 disk and initialized my 80GB disk. Then I used Disk Copy to copy the CD to a later partition. I'll install 8.6 until it freezes. Believe it or not, it'll show the flashing disk with question mark, and eventually boot 8.6. This is not so with OS9. If I let that install until it freezes, it won't boot at all. So I'll try to boot up 8.6 with another hard drive attached, and attempt to run the OS9 installer to install on the other hard drive. At this point I'm grasping at straws. I'm not even sure the installer will run if it's not on a CD.
So I'll try the reset after this (probably fails).